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T-CUP – Thinking Correctly Under Pressure, is an acronym brought to prominence by England rugby coach Sir Clive Woodward during the successful 2003 World Cup campaign.

Coaches and psychologists in all sports including golf, have spent thousands of hours trying to devise ways to help players think the right thought at the right moment.

Thinking the right thought will lead to the right feeling which will lead to the right action or behaviour.

Or so the theory goes.

Two Myths About Thinking

There are a couple of problems with this assumption.

The first is that there is no causal relationship between a thought and where your golf ball ends up.

If there were, the game of golf would be solved. Think where you want the ball to go, and hey presto, that’s where it finishes.

Is that how it works in your experience?

The second is that thought is capricious.

If you have read either of my books you might be aware that I don’t believe it is possible for a human being to control what thoughts come along and when.

But please don’t take my opinion as truth.

You can experiment for yourself. Sit down for 2 minutes and try to completely clear your mind.

Think of nothing for 120 seconds.

How did you get on?

Working on Golf’s Mental Game?

So, if we cannot control our thinking, and ‘thinking correctly under pressure’ doesn’t necessarily lead to the outcome we want anyway, is there any point in ‘working’ on the mental side of the game?

It seems to me that it depends on what you mean by ‘working’.

If that means devising techniques and strategies to try to control and manipulate your thinking, (which is what most coaches and psychologists recommend) then the answer is no.

But if by working, you mean exploring the nature of your experience, and the nature of thought.

Examining the beliefs you have about golf, about life and about yourself, then that seems to me to be a highly worthwhile endeavour.

Indeed, that is what we do in my golf mentoring programs.

The Role of The Intellect

Although thought is random – any thought can appear at any moment – the type of thinking that typically arises in a situation can be influenced by our beliefs about what is true in that moment.

For example, many people feel more anxious over a 3-foot putt than they do over a 20 footer, because they have a belief that they should make a high percentage of their short putts.

Take the expectation (belief) away, and the anxious thinking we have subsides.

Could thinking correctly under pressure, actually be about eliminating untrue beliefs so we don’t think incorrectly under pressure?

Perhaps the process is subtractive, not additive?

Any time a human being is struggling, it’s because they have a belief that isn’t true.

A primary role of the intellect, the logical mind, is not to control thought, but to use reason and rationale to liberate us from the beliefs which are holding us back and preventing us from reaching our potential.

The fewer untrue beliefs or expectations we have, the less insecure thinking will arise.

By logically examining your beliefs and expectations about golf and about yourself, you can gradually strip away those which aren’t helping you or are impeding your enjoyment of the game.

Questions to Consider:

If you want to test the theory that you can control what thoughts arise and when they do so, try the thought experiment outlined above. Sit for a couple of minutes and completely clear your mind of all thoughts.

How did it go?

If you would like to discuss these ideas further or would like to know more about this process of questioning your beliefs about the game, please use this link to schedule a chat.

If you would like to read another article that explores why trying to control your thinking might be hurting your golf, please follow this link.


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