Course Mental Plan

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Course Mental Plan

Tony de Kort:  Welcome to this interview and welcome again to  This week are going to introduce Andrea Furst. Andrea is a sports psychologist with a Masters in sport and exercise psychology from the University of Queensland.  Andrea runs her own sports psychology consultancy, Mental Notes Consulting with headquarters in Brisbane, Australia and Singapore.  Andrea is currently the sports psychology for the Queensland Academy of Sport and Golf Programs.  Andrea works closely with a number of touring golf professionals on the Asian tour.  This year she has just started working with the Singapore National Golf Tour.  So, welcome Andrea and if you could please just give us a brief background on yourself and how you got involved in this silly game of golf.

Andrea:  Essentially, I started working with golf when I was working at the Hyatt Regency Coolum here in southeast Queensland. I was working out there funding my study in psychology.  I started working with golfers actually on the physical game through working on their stretching and strength aspects of their game and then while I was studying, and then started to work on the mental skills with professional golfers and amateur golfers.  Therefore, I really have to thank the golf professionals up at the Hyatt Coolum for getting me into this game.  If someone had said to me ten years ago or even five years ago that I would be doing mostly work with golf, I would have thought they were a little crazy because tennis is my sport and I ended up working with golfers, so it is all very interesting. 

Tony:  Okay, so do you feel the transition from tennis to golf different, are the mental thought processes different, or how would you describe it?


Andrea:  I think tennis has actually helped me work with golfers because they are both stop-start sports, so you actually have breaks in play consistently as well as skill execution.  Golf and tennis are different obviously with regards with the physical components of tennis requiring movement, speed and agility.  However, what you will find is that both of them actually have a large proportion of their competitive time where they are not executing skills.  You will find that in golf you have most of the time spent walking between shots, setting up the shots, and reacting to the shots.  The same thing in tennis, you have got between point time and change of venue time, which most of them are up in the 90+ percentage with the time out on the courts or court. 


Tony:  Too much time to think.


Andrea:  Absolutely.


Tony:  This week the topic we are going to talk about is developing your course mental plan.  Now most of us just go up there and maybe warm up or hit a few on the range, and then we head out to the course, but I think Andrea is going to give us some tips and ideas on why, even though we are out there as a club golfer or socially, why we should maybe have a plan.  For example, the analogy that Andrea uses is that big companies have systems in place and maybe we mere mortal golfers should as well.  So Andrea if you could maybe give us a little bit on what you are thinking here in this area.


Andrea:  I guess my thinking predominately stems from the fact that most of the issue surrounding performance in golf, tends to be the time we are over the ball and what we are trying to do is make that “over-the-ball” time as clear and as free of sport as possible.  If we set up a regular and consistent system both leading into the shot, after the shot and during the walk time, we start to be free up the brain for just focusing on skill execution over the ball.  The point of comparing it to large companies is that we are trying to get a system that we can repeat and often we find is the simpler the system, the easier it is to repeat.  If we are after consistent golf, then we need a system that we can repeat under pressure in whatever level golf you are playing. 



Tony:  Okay, so if we are out there in our normal day-to-day world, we are creatures of habit, so what we are saying is maybe we should consider having some sort of structure to play the game more consistently?. 


Andrea:  Absolutely, with so much time as we talked about earlier, there is more time spent that you can be in charge or take of control of things that are not on the golf course and what we tend to do is spend more time focusing on the time over the ball, which is not 100% within your control.  So what the system’s approach as a coach, he is essentially looking at is setting up time on the course so that you actually know what you want to do before each shot, after each shot and in your walk time in between shots.  It allows for, again that consistency in everything surrounding the over the ball time. 


Tony:  If we are not doing that chances are that if a couple of things go wrong, we just do not know how to get it back on track, which is just sort of the blind leading the blind so to speak because we are not thinking clear, we are just going over all the place.


Andrea:  Absolutely.  I think the thing what you want to be able to do is have something that holds up under pressure.  The pressure of competition whether again it be a weekend round with your mates or whether it be something at a higher level where you really are pushing yourself to create a career out of this game.  It is where, I liken it often to legal contracts or contracts where most of the time it is for when things do not go well.  Therefore, what we want to do is actually keep a system in place so that we always got something that we follow regardless of what is going on.  We have got a basic state of behavior, the basic set of thoughts that we really try to stick to out there and mentally it is not an easy task to do by any means, it is not something that I think everybody can do automatically, but over time practicing their systems you find that it does become a lot easier and by that you have got something to rely on and then you get that consistency in your golf..

 I just see too many golfers who don’t have these systems in place really struggle with, “How do they set out for different types of shots and different courses and different playing partners with different conditions and with different levels of experience, and also things at “stake” (like a side bet) and then also, “How do I respond to things” when they don’t go their way.  If we have an idea, or a bit of template or a recipe, and you try to follow that every time, then you are aiming towards ­­­becoming more regularly consistent out on the golf course.


Tony:  Sounds good in theory.  I mean I know the trouble; I have done it to myself and been guilty of it or seeing my playing partners do it.  They have a shot off a tee and into the trees and basically had a bad lie and all of a sudden blaming the world, but it is their fault, they put the ball there, so they need to obviously trying to straight away click back into “Well listen I have got a plan, I just got to go and get on with the plan.” 


Andrea:  I think what we are trying to do there is manage ourselves, we know the natural response to things not going our way tends to be nonproductive or an ineffective one for our golf.  By no means am I saying that that is wrong or I do not understand it, I absolutely do.  Everybody is human out there, it is a game and it creates a lot of emotional responses, however if we are looking at pushing again to a higher level to what it currently these systems can help you to have set plan of how you would like to react.  Does this reaction happen every single time in the set way that you have written down or you have thought in your mind, I would say not all the time, but if we are getting it most of the time, we start to say again that whole concept of consistency coming back to your game. 


Tony:  In solving this problem, I understand that you have a four-point plan and it is a pre-shot plan, an actual shot plan, a post-shot plan, and a walk plan.  Therefore, are you able to take us through each of those four points as to what do you think we should be considering.


Andrea:  With each of the stages, what we are trying to do is come up with a set of thoughts and a set of behaviors that link in with each of the four stages. 


One of the big areas, when I first started working with golf which  was very very clear, was players had behaviors that they try to stick to, but were not matching the thoughts to those behaviors so they look like they are doing the same thing, but in fact their minds were doing quite different things.  Therefore, what we are trying to do is match the thinking and the behaviors of each of the stages.


Therefore, the first stage being the pre-shot stage starts when you arrive or when you are walking towards the ball and you are starting to gather information.  You are starting to take in the factors that will help you make a decision about that particular shot.  From there I am moving to the commitment phase of the pre-shot routine, which is maybe a practice swing or two, you may be visualizing the shot, feeling the shot and maybe talking to yourself.  The players use a combination of different things there in that particular phase.  Then it is moving through to execution when we start to get into that automatic skill side where I am really emphasizing the players that they keep it simple over the ball.  There might be a swing for it, there might be one or two technical thoughts, but when we look at the experts we are really moving towards keeping the technical thought and the actually how to swing the club to a minimum over the ball.  Things that I might look at over the ball will be their looks at the target, their waggles, their breathing, their physical presents as far as the setup goes, and working with their coach on that so at that time over the ball becomes an automatic part of the time on the course. 


The post-shot, which is the third stage, starts as soon as the ball makes contact with the club and from there we are promoting the finishing, the following through, the watching the ball through the air and where they land.  Then the post-shot is primarily about learning from what has happened and taking onboard the good, storing it in the memory back and hoping that it is something that we can draw on later, and then also dealing with, coping with, and moving on from the bad shots so to speak. 


The post-shot then moves nicely into the walk and the walk time is really, where you spend much of you time on the course.  So that time there is where typically we say we switch off, but rather than just getting players to switch off, I also spend lots of time working with them of what they want to think and do in that particular time, because that to me is sometimes the most important time on the course.


 If they are not switching off, particularly for 4-1/2 to 5 hours in a day when they have been spent anytime playing on the course; it becomes a very draining game.  We are trying to enjoy that time as much as we can and put things in place there again by thinking about thinking of behavioral aspect that players can do every time that they are in that walk phase.


Tony:  That is amazing, obviously just listening to you today, I am sure that the listeners are going to agree that each one of those four points we can probably spend a lot of time on, which we will not cover today but we are fortunate we have got Andrea on a regular basis.  Therefore, we will probably revisit each of those things in a bit more detail, but that is a fantastic insight to something that we just take for granted.  You know, we walk up and we are chatting, maybe we are not taking note of the surroundings or things, we are not doing these things regularly, sometimes we do it and at other times, we get a bit frustrated.  We drop part of our routine.  I know the other day one of my playing partners, who normally has a certain routine, he just walked up and hit the ball because he was cranky about what had happened a couple of minutes before and that sort of stuffed up the shot, so that is amazing how, I mean now we have a bit of an understanding that there is so much to just those four things and we look forward to covering that in a bit more detail at a later time.


Andrea, have you got some examples of, and obviously it is a bit of a time thing with being able to input these things, do you have some examples of people who you have assisted say more like a club or social golfers, can you give some examples of have you seen an improvement or this sort of thing? 


Andrea:  I think the main thing that we are looking for over the long term is that everyone’s’   golf of course, improves. We want to see that and it is not necessarily the first thing that changes, but over time, we should be seeing those changes with most club golfers they are not doing these things in their games, I found that when I do work with recreational and club golfers that there is so much change being made because we are putting in some simple things that most elite amateurs and touring  professionals are doing automatically, not to say they are doing it well all the time, but club golfers often don’t even think about these aspects..  So what we are finding is that definitely the first thing we see is the blowout rounds tend to come down so we are not having the big mistakes where one mistake leads to several others and a snowball effect occurs.


  We are actually seeing that they can manage themselves a bit better.  The big thing with club golfers is that they actually start enjoying their golf.  Many club golfers are spending a bit of time practicing and then maybe once or twice a week playing, and I think sometimes the frustration of golf makes them question why they play golf.




Tony:  So in other words, someone like us club golfers should be trying to not rather work on the whole four at once, but just try and focus on, say , the next couple of weeks.  Or the next few times we are going to think about maybe improving or looking at the pre-shot routine” with getting in the habit of saying to myself, “Okay, each time I get ready for a pre-shot I am going to maybe look at the line between here and the flag.  I am going to maybe have a couple of practice swings to try and block out some stuff and just concentrate on a regular pre-shot routine.”  Would you agree with that?


Andrea:  I think that what we are trying to do is to develop, and really you can look at it as a recipe if you like of thoughts and behaviors in a set order that works for you and again you can discuss this with your teaching professional because they will understand what your level of golf is ready for.  You can then develop from when you arrive at the ball, if you are talking about pre-shots to essentially walking into the ball and setting up over the ball, what you want to do and what you want to think in a particular order.  Really, you can do it for every type of shot on the course.  Therefore, if you are looking at doing some homework and really improving your tactics of the game, the best way to do it is probably on the range or on the course.  Have a bit of a play with some of the things you might like to put in there, maybe with a notepad next to you, and again you can work with your teaching professionals on the range to work out what they think you should be doing.  Often they are really good at guiding you with your level of golf as to what you should be paying attention to particularly in the information gathering stage and then practicing it.  Practicing on the range.  Practicing on the course.  What we want to see is the number of times you stick to that routine, improve. Therefore, number of shots on the course and tick the number that you actually stick to, and that percentage should increase over time.




Tony:  So I am going to put you on the spot here.  For somebody who, a lot of the subscribers and listeners are busy and cannot get to the range, as they would like to…their week is very full.  Is there something that they could maybe do at home or something to get them thinking about these things so the next time they go out; is there something they can do?



Andrea:  Obviously being at the range, being at the course makes it more real for you because you have got the environment, particularly the course of how you want to play and what you are going to be playing on, but you can do this in the back yard, or you can do this in the lounge room.  If you got your club and you have a two by two area generally that is enough to actually set up and start working on what you want to do.  Some people would just sit down at their dining room table and just jot down what they think they want to do and then they can go out on the course and test,  Is this exactly what I want to do?.  It is trial and error.  It is something that you have to have a system that works for you.  I will have guidelines for players on the very specific things I think should happen in each of the stages, but players essentially of all levels develop their own routines that suit them and the style they want to play with.  So if I had 12 or more of my tour players, their routines would look quite different to the naked eye, but when you actually look at the plan, the same plan would be in place.


Tony:  There are a couple of good things there for those who can get out to the range, they have their homework they can take their notepads.  For those who can’t, they can do their little practice at home.  It is interesting in hearing that Andrea says that we are all different, so it is a matter of actually getting a plan in place.


Okay, so we are probably going to wrap up now with some very interesting information.  I would just like to mention Andrea’s web site if you would like to go and have a look at he web site and find out some more information about what we discussed today or other information.  It is all one word.  So Andrea could you spend a couple of minutes just sort of summarizing this subject.  You have done a great job and I thank you very much and we look forward to having you back, but if you could just give us a bit of a summary that would be great.









Andrea:  The purpose of the course mental plan, meaning pre-shot, shot, post-shot, and walk is to give you as a player something systematic, something of a routine that you know you can rely on every single time you play.  You can practice it, so once you have developed what you think is your pre-shot, your post-shot, and your walk time, once you think you have come up with something that you would like to work on consistently, then essentially what I am saying is start monitoring how often you are actually sticking to those.  What we want to see is eventually is that 100% of your shots you are sticking to and 100% of your pre-shot, your shot, your post-shot and your walk.  Something that can help you, if you have got friends that can watch your video, if you want to use video to see what you currently do and what you currently look like.  I definitely do that a lot with players and particularly the tour players and they get a lot out of that, and they can see exactly what they are doing.  “Did they like how they look; do they like their set up?  Then they can change it if they want and then they can practice it from there.  The big thing is that you have to practice it, whether it is in the backyard, the lounge room, or whether it is on the course or on the range, you want to start putting some time into this so you get a system in place that has some training and it can actually work for you.


Tony:  Well thank you very much Andrea and we look forward to talking to you again very shortly.


Andrea:  Thanks Tony.

Tony de Kort is a 10 handicapper and mad passionate golfer. He interviews touring golf pro’s, teaching golf pro’s and golf psychologists on the “mental side of golf” from a club golfers perspective and in easy to understand chatty every day language

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