After a recent round, we were discussing bad shots and how to get over them. Much easier said than done, but I received a great piece of advice this season that might help to keep a good round alive when a wayward shot or two rears its ugly head.
The next time you hit a poor shot on the course, don't start marching towards the treeline or those hazard stakes until you try this: re-visualize a successful version of the shot with a practice swing done correctly. It's like a mental Mulligan.
There's some science behind this practice. Research has shown that in learning, your mind doesn't differentiate between a real experience and an imagined one. So the idea is, when you hit a bad shot, immediately re-imagine it. Step behind the shot again and go through your pre-shot thinking. Zero in on your target, re-visualize the shot shape and see your ball flying and landing on that target.
More times than not, a poor shot happens when you don't feel comfortable over the ball and your mind starts racing and second-guessing itself. As legendary Tour player and club-thrower, Tommy Bolt said, "The mind messes up more shots than the body." So this time, make sure to keep your thoughts clear, relaxed and positive.
Now consider the swing itself that led to the poor shot. Did you feel something during your swing that you know was off? You'll almost always have an instant idea that's specific to your game - "I felt off-balance"; "I didn't turn"; "I flipped my hands at the bottom"; and so on. We all have our own peculiar tendencies that we're familiar with.
When you've identified what went wrong, now imagine what the right swing feels like and waggle or take a little half practice swing to feel the club in your hands.
Now step in and take your address again, from the same spot where you last played. Imagine your ball on the tee or turf and pretend you're playing the shot again. Take a full practice swing and as you come up to a full finish, see the golf ball in your mind's eye, flying just as you mapped it out. If the first practice swing doesn't match your mental image, re-set and swing again until you make a swing that feels "right" to you.
When you make that good practice swing, allow yourself to feel good. You've just ingrained a positive swing rep in your mind that will serve you subconsciously the next time you face a similar shot. Instead of holding on to the negative experience of hitting a poor shot, you've essentially replaced that memory with a positive one.
Written down, it looks like this is a lengthy exercise, but in real-time, taking a mental Mulligan only takes a few seconds. And those few seconds have the added benefit of giving you a quick time-out to cool off and collect yourself before you tackle your next shot.
I hope you'll give the mental Mulligan a try the next time you have a miscue on the golf course. Let me know if it works for you and please share any other strategies you have for getting over poor shots.