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Walk Smartly

by Joe Gandolfo, M.A., LPC, CPT, C.Hy.

A round of golf takes a golfer anywhere between three and a half and four and half hours to play. From hole number one to hole number eighteen, no matter how many shots one must take (and we all know the fewer the better), how we manage ourselves on the golf course is so crucial to our performance.

Over the course of this three and a half to four and half-hours we are actually over the golf ball, for a shot or putt, a total of about 25 minutes - give or take. For me this 25 minutes includes our pre-shot routine and pre-putting routine (and we all know the importance of developing and ingraining those routines), and striking/putting the golf ball. That leaves the golfer a lot of so-called "down time" between each shot. What a golfer does or does not do with this "down time", I believe, is of great importance and directly impacts performance.

A lot, I mean, a lot is written on swing mechanics, stance, posture, alignment, striking the ball, types of shots, putting, grip, equipment and I could go on. All of these are very important and must understood and considered for each and every shot and putt. From my viewpoint the "down time", and what a golfer is doing during this "down time" is just as important and rarely discussed.

So what about that three hours of "down time" that confronts all golfers. Think for a moment of what you as a golfer do with your "down time" between each shot. Is your "down time" structured and focused to increase your performance?

To increase your golfing performance I suggest to all golfers "The 4 R System". The reason I suggest this system is that once it becomes ingrained and used consistently during your round it has much value. It will allow you, the golfer, the best chance to perform at a more consistent and higher level. It is as follows:

Release: This first step is used following the shot. After the shot is over…well...it's over. Let it go. No matter if it was a good shot or a bad shot, let it go. You also want to take a few seconds (15 - 20) to let go of any thoughts (both positive and negative) regarding the last shot, as well as any emotion (both positive and negative) that has to do with the last shot. Release and remember the last shot is over.

Review: After you have released all thoughts and emotions regarding your last shot, this next step is used to review your game plan for that round. To refresh and refocus yourself again with the game plan you brought to the course that day. Staying with your game plan for that round is very important. Changing your game plan during your round is never a good idea, all that will do is invite uncertainty and lead to decreased performance. Review your game plan(30 seconds) and trust it for that round.

Relax: The third step is to relax your body and mind. This step usually is the longest, and can last for as long as a minute or two. Use deep breathing techniques - this will relax your body and quiet your mind, progressive muscle relaxation, whistle, think about other things - a favorite hobby, sing, talk with your playing partners, etc. This time is used as a "down" period prior to the fourth step.

Restart: This fourth step is the time that you use, constructively, to get ready for the next shot. Course management, type of shot, club selection, a pre-shot routine and swing. This last step is a building of your focus and concentration of the shot/putt at hand. With your focus and concentration "peaking" as you strike the ball.

Then you start all over - Release, Review, Relax and Restart.

The more a golfer can get into this structured process between each shot or putt, the greater his chance for executing the shot at hand. Golf is a game that is played best when a golfer hits one shot at a time, accepts the result of that last shot or putt, and moves on to the next shot.

Structuring your time between each shot, using "The 4 R system", will allow a golfer greater concentration and focus, minimizing the chance for distractions, body tension, run-away thoughts and emotions to name a few. Walk Smartly and you will see your golf performance increase as well as become more consistent.

To your mental game,

Joe Gandolfo, M.A., LPC, CPT, C.Hy.
Sports Performance Specialist
Creator/Author of "Minding Your Golf Game"TM

Joe offers mental game consulting for golfers of all levels and ages and does workshops for various groups, golf facilities and the PGA Ga. Section. Click here to learn more about him and for his contact information.

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