Fear - The one thing stopping you from playing your best golf

So you want to get better at golf.  You have it set in your mind that you want to work on your swing and finally hit a good shot.  To do so, you must start making some changes. 

Let's face the facts - change is tough.  I'm sure you have experienced a time when you are trying to make a new movement, but you just can't seem to do it. There can be many reasons for this and physical limitations can play a big part.  However, in this article I am going to shed light on one of the most common issues that people struggle with... the fear of hitting a bad shot.

We hear it all the time... "I can do it in my practice swing."

Often times, someone can do something in their practice swing, but their old swing comes back the moment a ball is put in front of them.

For example, you are trying to strike the ground in a certain place - hopefully making a divot which starts where the ball rests, or slightly in front of the ball. You make 5 practice swings, and each of them strikes the correct area. Yet, you put a ball there, and the club strikes 8 inches behind the ball.



What do you think is going on here?

It can't be a physical or a co-ordination issue, you just demonstrated both the physical ability to do it and the co-ordination to do it.

It's not a technique issue - you just demonstrated the correct technique during the practice swing.

Then there's one last obstacle... the underlying thought of "I can't do it"

Often our students will state "I just can't do it".  Yes, you can.  Youcan hit the ground wherever you want.  You want to hit 3 inches further forward than you normally do?  You CAN do it.  Heck, you can even hit 300 yards in front of the ball if you so desire - just go and walk 300 yards forwards and strike the ground there.

See what I am saying?

So what is the block then, if it is not a lack of physical ability to do it?  Think about your thought processes during these scenarios.  During the practice swing, your mind is focused on the movementitself, or the goal to brush the ground in a certain place. But what does your mind automatically shift to with a ball in front of you?

The Result!

That's right - your goal has essentially shifted. With a ball there, your goal changes to "let's hit a good shot", or "I hope this is a good shot," letting that fear of a bad shot slowly creep into your mind. 

If your 'need' to hit a good shot outweighs your need to change your movement or make a good swing, you will achieve neither.

What if, just for 10 balls or so, the result of the shot didn't matter at all?

What if you allowed yourself to make the biggest possible mistake and not be afraid to do so?  

What if you were even to encourage the complete opposite mistake through differential practice, such as going clean over the top of the ball and striking the ground half a foot in front of it? Do you think you would open up the possibility of finding the middle ground then? 

Getting rid of the fear of that terrible shot will open up the possibility of hitting a great one.  

Let's make learning as easy as possible for both you and your coach.

So, when you are having lessons with your instructor, make sure to understand this message of accepting the new movement and not worrying about the outcome.  It will make the process of change for yourself much quicker, and it will make the work between you and your professional coach much more efficient.

This is not to say that you will not get a good result with a movement change, but that you may never make the change if you are so pre-occupied with the result and fear of making a poor shot.

I have been through the process of change enough times in my own development to know it is easier said than done.  But, by understanding this above message, the process of change is now so much easier - I can mould my swing into almost whatever shape I wish, or achieve a different impact at the flip of a mental switch. The reason is because I focus on the motion, not the result.

You too can speed up your achievement of a desired change by just dedicating a little time - maybe even just 10 balls - to saying:

"I will dedicate myself solely to making my desired change, without any fear or judgment based on the result of that movement."

Welcome to the world of expedited learning.

Doug Mahovlic

PGA of Canada