I had a delightful and productive meeting of the minds last week with an affable, engaging golf pro, Mark Guttenberg. Mark and his wife, Leslie, are owners/instructors of Guttenbergs Golf Development Programs in Aldie, Virginia. As I grow my practice to include golfers, I know it is vital that they learn the mental game of golf. I thought it would be interesting to hear from one of the best players and coaches just how effective he feels mental training is for golfers, and how he himself uses it in his game. Mark has been playing golf competitively for 50 years, and has won many tournaments. He has always been a big believer that much of the game is mental--considering you are really only physically "playing" for a mere fraction of the time you are on the course. Focus, control of emotions and confidence are key to a successful game.
We talked about using imagery, positive self-talk and cue words. Mark emphasized the importance of a brief, well-rehearsed, effective pre-shot routine. The pre-shot routine serves to calm the golfer immediately prior to the shot, focus attention, establish an effective mindset and prepare the proper timing for the swing and ultimate shot. With the golfer involved in such a routine, he leaves no room in the mind for distracting or negative thoughts. He is in the here and now, no past shots, no future outcome. This focus is essential for good performance.
Another aspect we discussed which I find really interesting, is the idea of attaching a certain feel to the performance. Essentially bringing "emotion to the motion." The more positive, heart-charging emotion we can consciously or subconsciously attach to a particular movement, the more likely we will be successful performing it. Imagining how great it will feel inside when the shot goes the distance, the ball drops in the hole, the crowd goes wild, all of these emotions can increase the golfer's (or any athlete's, really) sense of confidence and belief even before the shot. A good time to make the connection might be in practice. Every time you are successful, celebrate! Make the celebration as big as you want, the more emotion the better. Eventually the emotions will be there in comp, even in anticipation of a shot you have been successful making at some point.
Mark is not an anomaly, as many golfers have a grasp on the mental game. However, Mark noted, while every golfer knows there is a huge mental component, they don't always know how to access it and make their mind work for their game. Ah, looks like that's where I come in! Be sure to check this website for more articles for golfers in the coming weeks.
It was a great visit--a big thank you to Mark for his valuable time! If you would like to learn to play golf from the #1 PGA ranked teacher in Northern Virginia for 14 consecutive years, check out Guttenbergs Golf Development Programs at www.guttenbergsgolf.com.
"Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there."
Personal Best Sports
The sports world is filled with stories of perseverance, failure and success, personal struggles and public triumph. Each story provides insight into the mental side of sport and activity.