By Dr. Ron Cruickshank, Golf Mind Coach & GGA Director, Canada

Technique: Get Your Attitude Right Before You Get To the Course

Several years ago I was driving south on Hwy 220 on my way to the Greater Greensboro Open (GGO) at Forest Oaks C.C. It was a new highway then, four-lane with a 65 mph speed limit. I came up quickly behind what I recognized as one of the PGA Tour Courtesy Cars and I slowed down to see the driver.

As I casually passed the car I recognized Mark Calcavecchia at the wheel. He was doing about 55 MPH and leaned way back in the seat, looking like he was half asleep. As I passed I looked to the right and briefly caught his eye. He gave me a friendly nod with wide-open forthcoming eyes and then he sank even lower in his seat. Wow, did he look relaxed.

As I reflected on this I remember thinking he was going to arrive at the course in a great state of mind. He was ambling to the course, not rushing. There is a lesson there for all of us: pay attention to our pre-round preparation and arrive at the course in an optimized mental-physical-emotional state. Don’t defeat yourself before you take the first swing.

Attitude Generalization

An attitude is ones feeling or emotion toward a fact or state. If we have several negatives experiences on top of another (rushing late from the office, the traffic is slow, we catch a few red lights, a driver pulls out in front of us) we can begin to ‘stack’ these and they become generalized as a state of anxiety, stress, pressure or anger. You find yourself in a bad mood suddenly and don’t know why. A friend asks you how you “are” and you respond ‘I’m having a bad day’.  It is often because you’ve stacked up a series of little things and generalized them into a negative emotional state.

In my experience, I’ve found rushing and the lack of a pre-round preparation routine can set the conditions in support of having a bad day on the golf course.

For most of us, golf is not our profession. It is our passionate hobby and we look forward to getting out on the golf course or to the practice tee as often as possible. Yet still, we have to fit the game into our busy work schedules and lives. This reality often leaves us rushing to the course after a meeting or when our weekend list of chores is completed. We drive to the course at the last minute, often speeding and worried about making our tee time, fretting because we already know we won’t have time to hit any balls and get warmed up. In other words, we are in a stressed condition before we even start playing.

How would you feel if your doctor arrived in this condition prior to operating on you or a loved one? Or your lawyer rushes in at the last minute all flustered before sitting down to a sensitive negotiation?  In both cases you would tell them to take a few deep breaths and calm down. Well, while a game of golf doesn’t have the potential import of these situations, why not give ourselves the best opportunity to play the best we are capable of.  It starts with intention and consciousness.

Pre-Round Preparation Techniques: Arrive Optimized

  1. On your calendar, mark your start time well in advance of  before it actually is and then treat that as real. Rushing always produces stress, limit the stress.
  2. Start your preparation on your drive to the course. Listen to some soothing music. Imagine yourself hitting the ball solidly all day with nice tempo. See your putts going in. Breathe and appreciate the day. When you pull into the parking lot, remember this is about having fun playing a game you love. Ahhhhhhhh!.
  3. If you know the course, play it in your mind, see yourself doing well on each hole.
  4. If you don’t know the course, imagine hitting it solid off the first tee and making every putt you look at.  Imagine success.
  5. When you arrive at the course have a pattern of preparation that works for you.  Do the same thing each time. Know how long it takes. It could look like:  check your equipment, stretch, hit some putts and see how fast the greens are, hit a few balls and get in a nice tempo, back to the practice green and hit a few putts to store the feeling of the greens speed just before you tee off. Move at your normal pace.
  6. Get to the 1st tee with a couple of minutes to spare.

Having a good pre-round preparation routine will not give you a great swing. What it will do is insure you don’t defeat yourself before you start. Remember, improving your mental game means to optimize your mental/emotional and physical condition in support of playing the best golf you are capable of. Give yourself a chance.