What does it mean to “be your own best caddie?”
Most golfers have, and will always have, moments of frustration on the golf course. I’ve witnessed that same frustration on the course, follow a player into the parking lot and far beyond. How can we allow something beyond our control to consume our thoughts more than a moment or even a lifetime?
“Your thoughts are your emotions and your emotions lead to your actions.”
If you’re a junior golfer and you haven’t had the opportunity to work with a sports psychologist, mental coach or someone within martial arts, I can’t tell you how important it is to start sooner than later. The ability to control your thoughts and emotions through pertinent, appropriate strategies is one of the best techniques you can have in your arsenal in order to play this game of golf at the highest level.
Success during my collegiate coaching career can be pinpointed directly to the techniques and strategies I learned through the mentorship of leading sports psychologists. What an honor and privilege it has been to work with these amazing professionals. While coaching at Oregon State University we worked closely with Dr. Jerry Lynch. Dr. Lynch gave us the tools to visualize, meditate and control our breath. Then, in 2010, while coaching at USMA West Point, I met Dr. Zinsser. Dr. Zinsser worked closely with Dr. Bob Rotella, a world renowned sports psychologist within the golf world. After implementation of positive mental techniques, the Army Cadets were better equipped to find clarity and peace on and off the golf course.
Can you imagine a collegiate golf team coming together prior to practice, acknowledging the daily goal and visualizing that day’s practice There’s something magical about seeing yourself hitting that perfect wedge shot or hearing 5 foot putts drop in the hole. These visualization strategies were woven into practices, team meetings and tournament play. If you want to play your best golf, why wouldn’t you ever visualize yourself being successful on and off the golf course? You have to play the game of golf in the present. When you learn the techniques of controlling your breath and visualizing, you allow yourself to be your best for that moment and for that golf shot. If you can’t rein in those thoughts and emotions when you stand over a shot, you will never have the chance to play your best golf or be your best on and off the course!
This leads into how we talk to ourselves on the course when you’re practicing or competing. Is your inner dialogue positive or negative? If you caddie for a friend or another player, would you ever tell them during the round how horrible they’re playing? Would you tell them over and over that they will never be good enough to play college golf? Then why in the world would you ever say this to yourself? There is absolutely no competitive advantage to talking negatively to yourself.
“ I have to get mad and let my anger out, it helps me focus.” This statement always leaves me scratching my head. What about having no emotional attachment to the result of a golf shot? Is it possible? It is and using mental strategies to rise above negative emotions, keeps you, not only in the game, but in the moment and within that golf shot.
Take time and evaluate your practice agenda. We all love hitting drivers, wedges, flop shots and putting, but how much of your practice daily is dedicated to your mental game? This is by far, the most neglected aspect of the game for junior golfers. Can you control your breath? Can you visualize yourself positively on the golf course? Is your inner dialogue to yourself positive? If you take the energy and commitment to learn these important strategies early in your golf journey, it will become habit.
A tour caddie acts as the bridge to success for many professional golfers. It is incredibly important to know the game inside and out, but AS important to lift the professional up and over each shot with positivity. Can you imagine if a caddie voices his fear of not going into a putt with confidence and advises his player to lag the putt? No, a good caddie is there with a good attitude and positive outlook for every minute on the course. My question is, Are you doing this for yourself? Former OSU player, friend and colleague Tim Mickelson, is a perfect example of an amazing caddie. Tim knows the game inside and out, he’s a great player and is not shy to build his brother up during a tournament. I’m so honored to have coached this young man and proud to watch him grow into one of the best caddies out on tour. His success is a direct result of positive strategies and preparation.
"just dedicate 5min a day to working on your mental game and it will pay dividends. Its 5 minutes. You can commit to that!” -Tim Mickelson
What about your game:
How do you talk to yourself on and off the course?
Are you positive with your inner dialogue?
Are you sincerely believing your words?
Do you have the tools to keep your emotions in check?
These subtle changes will impact your life on and off the course. Life is difficult, so let’s make a positive change starting today with your game. Your peers and interested college coaches are watching you on the course and how you handle adversity. If your knee-jerk reaction is anger or emotional escalation you are not giving yourself a competitive edge and are not giving your teammates your best contribution. You owe yourself, your team and your golf future the best you have everyday and it all starts with positivity.
I can’t wait to hear your feedback! Enjoy the Walk!
Tim Mickelson, former Oregon State University player and caddie to Phil, & Coach Brian Watts, Former Oregon State University Head Coach & Second Nine Golf Consultant
-Fedex /St. Judes Tourney/Memphis, Tn 2018