Bunker ambassador Gary Boyd shares some of his favourite mental tips to help you hit the ground running this season
1) I don’t think you can have more than two swing thoughts as any more and you won’t be focusing on what shot you’re trying to hit.
2) One of the biggest things is to have a good routine, that is paramount to hitting good shots. There’s always a time at the range to work on that, even for 10 minutes. When you stand over that shot down on the last couple of holes and you’re trying to break 90 for the first time you can then go to that auto-pilot thing.
3) Another big thing is to pick a small target. If you aim big you are more likely to miss it than aiming for something small.
4) On a hole that you don’t like a lot of amateurs are screwed from the start. You have to look at why it might be a bogey hole; it might be the wrong club, you didn’t commit to it or you just took three putts. There’s nothing worse than bogeying a hole the first two days and then you hit the green and three putt it. Try and stay within the process from the start of the week when you’ve made a good plan for each hole.
5) I have green, amber and red zone holes and it’s the same with pin positions. Sometimes aiming for the middle of the green is definitely the smart play which amateurs might not think of as much. We all want to hit every shot close but sometimes , when you’ve got a tight pin and a 6-iron in your hand, that’s not the time to do it.
6) I play the course in three-hole phases which helps to keep me in the present. On tour you tend to give your scores in every three holes and by playing as many as possible of those under par is going to add up to a good score. On any course you will target the par 5s and short 4s.
7) Halfway houses are a funny one for amateurs as it generally doesn’t matter what score you’re on after nine holes but then you stop and you look ahead to the future rather than thinking about what’s happening in that moment. You might be only two over and beating your best score by a few and you then start thinking that you’ve got some shots to play with rather than thinking about shooting a great score. You’ve got to get back in that moment and carry on. A lot of the time you lose your rhythm and get quicker and start getting angry. As a pro it wouldn’t cross my mind what my score is after nine holes.
8) You are always trying to do the same thing every time. I’ve had times in pressure situations where you just go into that zone that a lot of golfers talk about and you are always trying to reminisce on a shot that you’ve hit in the past and to feed back off those memories. Think of a shot at your home club that gives you some good positive memories and use that when you need it for a similar shot.
9) When you are in contention in any sport you just find something when you need it but you don’t know what it is, I guess it is the hours and hours of practice and it comes out at that moment. Coming down the stretch you go into a zone and find your ultimate performance where you feel like you can’t miss, it’s the same with putting. A big putt on the 1st and you feel like you’re going to do that all day and your mindset is great.
10) If I could have one shot again it would be at the Czech Open in 2010. I birdied 18 to get into the play-off but there was a three-foot birdie putt on 16 that I missed and I had three-putted two of the greens on the back nine so you will always look back on those. I’d like to have another go at that birdie putt but it lipped out and it was just one of those things. Maybe I could have hit it harder than being a bit tentative?
11) You should never really regret things that you’ve done, instead I’ve always tried to use anything as an incentive to become a better player. Stay in the moment all the time and do not get ahead of yourself and start thinking what will happen if you do miss.
12) You have to forget the bad shots. An amateur will hit one bad shot and it can ruin the round whereas pros are so adept at just forgetting it. Golf isn’t a reaction shot, you have time between every shot that you hit and there is always time where you have to switch off and then back on again. That’s the great thing about having a caddy who you can trust and get on well with. You can’t do it for five hours. It’s always nice to play with people who you can have a chat with.
13) It’s a cliché but, after you’ve had a little swear to yourself or whatever, you have to focus on the next one. As a young kid you can’t really see that but, as you mature, you start to learn more. Look at Tyrrell Hatton, he has really learnt to react to bad shots well and he can now use them as his energy to perform.
14) With putting I always focus on my start line. If you’re not starting the ball online it’s not going to go in so it doesn’t matter how good your green reading is. It’s crazy how hard putting can be given that you only have to take the putter back a foot. Everyone should be a good putter. I will always pick a spot that is maybe two feet in front of me rather than aiming at the hole. Visualising it going in the hole and the will to get it in plays a big part. Jordan Spieth is getting back to that, his putting us effortless and a lot of the time you just know it’s going in, the same with Tiger.
15) I’m not a big fan of when people say try and lag it up to the dustbin lid, if you miss it you’re going to be miles away. On the PGA Tour players are only 53% likely to hole a six-foot putt and all we see on TV are players holing everything and 10 feet is something like 21%. Not being too hard on yourself is a big part of putting.
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