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The Reason Why Golfers Struggle-

Part 4

In the previous articles we have explored a number of common beliefs which golfers have about the game, and about themselves.

Why is becoming aware of your beliefs important if you aren’t enjoying the game, or if you have stopped improving?

Our beliefs are like a window, or a pair of glasses. Our perception of reality is coloured by our beliefs. They are like a filter. We tend to pay more attention, and give more credence to events that fit with our beliefs.

Events which do not fit, or indeed which contradict those beliefs, are dismissed, or even ignored altogether.

For example, we might have a belief that being anxious on a short putt can cause us to make a poor stroke, or to miss such a putt.

When we do so, we blame our negative thinking or our feelings.

If however, if the putt goes in, we quickly forget the way we were feeling before we made the stroke.

This pattern of events is sometimes referred to as confirmation bias.

See if you can think of any examples within your own game where you blamed a poor shot on a particular factor, but have hit good shots in the same situation?

This is why understanding your beliefs is so important.

Your experience of golf and life will not change until your beliefs change.

If you believe that you can only enjoy the game if you play to a certain standard, then that will be your experience.

If you believe that you will feel nervous coming down the final few holes with a good score going, that will be your experience.

If you believe that those feelings can interfere with your capacity to play your best golf, then that will be your experience.

Yet most golfers go through their whole careers trying to alter their experience, without ever examining the beliefs which underpin it.

Changing or fixing your golf swing is trying to alter your experience.

Changing or fixing your thinking is trying to alter your experience.

Changing or fixing your state of mind is trying to alter your experience.

You are trying to alter a symptom, without examining and understanding the cause.

How is that likely to work out?

Understanding how you mind works is at least as important as understanding the techniques and strategies of the game.

For example, decision making and course management are regarded as very important aspects of being a successful golfer.

They are also one of the most misunderstood aspects of the game for the reasons alluded to above.

In a previous essay I stated that in my experience, it is impossible for a human being to control what they think about or when they think it.

This has profound implications when it comes to the concept of ‘decision making’.

If you accept that you don’t have any control over what you think, then the idea of a ‘decision’, takes on a whole new meaning.

When we take action, the reality is that we can only act on the thinking we have at a particular moment (which we have no control over).

So if we think it’s a 7 iron, and we hit the 7 iron over the back of the green, it looks like we made a ‘bad decision’.

However it only looks like we had a choice of which club we should hit because we have a different perspective after hitting the shot.

The thought ‘I should’ve hit an 8 iron’, only came to us after the event.

In the moment of choosing the club, there was only one thing we could do, because our thought was ‘it’s a 7 iron’.

Understanding this fundamental truth about the way human psychology works is extremely powerful for a golfer.

It allows us to accept and forget about mistakes, and it stops us blaming ourselves for ‘bad decisions’, when really, there was no decision made.

We just did what we thought was the right thing to do at that moment in time.

Being angry with yourself for choosing the wrong club or misreading a putt is like being angry with yourself for not being able to see into the future.

Absurd and unhelpful.

Any time it looks like you have a ‘decision’ to make on the golf course, it’s a sign you aren’t seeing things clearly and are taking your beliefs seriously.

On your good days when your mind is open, you might notice you don’t have any decisions to make at all.

Letting go of the belief that you have agency over your thoughts and feelings in my experience, is one of the most liberating and powerful things a golfer can do if they want to play their best more often.

Understanding the nature of thought is one of the gateways to understanding the true nature of our experience.

Our experience comprises everything we perceive, everything we feel and everything we do.

Understanding true nature is the foundation upon which we can build a solid and resilient mental game.

Skills, technique and improved performance become much easier once the foundations are in place.

I hope this article has given you some fresh ideas about decision making on, and off the golf course.

If you’d like to read the last article in the series, please use the link button below.


In summary
The concept of decision making on a golf course, or anywhere else for that matter, is a trick of the mind

You can only act on the thinking you have in the moment, and you have no control over what you think and when you think it.

Letting go of the belief you have control over your thoughts and feelings, and therefore you actions, both good and bad, is one of the most liberating and empowering things a golfer can do.