“I Have Been Great” 101
The study of your greatest shots
All golfers can relate to the search for a state of peak performance – those moments of perfect harmony between our intentions and our actions. In the world of coaching, many work tirelessly to better understand this state. And when the ingredients for peak performance are discovered, our coaches will deliver a most valuable service to our athletes. Imagine that there was a process within your control that leads to your potential. Imagine that instead of waiting for great shots to slap us in the face we could create these shots through variables that we control.
In the work of Nilsson and Marriott, the state is called the “performance state”, and the term describes the feeling of being in total balance – balance in the sense of harmoniously linking the body and mind to create beautiful shots. The belief that follows is that coaching really boils down to helping our athletes to access this state when it matters most. If we spend all of our time creating good golf swings are we missing the point of coaching? If the best swing in the world lies is in the hands of one who is incapable of accessing a performance state, does that swing stand a chance? If the ability to access a performance state is critical to success, then shouldn’t we be helping our players to train and recognize this state?
In this post, I propose that you will gain significant insight into your game if you take the time to “study” your best moments and to search out the ingredients that combine to create your greatest shots or finest rounds. This is a starting point for helping yourself to access your own “performance state”.
As the golf season is in full force and you’ve been playing rounds of golf on a regular basis, it’s a good idea to take time to reflect on all of the rounds you’ve played. I can’t overstate the benefits to be gained from focused and honest reflection on the rounds you’ve played. But rather than looking at where your game has lacked, take time to recollect the greatest moments you’ve had. Take some time to think back on your great moments from the past season.
Look back on your game and take note of the shots that come quickly to memory. These can often be vivid memories of great shots – like the time you hooked a ball on purpose around trees, a chip in that you knew would happen, or a string of holes where you were really on your game. Be careful here, our mind has a nasty habit of recollecting our worst shots. Push away these negative memories and look deeper into the experience you had when you played your best.
We all have a great player within us – we’ve all had glimpses of what we can do at some point in our golf. Everyone is capable of launching a ball to a target and everyone can do this well. And once we accept that this harmony is achievable (because we’ve all glimpsed it within our own game) then the search turns to figuring out what it is that caused us to perform so well. It’s not a question of whether we can do it, but a question of how we can do it more often. Wouldn’t it be great if the moments of glory in golf were achievable by following a process?
One way to start in on this is to look at all of the times you’ve been in the “performance state”, and to take note of the “ingredients” for that day. Be very introspective about those great moments, or strings of shots, where you’ve had a great success. Start with a list for one great shot, then look at stretches of holes where you’ve been in control, then look at your best days.
Example: For a great shot you may have:
- Felt good about the distance, 142yds – 8iron
- Pin was in the back right
- Light rough, good lie
- Focused on balance in my feet before I took the club away
- Was very attached to the flagstick
Example: For one great day, you make come up with a list like:
- Ate peach yogurt at breakfast
- Had carrots and trail mix and an apple while I played
- Warm-up was good – lots of time to do a variety of things
- Didn’t have too rigid a game plan, was relaxed in my approach to the course
- Played with strangers, talk was casual at most
- It was windy and warm
Gradually your lists will start to show some common threads, and these threads are the ingredients that make up your performance state. For every performer the keys to unlocking high performance are unique and ever-evolving. But the key skill lies in the process of reflecting on our great shots and storing these memories in a way that allows us to study them. Over time you will gain two significant advantages – both of which will increase your confidence. Firstly you will be encouraged when you discover how many great shots you have hit in the past, secondly you will be able to call on these memories to build confidence in the future.
So the next time you look to enhance your golfing experience, consider taking some time to reflect on your great moments. And the next time you go to practice your game, don’t rush to work on your technique, instead consider taking time to practice being in a state that allows your great swings to emerge.