Are you a thermometer or a thermostat? It may seem like a strange question but it is one that I have asked many members of Team Canada. In my opinion, golf – more than any other sport – reflects life. It has many highs and lows and your reaction to important situations has consequences down the road. Most golfers let their results control their attitudes. Play well and all is great; play poorly and their attitude stinks.
Go into any clubhouse after a round and you will listen to whole conversations about poor shots, three putts and balls never to be seen again. Does anyone benefit from this negativity, either on or off the course?
The 50% Rule
50% of your playing partners don’t care that you shot 80 and the other 50% wish you had shot 81.
While factors like the weather, course conditions and other players’ results are out of your control when playing golf, you are in charge of your reaction to every stroke. The most important part of any shot may be the first few seconds after impact. What you do during this time can either create great memories or initiate a chain of events that will prevent you from playing your best. The moments after each shot provide feedback that you can either celebrate or use for adjustment. If you are a thermometer you react to and display change in your environment. Based on the result of a shot your temperature (attitude) could change drastically. If you are a thermostat you remain in control and can set your optimum temperature, no matter the result.
It’s all about control
Controlling your attitude is a skill, and like any skill you can master it if you follow the correct steps.
Go to a pitching green with two balls for each target. Pick a definite landing point and trajectory, go through your full routine and execute your first shot.
Pay attention to the result. Did you make the desired contact? Did the ball land in the correct area? Did it behave on the surface as expected? Where did it finish?
Using these criteria you can make adjustments for the second shot. The idea is to gain feedback from the result rather than react to it emotionally.
With your second ball try to implement the changes required to achieve your intended result. This could mean changing the club you used, moving the landing point or using a technical cue to improve contact. Remember the goal is to gain feedback and implement change.
After the second ball, go through the same process again. Analyze the result post-shot, but this time simulate any changes necessary without hitting another ball. Contemplate the change required and move on, just as you would on the golf course.
If you executed the shot as planned you should celebrate; a positive result needs reinforcement in order to be remembered. Create a small personal celebration for successful shots and do this every single time the shot matches your intention.
In life and golf you will always make mistakes; in both cases you should strive to learn from them and move on. Are you a thermometer or a thermostat?
This article first appeared in the April 2014 edition of Golf Canada magazine.