What’s the point of playing sport if you don’t want to win? You may try to kid yourself that you’re playing for the good of your health or because you enjoy the sport, both of which would probably be true, but the real satisfaction and joy comes from winning.
If you don’t believe me just study the attendance stats for a professional sports team which is on a run of poor results and near the bottom of the league table. Teams that win fill stadiums, losing teams empty them. People like to be associated with winning teams. We all like to win, it makes us feel better.
This is about how to win at sport, any sport, but particularly about how to win at golf which is my game.
There are certain actions and thinking patterns which are easy to learn which make a great deal of difference to any golfer’s ability to win. In this article I will take you through the ones that I have found to be most effective.
Can you imagine Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, or Phil Michelson arriving on the first tee without having spent a serious amount of time on the practice fairway to warm up? They also spend time on the putting green and probably check through their equipment with their caddie before they get to the tee.
Serial winners prepare thoroughly. This is a major reason why they win so often. How much time do you devote to your preparation before you go out to play? Let’s face it, most amateurs may take a few practice swings; they may even hit a few putts, if the practice green is conveniently nearby, but it is rare for them to go to the practice fairway before they hit their first drive.
I think that your preparation should start long before you even get to the course. When I am really determined to win I start getting myself mentally ready during my journey to the club. In the car I start to think about how I am feeling that day. If I suspect that my feelings aren’t ‘right’, perhaps I am feeling a bit apprehensive or tetchy, I set about taking charge of my feelings.
There is no point in letting your feelings run away with you ? who knows where they will go? And, if you’re not in charge of your feelings you will not play well. It is certain that you will not win. The good news is that your mind can control your feelings if you really want it to. After all, ‘whose feelings are they?’ If you created those feelings then you can also create a whole new set of feelings which will give you a much better chance of winning.
It takes discipline to control your feelings. They often want to escape from your control, but you must not let them escape. You must be firm with yourself. If you find yourself feeling ‘nervous’ you must tell yourself to be ‘calm’. If you’re feeling tense, you must tell yourself to ‘relax.’ You may have to fight for mastery of your feelings but it is a battle worth fighting because if you win that battle you will probably win your round of golf as well.
In fact I believe that most amateur golfers feel a bit shy about preparing too well. We don’t want to appear over keen. But there’s something even worse than that going on in our heads. We don’t want to hit a bad shot and then have others laugh at us and say: “all that time you spent on the practice ground doesn’t seem to have done you much good.”
And, there’s something even worse than that going on in our heads ? we don’t want to disappoint ourselves. We don’t want to get ourselves all ‘revved-up’ and then go out and play badly. So we don’t take a chance on the warm up in case it doesn’t work.
Let me suggest a few positive actions you can take in preparation for your round of golf which will help you a lot. They may even help you to win next time you play.
First, make sure that you allow yourself plenty of time to get to the golf course. Enjoy the drive and enjoy taking charge of your feelings. Try to arrive at least half an hour before you are due to play. This will give you time to greet a few of your pals, have a drink, change and boot up.
Spend 10 minutes on the golf range or in a golf net. Start with some stretching exercises. Then go through your golf swing in slow motion a couple of times. Hit a few shots concentrating on making a good swing with good tempo. Feel relaxed as you play your practice shots. Concentrate on accuracy rather than distance.
Spend five minutes on the putting green. Start with short putts and gradually make them longer and longer. If you want to win you have got to sink putts. So make sure that you sink the short ones. Even if they’re only a few inches it will help your confidence.Just try to get the long putts within a foot or two of the hole.
Now that you’ve prepared physically and mentally all you need to do is step up to the tee, relax and fire the ball straight down the fairway. This is the first shot on the way to winning.