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 Don’t Reinforce Putting Failures 
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Post Don’t Reinforce Putting Failures
Don’t Reinforce Putting Failures
by: Tim Brunson, PhD

When you are unsuccessful on the putting green, the damage may be far worse than you originally believe. This is because the impact of one failure is magnified many times over in your brain. It becomes so hardwired that the next time you putt you must struggle to overcome the legacy of your prior performance. Let’s face it. This is a problem that you can live without.

Look at this scenario. Your ball is only 5 feet from the hole. You anticipate an easy putt. Knowing that you will stay under par for this hole, you begin your putting ritual. You are confident that you understand how the ground will affect the travel of your ball. You know the distance and the line. So now you are ready. Your grip is perfect. Your stance is correct. You once again look at the target and visualize the line of travel. You judge perfectly the amount of backswing that will be needed. You are ready.

So now you get ready to initiate. You deliberately begin your backswing and know that it is right to start your swing. But something happens. About halfway to the ball for a split second a sense of doubt enters your mind. Did I miss something? Did I notice the texture of the grass? Is the early morning dew going to be a factor? Do I need just a little more authority in the swing? You connect with the ball. Part of you knows that you have done everything right. However, you still have that nagging feeling in your stomach. You watch the ball roll, perfectly following the line and moving closer to the hole. Steadily moving. Yet it stops only an inch from the hole. You are devastated. What went wrong?

It seems that although this is only the ninth hole and you still have half the game to go, this one missed putt seems to ruminate in your mind. You see it and feel it in an endless loop playing constantly in your mind. In fact, it seems that on each subsequent hole, you just don’t feel that your putting is as good as it should be. You begin constantly judging your situation incorrectly. And it doesn’t stop there. Your mind wonders back to that missed putt later in the evening, the next day, and occasionally during the week. You wonder if you will figure out what went wrong. You feel that by reliving it and reanalyzing it, you will most likely find the solution and get back into your regular zone. But do you realize that you could instead be having a negative effect on your game?

While I am a very strong advocate of learning from experience, you must be careful not to reinforce your bad experiences. The more that your brain rehashes a memory, the stronger it becomes. The networks of related brain cells become stronger and thicker every time you re-live the experience. We hypnotherapists call this a revivification. In this case, what is happening is that the tendency to doubt just before connecting with the ball is becoming deeply engrained. Like any phobia, it is hard to eliminate.

I define mastery as the deliberate creation of the right mental programming in your mind. This entails taking actions that thicken the appropriate neural networks in your brain. Even though physical practice is fun, those learning opportunities that come when something goes amiss, too often help you become a master at the game of loosing – not winning. However, with mental practice you can install and reinforce ideal play. Therefore, it is important to balance mental rehearsal and physical practice with your emphasis on the latter rather than the former.

About The Author
The golf mind training CD’s and MP3’s that I offer through are designed to help you install, reinforce, and recall your ideal competence as a golfer. By learning to focus on developing the mental mastery of golf, you increase the likelihood that you will enjoy the game and perform at your best.
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Thu Feb 17, 2011 12:55 pm
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