Playing Target Golf: What’s Really On Your Mind?

I was playing a round of golf the other day, on a golf course I play frequently. Because I’m familiar with the course, I know which side of the fairway is favored, where the hidden bunkers are, and which rough is really tough to get out of. But even with that knowledge, and perhaps because of it, I often find myself on the wrong side of the fairway, in the sand or stuck in the rough and tumble. Why? I should know better. I aim my shots to stay on the fairway and avoid all the hazards. I double check my feet to be sure they and my body are square and pointing in the right direction. And still I end up in the junk. What is going on?

I’ve been reading the book “Zen Golf” by Dr. Joseph Parent. The subtitle is “Mastering the Mental Game.” And that’s precisely where my problem lies. In my head! Parent writes:

“It is extremely important to have an image in mind of where we do want the ball to go. Thinking about where we don’t want the ball to go, the hazard that we want to avoid, sets that negative image in our mind. That image is the message our body responds to and does its best to produce.”

Having a firm target in mind—what I call a positive target—is critical to my playing well. If I keep that positive image in my mind and focus on that, I’m more than likely to hit the ball smoothly and land where I want to be. Trouble happens when my mind becomes unfocused, or focuses on where I don’t want to end up. I try really hard to keep the positive target in focus, but as I gaze down the fairway towards the green, I can’t help but notice the sand bunker on the left and just before I hit, I tell myself, “Ok, stay out of that bunker.” Of course, the bunker, being the last thing on my mind, is exactly where I end up!

I’m learning that I have to clear my mind before I hit. Yes, I see the bunker I want to avoid. But I also see the green just behind it. That’s my positive target. I have to focus on the green. Focus on the green. Focus on the green. Then approach the ball with nothing else on my mind but that target of green. Line up and hit the ball right to the green. Yes!!!!

How do you keep positive images in your mind when you play? And what do you do when, just before you hit, one of your group tells you, “be sure to stay out of the water.” Is murder justified in such circumstances? Feel free to comment.

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