Instruction

Get Your Round Back on Track

The Problem

Your game has completely fallen to pieces in the middle of your round -- each shot seems worse than before, and you're ready to walk off the course.

The Solution

You may be hitting some bad shots, but the main reason that the wheels have started to fall off is that your mind has begun to play tricks on you. You look back at the series of bad shots you've hit, and you then project into the future that the bad shots are going to continue. And they do -- because it's a selffulfilling prophecy. Here's how to break this destructive cycle:


Lose your aggressiveness

When things are going bad, you naturally get aggressive. Unfortunately, this approach is guaranteed to make things worse. Go the opposite way — play every shot as safely as you can. Don't go at the flag — play to the front of the green (not even the fat part, just the front) and rely on your short game.


Use the five-second rule

After every shot, you get only five seconds to make a quick evaluation of what you did right and what you did wrong. That's it. After the five seconds is up, the shot is in the past — you can't go there anymore.


Keep your chin up!

Literally. Studies have shown that human beings are almost twice as alert and also better able to concentrate on the task at hand when they walk with their chin held high — regardless of how bad their last shot might have been.


Ignore golf between shots

When the wheels are falling off, you walk too fast, talk too fast, breathe too fast and play too fast. This, of course, means that you prepare for and hit each shot too fast — and the cycle of bad shots continues. Between shots, shut down your golf brain — talk about football, talk about the movie you saw the night before, talk about the weather. Anything but golf to clear your mind.


Create an "on-deck circle" for yourself

Like the on-deck circle in baseball, this is the place where you can think about your swing all you want. But the moment you leave the on-deck circle and step up to your ball — that is, up to bat — thinking stops and acting begins. At this point, you should have no more than one swing key in your mind, whether it's "rotate," "width," "extension" or anything else that keys your swing. Leave the rest of the jumble in your mind back in the on-deck circle.

Groove it

To play good golf, you need to find your inner rhythm

There are a lot of distractions on the golf course. Some, like the slow group in front of you, are external, while others are strictly in your head. In either case, you can take steps to keep your rhythm flowing smoothly from shot to shot.

Learn how to breathe
Slow, deep breaths that originate in your diaphragm (the top of your abdomen) take in concentrationfriendly, muscle-relaxing oxygen.

Count your steps
The act of counting steps serves as an internal metronome that will even out your rhythm as you play.

Visualize the course
Take some time before your round to visualize exactly how you'd like to play each hole. If you're playing the course for the first time, take a second before each shot to visualize the path you'd like the ball to take. But keep it brief--slow play can affect someone else's rhythm.

Watch the group ahead
After a few holes, you should have a pretty good idea about who takes how long to do what. Once you know this, you'll be able to address your ball without having to stand over it or constantly step away.

Stretch during your round
Think about how much time you spend standing around during a round. Using just a quarter of that time to lightly stretch your shoulders, rotator cuffs and hamstrings will do wonders for your ability to relax over each shot.

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