Playing with a Winning Gameplan

“Playing with a Winning Game Plan“ Hurricane Junior Golf Tour Dr. Bob Winters © Copyright 2012

“Play Your Own Game”....Really?!?!?


How many times have you heard of the golf cliché’ that suggests: “Just play your own game?”  This, along with “play one shot at a time” are two of the most overused and misunderstood sport statements that athletes and fans use all of the time and often without the proper interpretation of the terms or without positive intent.              As a sport psychologist who has counseled thousands of golfers through two and a half decades, what I am finding is this: There are a number of golfers who don’t understand how to go out and “play” golf.  Many times they get caught up in the distractive aspects of the game and forget the simple things that need to be done to play their best on that particular day.  What I mean by this is that a large number of junior golfers focus on irrelevant things that sap their energy and distract their performance focus away from what they need to be doing to play as effectively as their talent base should allow.

The major culprits to this dilemma are that many young players become caught up in what others think of their golf game, how they are swinging the golf club or what their end score will be on that particular day.  This over-thinking and over-concern about others leads them into an outcome focus which creates ineffective thought patterns concerned with swing mechanics and overall scoring results. What happens is that a day that starts out with the best intention for fun and personal achievement turns into a quest for social acceptance that begins to feel a lot like work.  This “work” concept robs enjoyment from the game and golfers end up frustrated and disappointed with a game that used to be fun!

With these aspects in mind, I want to impress upon you as a member of the Hurricane Tour six golden keys of what “playing golf” is all about.  These six components consist of: (1) developing an attitude to “play golf” versus to “work golf” (2) warming up your mental and physical “oil” (3) Committing to each shot (4) Backing away and refocusing when distracted (5) Creating a feeling of trust and  (6) Letting go of the results and enjoying the process.   Let me explain these six components and describe how you can implement them into your winning game plan:1.  Create a “Play” Attitude for the Day  

It is absolutely vital that you take charge of your playing attitude the minute you leave your home and head for the course.  Remind yourself that today is about your performance and golfing enjoyment.  It is not about trying to play perfect golf, impress your friends, or to “work on your golf swing” during the round.  When you enter the clubhouse gates, smile and remind yourself that today you will be the most upbeat and emotionally stable golfer on the course.  I like what veteran tour player Ken Brown told European Tour Player Darren Clarke about the importance of a positive attitude.  Ken told Darren: “Let your attitude determine your results.....not let your results determine your attitude”.  I love this philosophy!  By providing yourself with an optimistic perspective and a great attitude is the best way to get your day off to a great start! 

2.  Warm up Your Mental and Physical “Oil”            It is vital to start your thinking about playing well before you get to the golf course.  As you drive to the golf course, imagine yourself swinging the club with fluidity and grace.  Mentally replay the good shots in your mind the last time you played.   It is also a good strategy to imagine handling adversity well and to remind yourself that you can recover if you do get in trouble.  Also, take the time to actually hit some balls on the warm-up range in an organized fashion.  Taking the time to hit balls in an organized warm-up procedure helps to calm down the first tee jitters and anxious feelings of being out of control.  Finally, go to the practice green and make a few short putts.  Walking to the first tee after seeing success pictures on the green reinforces your confidence and helps reassure that everything will be okay.

3.  Commit to each shotCommit yourself to each shot with full intention and purposefulness.   Do not allow yourself to hit any shot until you have completely thought the situation and the shot through.  Become clear about what you want to do.  Committing to your decision about how to play a shot before you step into the ball will help create feelings of confidence and control.  Nothing is more crucial to a “play” mindset than knowing that you have thought the situation through and that you are ready to execute your plan with decisiveness and clarity.

4.  Back Away When Distracted or Unsure            To achieve a great “play” mindset, always back away when you are unsure or have doubt as to how you want to play a shot.   The single, greatest mistake that a golfer can make is going ahead and hitting a shot when doubt or worried feelings are present.   If you have doubt or feel unsure while addressing the ball, simply back away and start your procedure over.  It is much easier to back away when distracted and start your mind “clear” than to stay over a shot and fight through the demons.   Thinking this way will help you become more confident on the course.  

5.  Create a Feeling of Total Trust Trusting your decisions and your shot plan is crucial to playing great golf.  Thinking each shot through helps to create a foundation of trust.  Step into each shot knowing that you are sure of yourself and your decision.   Develop an action plan of knowing what it is you are going to do and where you want the ball to go. Adhering to this action plan will allow you to swing at your target with trust.  Remember, trust is the letting go of trying hard, of trying to shoot low numbers and trying to impress others.  The ability to trust is an assurance that you provide for yourself, but you need to create that trust with each and every shot.  

6.  Let Go of Your Results and Score            It is crucial to know that when a shot is hit and the ball stops that whatever has happened to that point cannot be redone or replayed.  That shot is history.  It is finished.   It is up to you to accept the result for what it is and move on.  The notion that you can retrieve or get that shot “back” is a mistake and misnomer.  “Back” does not exist in the process of playing golf.  In golf, the only moment that you can do anything productive is the present shot and moment. 

            A great strategy for letting go of the result is after a shot has been played, to take a few swings or putt and to swing the outcome away.  Allow the dust of emotional frustration (or emotional jubilation) to settle before you move on to the next shot.  Failure to do so will result in a number of blown or missed opportunities.  As you walk to your next shot, allow the frustration with each step to dissolve from your memory.  Get yourself into the next shot with renewed enthusiasm and a positive focus.Summary

            Playing great golf is about making your day on the course a day of passion and the pursuit of being excellent to yourself.   Do not distract yourself into the games of score, comparison to others, and the search for the perfect swing.  Rather, commit yourself to these six golden keys and relish the enjoyment you will derive from being yourself and becoming one with your target!   You will find that your efforts will lead to a winning day on the links! 

  •  If you would like to visit me or inquire about a personal consultation, please contact me at the numbers listed below.  I would love to hear from you!

 Dr. Bob Winters Hurricane Jr. Golf Tour     Mentaal Game Consltant  © Copyright, 2012              

Dr. Bob Winters is an internationally renowned sport psychologist and works with numerous players from around the world.  He is the Resident Sport Psychologist for the David Leadbetter Golf Academy at Champions Gate Florida, USA and can be reached at his Orlando, Florida office at 407-340-7785.  Also, check out his website at or email him at  



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