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amac

How to overcome the mental block of competitive golf?

14 posts in this topic

So I played in my club's member-member tourney this weekend and played absolutely horrible.  My worst rounds ever and today it got even worse - I shanked nearly every iron shot I hit!  On the range I have no problems.  Off the tee, I was hitting lasers down the fairway.  I had 8i or less in my hands all day and couldn't execute the second shot.  A few times, I would re-hit from the same spot and then nail the shot.  I can only assume this is nerve related and totally mental.  Question is, how do I overcome the mental block?  I am planning a lesson for this upcoming week.  I have to check the direction of my swing.  This was a confidence buster!

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Usually when i am going bad, i do one of the drills that Erik had me do at my lesson. Usually its the preset the weight on the front foot, and then get the hands to move forward and get the club from the inside. This usually helps me get my feel for the motion i want. Its just something to tie in practice. I'm not practicing, i am just trying to get some sort of feel for what i want back, so i use it as a memory mechanism.

All i can say is, try to make all the rounds feel the same. I go into league matches basically like i play on any day i go out by myself or out with my friends or dad. I hold my self to play the best i can every day. So that expectation is there. I can't just up my game, my game is what it is. So i just play it like my everday golf. This keeps my even keel. The only time i get upset is with my own game, not by the pressure of what ever format i am playing.

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I find I always play better when my mind is focussed elsewhere, not that that makes much sense. If I'm playing with guys I know and have casual conversation I seem to play more consistently. Doesn't stop the odd blow-up hole, which then starts me thinking about my game, and then the round deteriorates. After I consciously give up on achieving a good score, I start to strike it pure again.

Funny game.

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Check your grip pressure.

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I'm not talking about a blow up hole.  I think or feel I flat out choked on the course.  In my defense, I haven't played competitive golf in over 2 years, so this was a test.  However, to shoot 80 on a friendly weekend round and then shanking SW's is pretty discouraging.   I made par from some improbable spots, but to be looking at the green from 150 and in all day, I expect to be throwing a few darts...  I guess it goes back to bringing the driving range swing onto the course.

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Originally Posted by zipazoid

Check your grip pressure.

Not sure about my grip pressure, but my blood pressure was pretty high!!!

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Originally Posted by amac

I'm not talking about a blow up hole.  I think or feel I flat out choked on the course.  In my defense, I haven't played competitive golf in over 2 years, so this was a test.  However, to shoot 80 on a friendly weekend round and then shanking SW's is pretty discouraging.   I made par from some improbable spots, but to be looking at the green from 150 and in all day, I expect to be throwing a few darts...  I guess it goes back to bringing the driving range swing onto the course.

For me it was learning how to not be mechanical on the course like I often am on the range.  I make sure when I am warming up (as opposed to practice) I try to visualize each shot, change clubs for each shot (e.g. hit a driver then an 8 iron and so forth), and do the pre-shot routine every stroke when warming up and have a specif target for each shot.  It wold be  lie to say I don't ever use any swing thoughts, but I make sure they are not mechanical thoughts like keep the left arm straight or hit it a little harder/softer ect.  Instead I try to do think about something like where the club head is located during the swing or I even count in my head at times.  Anything to helps the mind/body do the swing but I try hard to never tell the body how to do the swing.  Just feed it information and the mind/body knows how to hit a golf ball if you just get out of the way.

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For me it helps to do two things:

First, I need to forget about your next shot until you get to within 20 feet of it (excluding putts). Until I am 20 feet from my ball, I will think or talk about almost anything besides golf for a mental break. That way I only need to focus in smaller chunks. When coming up to a green though, I will note the general slope of the green and a few specific mounds or depressions that are near my ball, but nothing more serious than that until I get up to the green itself.

Second, I need to keep one or two simple swing thoughts in my head. Two is the maximum and I can only have one for the backswing and one for the downswing/follow though in total. The range is when I will decide which feeling will provide me with the best results, but the course is not the place to think about mechanics. For example, I kept the thought of swinging more with my body than my arms (feeling the coil at the top of the swing) for my most recent round. Sometimes I need to think about my weight transfer to hit it solid, but it's a personal thing about seeing what is working for me on that particular day.

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Do something way more nerve-wracking than smacking a small, white rubber ball with metal sticks around a mown field.
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First, know that anyone who has played a fair amount of competitive golf has probably felt exactly what you described. I joined my first men's club in late 2010, and already could fill several pages with stories of my choking under tournament pressure. Only now do I feel more able to control/channel my nerves in a productive manner. Secondly, simple though it may seem, checking grip pressure is not bad advice. Usually the hooks, slices, fat shots, etc are due to tension in the swing, which is directly related to forearm and grip pressure. It's unlikely that you can hit those smooth 150 irons when you are holding the club like grim death.
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Been there, done that and sometimes still doing that. I agree with the others on grip pressure. If I feel like I can't take the club back, for me it's gripping the club too tight or I'm not making a good shoulder turn. Another problem for me is not swinging aggressively through the ball. Take some practice swings really thinking about swinging through the ball, not hitting at the ball. Feel so sorry cause I know how it sucks. Also the other people could care less what you look like or how you play they're too worried about playing bad too. So don't worry about looking bad to them, they don't care about you. At least that's what I tell myself. Even so, I know the Pros still get nervous on that first tee too.
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Thanks for all the great advice.  I will certainly take note of them all in the future.  I am very methodical on the course and stayed in my pre-shot routine with every bad shot.  LOL.  My swing thought is "make the turn".  It worked well for tee shots and other fw's, but clearly not my irons.  I can't recall, but would bet the tension level in those iron shots skyrocketed and my grip pressure unknowingly increased.  However, with each of those shots, my last thought was swing smooth.  I think a lot of those swings were more arms, less body and thus, shank'u'verymuch.  To add to the mental challenge, this is a fairly new course for me.  I am still trying to get mentally comfortable with various approach shots.  Lots more water than I'm used to and the greens are pretty small.  The slope rating from the mens tees is 130.  My old home course is a 116.  Big difference!

Thanks again.  I plan to seek professional advice this week and will continue the journey to conquer the swing.

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Originally Posted by amac

Thanks for all the great advice.  I will certainly take note of them all in the future.  I am very methodical on the course and stayed in my pre-shot routine with every bad shot.  LOL.  My swing thought is "make the turn".  It worked well for tee shots and other fw's, but clearly not my irons.  I can't recall, but would bet the tension level in those iron shots skyrocketed and my grip pressure unknowingly increased.  However, with each of those shots, my last thought was swing smooth.  I think a lot of those swings were more arms, less body and thus, shank'u'verymuch.  To add to the mental challenge, this is a fairly new course for me.  I am still trying to get mentally comfortable with various approach shots.  Lots more water than I'm used to and the greens are pretty small.  The slope rating from the mens tees is 130.  My old home course is a 116.  Big difference!

Thanks again.  I plan to seek professional advice this week and will continue the journey to conquer the swing.

going to guess the problem yesterday was between the ears not in the swing. if you haven't played tournament golf before it is a different animal - you need to get in a mental place that is not normal!! 30" putts seem sooooo much longer in a weekend event.

have fun it is a great challenge.

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absolutely! It's been a long time since I played competition golf. I will look to make my weekend rounds more competitive to challenge my game and get back the mental aspect of how to play in stressful situations. To add more to the story, I am so new at this club and haven't fully established my handi, the club entered me as a 7! I was playing more like a 17. Oh well, it's a new day and time to move forward.
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