Dr. Bob Winters: Finding your calm in a sea of negativity

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Dr. Bob Winters: Finding your calm in a sea of negativity

Golf

Dr. Bob Winters: Finding your calm in a sea of negativity

We have all been there: We step onto the first tee anticipating a great day on the links, then we snipe a few balls out of bounds and miss a few short putts, and a day of grandeur becomes a nightmare.

A few holes of this and our day is done. So are our nerves and, most importantly, our ability to stay composed and focused. We no longer accept the reality of missed shots and squandered opportunities. We lose our patience. Guilty as charged.

No matter at what level you play golf, the inevitable frustration you will endure on the course tests your patience and mental resolve.

Week after week on every professional tour, the winner is usually the one talking to the press about the virtue of staying patient and accepting tough breaks. The point is that golf is difficult, and one of the mental prerequisites is that you remain composed and patient through tough times.

Good players understand the value of patience and are always looking for ways to gain emotional control.

An old story that has floated around locker rooms for years was when an up-and-coming Tour player by the name of Mac O’Grady asked fellow Tour player Gary McCord (yes, the TV commentator) what he needed to do to improve his game. McCord suggested O’Grady learn to become more patient and, to that end, that O’Grady go someplace with lots of old people and study them.

So, O’Grady went to Palm Springs and was following older people in lines at shopping centers and grocery stores, just to learn to stay calm when things weren’t going as planned. It has even been reported that several people being shadowed by O’Grady became nervous because a stranger was following them.

So, if the best golfers try to devise ways to keep their composure, what do the rest of us need to learn? Here are three specific procedures to help you maintain emotional balance.

Strategy 1: Three-swing post-shot review

After a poor shot, instead of getting mad and throwing the club or jamming it back into your bag, take a deep breath and vigorously swing the club twice.

Two full swings with significant force serve as a physical catharsis to help clear the mind and body. This procedure is to promote a venting of the frustration that comes after a poor shot.

After the two vigorous swings, your third swing should be to create a feel of proper rhythm. By making a “model” swing with your third swing, you create a mental motor program that sets the stage for your next shot. The three-swing post review gives you a chance to cool down and replace negative thoughts with positive images.

Strategy 2: Create the ‘now’ mentality

If you hit a bad shot, remind yourself immediately that you cannot and will not get that shot or opportunity back. That shot is history. Tell yourself that the result “is what it is” and that you need to move on and get into the next shot. By adopting the “now” mentality, you create an attitude that is focused in the here and now versus crying over spilled milk.

It is far better to accept what is than to pout and become irate over something that is history and now entirely out of your control. Accepting the result and moving into the “now” for your next shot creates a feeling of self-control that helps reset your mindset for positive gains.

Strategy 3: The walk-off release

This is a combination of the two previous strategies plus a walk-off procedure before you move to the next shot.

If you hit a poor shot, you need to immediately say to yourself: “Let go!” (This can be done internally.) Then do your two vigorous swings followed by a model swing.

After that, walk five steps from the spot at which you hit the shot and stop. Lower your head into your shoulders and take a deep breath. Pause for a second and allow the frustration to drain.

Then lift your head and take another breath. Feel fresh energy enthuse your body with this procedure and give yourself a positive affirmation. Remind yourself that past shot is done and you are moving on to the next one. Walk slowly back to bag or cart and gently place your club into your bag.

With this behavior, you direct yourself to slow down and not be so reactive to the emotional consequences. With these specific steps to accept results and release the frustration, you create a proactive mindset that will reap benefits for the rest of your round.

Remember: Patience is confidence waiting to happen. To play your best, you need to give yourself the best chance of creating good things by allowing negative feelings to dissolve and replace them with feelings of energy and empowerment. The patience you demonstrate on the course in the heat of competition eventually will show up on the scorecard.

(Note: This story appears in the October 2017 issue of Golfweek.)

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