Staying in the present - By Paul Creamer

 

It is probably the easiest thing in the world to let your mind wander and get ahead of itself. The art of staying in the present can be hugely affected by a player and his or her mind. What we feel at any one time has a massive impact on the shot, score for a hole and the round total.

I have personally often thought to myself "what if" and "If I par this hole then I have achieved X or Y" To intervene with this poor train of thought I have employed and personally used the some of the following methods: Staying in the present must start at the very beginning. The RITUAL. A state of neutral is best described as a feeling inside your body of total calmness. This feeling is easy to achieve if things are going well, but obviously harder when you are not playing your best.

Asking many top golfers around the world the question : What do you think about when playing at the top of your game? The answer is usually "Nothing" or "I just felt right" This mindset can be described as calmness, or the neutral state. If I am playing well then I find it a lot easier to "smell the roses," quite literally and enjoy the surroundings. If things have not been going to plan, even the birds seem quiet. To remain in this state we can focus on several ideas and hopefully find the ideal solution. Some people like the idea of a song in their head. It can relax the mind and allow your subconscious to start playing instead of the conscious element of your mind being in charge. 95% of what we do is subconscious or right brained. The remaining 1-5% is the conscious mind will always try to take over.

Our concentration levels are not capable of sustaining a four or five hour round of golf. Using an hour glass method of switching on and off with our concentration we can think clearer and sustain performance for longer. Tiger Woods is known to have BS time with his caddy. This BS time is when they talk about anything, except the upcoming shot. (Bulls**t time). When he gets a certain pre-determined distance from his ball, it is game on! The sporting adage "Play one game at a time" can be adapted for golf and is just like playing in the "present." I believe continuous routine and or ritual will help a player stay in the present. You mustn't get in your own way. Follow basic principles that are modified to your own expectations.

My recent ritual was very effective and very simple. I sustained for the 72 hole tournament and only on the back nine of the final round when I was in contention did I "feel" different. My neutral state involved;

i) Seeing the shot

ii) Setting my left wrist in practice takeaway (just for me on this occasion))

iii) Accepting the result

Each individual has their own ritual to follow. The better he or she understands it, the more you can stay focused on the present and remain neutral to play your best golf.


 

 

How to interrupt negative thinking - By Paul Creamer

 

Negative thinking is a huge issue in all walks of life. The amateur golfers comment of " knew I was going to do that"sums up the poor thinking golfers attitude to the game. The 1st thing I try to do to interrupt this train of thought is to literally "look up" We always feel better when things are "looking up," when things aren't going so well we do tend to feel "down" and look at the ground or our feet. Check out the tree tops. Some Professionals would have a competition to see who could count the most birds. Our minds work very well with factual evidence of the things we have successfully undertaken. Be it a tough course, difficult hole or daunting tee shot. I have seen Seve in his prime hit several balls of a tee in a tournament practice round because he felt he could not walk away without the image of a perfect shot. Other tournament players have different methods to help them stay focused and interrupt negative thoughts. Jeff Hawkes was famous for playing his practice rounds without striking a single ball. His caddy and clubs went round with him and he "imagined" the perfect shot for every hole. Very powerful stuff indeed. A negative thought can be quashed before a shot by following your ritual. By saying "be positive" or "don't think about it" simply isn't good enough.

We need tools keep us in the correct state. A negative thought for me is one that has taken me away from the present and either taken me back to the past or forward to the future. Not very useful. Meditation helps those of certain religions or beliefs. Simple breathing exercises to reduce the heartbeat can really help the golfer. Try to expel ALL the air and suck the tummy in. Then, rely on your instinct to breathe out. You can interrupt any negative thoughts by thinking of past experiences of success and the feelings they brought. Reliving them in your mind and playing them out can mean you rely on facts and not feelings. Thinking of poor experiences in the past can easily be deemed as negative. To keep away from this place, stay firmly in the present and stick to your ritual. This will enable you to intervene quickly if your mind wanders out of a calm or quiet state. For me, negative thoughts occur quite easily and I have to bring myself to a calm state and employ my ritual to get myself back into neutral. Sometimes easier said than done but very possible if you follow the routine or ritual you have. If I give 100% to every shot and achieve my perfect ritual (or complete the circle) on every shot then negative thoughts are not in my head. My score is not always what I want, but the person I am is a much happier one.