Hitting the Reset Button

Whether it’s a missed three-footer, a bladed wedge, or a ball hit out of bounds, we’ve all made crushing mistakes at inopportune moments.  Whether because of nerves or simply poor timing, committing the big mistake at the wrong time can derail a round.  Hitting the reset button and getting back on track can be the difference between hoisting a trophy and finishing at the bottom of the leaderboard. 

Even the best players in the world make mistakes.  Golf isn’t a game of perfect and even Tour players that go onto victory make bogeys.  PGA Tour players monitor “bounceback” statistics – the percentage of the time that a player makes bogey or worse and follows-up on the next hole with a birdie or better. Not surprisingly, elite players on Tour regularly find themselves at or near the top of this category.  They find a way to hit the reset button by channeling their frustration or anxiety rather than being overwhelmed by them.  To improve your bouncebacks between shots, use these very powerful psychological techniques:

Self-talk.  Whether you’re overtly aware of it or not, we all have an ongoing internal dialogue – a running commentary that reflects our feelings and reactions to the world around us.  Taking control of that commentary is critical when things go sideways.  Interrupt negative scripts.  Interrupt judgment.  Focus the script on what you can control and what you can control right now, such as:  “I’m making the best stroke I can make on this putt,” “I’m committing to my routine,” or “I’m focused on my target.”  Ignore the past, ignore the future.  Focus on what you can control and keep the voice (or voices) in your head aligned with the positive outcome you want to achieve.

Control Your Breathing.  Hitting a poor shot can lead to anxiety.  And anxiety is often accompanied by quick and shallow breathing. In addition to working through positive self-talk, it’s important to get the body back to a state of arousal that can lead to positive performance.  Always take at least 20 seconds to do some slow controlled breathing.  Get a big chest full of air and let it out slowly…and repeat at least twice.  Your body and brain won’t perform without oxygen.  Take your time.  And breath.

Once you have gained control of your self-talk and breathing, recommit to whatever game plan you had for the round.  Too many players start tinkering with their swing or going for pins/targets that weren’t in their game plan (and perhaps aren’t appropriate for their skill level).  Hitting the rest button means returning to the basics (target, tempo, timing), staying focused on the present, and committing to each shot. 

Could a second poor shot follow a first?  Or a third or fourth?

Yes.  But focusing upon possible negative outcomes has no positive value.

The only way to bounce back is to get control of your mental game, re-establish a commitment to positive outcomes, and return to swinging and putting aggressively toward the target.

Hit the reset button and give yourself the best possible chance that the next shot will be your best.