Flipping the Switch
The mental side of golf is typically treated like the swing – something that takes time to improve. You need to put in the work over weeks or months to see meaningful development. But during my recent trip to Hilton Head Island [learn about that HERE], I sustained some of my best play thanks to one simple idea. I didn’t do weeks of breathing exercises, I just keyed in on a notion I got from Dr. Saul Miller [listen to our podcast HERE] that I’ll share with you in this lesson.
This Lesson Is For You If:
You want to feel more aggressive and free on the course
You want a simple key to unlock your mental game
What Animal Are You?
During our conversation, Dr. Miller shared the idea of “stimulating imagery.” He asks his clients to “pick an animal that would give you the feelings you want to have if you’re playing great.”
Dr. Miller has a strong preference for the type of animal you choose. He said that 99% of elite golfers pick predators with 2/3 favoring big cats. You can see this in the nicknames of the greats: Tiger Woods, the Golden Bear, and the Shark.
Contained in this simple imagery of an animal is a world of positive mental effects. Paraphrasing Dr. Miller: predators make things happen, they’re assertive. Prey are careful, tentative, trying to avoid mistakes. Trying to be careful creates tension; being assertive allows your energy to flow.
Dr. Miller also pointed out that you’ve never seen a lion shaking his head or judging himself. He’s never sad about a mistake. He goes for his target, he succeeds or fails, and he moves on to the next target. This is the ultimate mindset for a successful golfer.
Three Days as a Lion
Over the last few years, I’ve fallen into a pattern of playing badly on golf trips. This stems primarily from wild driving, which was on full display on our recent staff trip to The Loop [review HERE] and other courses in Michigan. I was determined to not let this happen at Hilton Head, so I tried to practice more in the weeks prior. Reality, however, was not interested in my plans, and my practice routine was only marginally better than normal.
When I heard Dr. Miller’s idea about being a predator, I decided that would be my focus for the trip. I hadn’t put in the hours of work, but I could control my mindset. This was tested on the very first hole of the trip – the ultra-narrow first at Harbour Town. Standing on the tee, I blocked out the negative possibilities and methodically told myself, “I am a lion. I’m here to be aggressive and make things happen.” With a smile on my face, I mashed a drive down the middle of the fairway.
I kept that mantra and that imagery alive for the next 53 holes, and the result was one of my best stretches of golf in recent memory. Not every drive was perfect, but there were far more great shots than bad ones. This imagery unlocked a tremendous amount of freedom and joy in my game, and I hope it does the same for you.