So you want to improve your golf, you’ve heard about the importance of having a strong mental game but don’t know what it means or where to even begin. Here’s a great place to start. Coach Garret Kramer explained it in a way that has had a profound impact on my golf game, my coaching, and my every day life. His explanation of mental state and the role it plays in your performance goes something like this.
Your mental state is like an elevator in a hotel that goes up and down between the Penthouse and the Basement. From the Penthouse human beings are loving, compassionate, resilient, competitive, and determined. From the Basement human beings are judgmental, egotistical, arrogant, and insecure.
If you’re playing golf in a low state of mind, in the Basement, your reactions to the exact same situations will be different than if you are in a high state of mind, in the Penthouse. Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?
Scenario 1: Your ball gets a bad bounce and kicks straight out of bounds.
From the Basement you react by thinking something like this: “That’s stupid, no way that should happen. I’m so unlucky. Why is there even out of bounds there anyway? I hate this hole. Now my good score is ruined, this sucks.”
From the Penthouse, you see the situation much clearer and react by thinking something like this: “I guess that’s part of the game isn’t it. Oh well, nothing I can do about that. Time to re-load what’s my target?”
Scenario 2:No matter how hard you try, you just can’t make a putt:
From the Basement you react by thinking something like this: “What a stupid pin placement. I can’t putt these fast / slow / bumpy greens. I hate this course. I hate this putter. What, no way that should break left?”
From the Penthouse, you see the situation much clear and react by thinking something like this: “I hit it exactly how I wanted to, guess I must have just read it wrong. I think I need to start playing more break. I never practice my putting so what can I expect.
Scenario 3: You hit a horrible shot straight into the water hazard
From the Basement you react quickly, go straight to your bag and pull out another ball to hit the shot again, without even considering the options of going to the drop zone or point of entry. You temporarily throw any thought of score out the window and feel the need to prove that you can in fact hit the shot.
From the Penthouse you see the situation much clearer and react by thinking something like this. “I sure would like to have that shot back but now is not the time to let my ego get in the way. My best chance of damage control will be to go to the drop zone and try to make the best score I can from there.”
In these or any other scenarios that you are faced with, if your reactions are coming from a low state of mind (Basement) you will likely be left feeling rattled or uneasy. However if your reactions are coming from a clear state of mind (Penthouse) you are likely to sustain a feeling of balance and calm.
Now, there is no doubt that playing from the Penthouse is going to give you the best chance of playing good golf. The question is how do you know if you are in the Penthouse or in the Basement, and what to do if you find yourself down in the Basement?
Here’s how it all works:
- The first thing to understand is that it is absolutely impossible for anything that happens outside of you to make you feel rattled or uneasy. (a bad bounce, missed putt, bad shot into the hazard
- Your feelings are a product of your thoughts. The truth is that you are not in control of what thoughts pop into your head, however you can choose to hold on to a thought or simply let it pass by.
- Constantly ask yourself “How do I feel?” because this will be a clear indicator of weather you are thinking clearly or giving too much attention to the judgmental, egotistical, insecure thoughts that popped up and more than likely aren’t even true.
Here’s what to do if you feel rattled and find yourself in the basement:
Absolutely nothing. There is no technique or skill that will bring you out of the Basement. All you have to do is recognize that your uneasy feelings are a result of you holding on to certain thoughts. Simply let those thoughts pass, carry on doing your thing, and that elevator will start to make its way to the penthouse all by itself.
The best thing about this kind of awareness is that it’s not just a golf skill, it’s more like an every day, live your life skill that should be monitored constantly. The next time you’re on the golf course, or in traffic, or waiting in a long queue, take a second to ask your self, how am I feeling? Then realize that the source of those feelings is completely internal. Nothing outside of you can make you feel bad. Are you rattled, deep down in the Basement, if so, know that you are only doing it to yourself. Or are you thinking clearly, feeling great, playing from the Penthouse?