Golf: Before and after

I find it really helpful to prepare mentally both before each round of golf and to review the good shots afterwards. Both ingrain the positive. That's what you want.

Instead of being on your cell phone in the car or thinking about what still has to be done at home or at the office, spend your pre-game moments remembering some of your great shots of the past. Research has proven that your brain and body react the same way -- through sensory recall -- as they do through an actual experience.

Of course, you have your share of bad shots. We all do (even touring professionals). But those aren't important. Instead, you want to put your attention on your very best shots, because what you focus on grows. Just like a plant grows when it gets plenty of sunshine, water and minerals. It thrives. So will your game.

Shine your light on "the feel" of a great drive, and your Subconscious Mind and body will start the recall. Sense where your arms are as you turn back. How does your body feel as you load up to pull the trigger? Hear the whoosh and click as you accelerate through the ball with a nice, smooth tempo. Picture your best iron shot when the ball soared in the air and landed close to the pin. Hear the click of your ball as it dropped in the cup for a birdie.

If you have practice time before you tee off, you'll have so much more confidence because you've been focusing on what a great golfer you are.

On the way home after your game, run through the round in your Mind. Again, focus on the wonderful experience of your great shots. Forget the clunkers and skulls. They were mistakes. Compliment yourself on how well you did. Notice that what you pictured before the round actually showed up.

The more you emphasize what's good about your game, the more the bad shots will gradually diminish. You want to build your confidence and get it way down inside of you. Think about buying my audio CD set, "Own the Zone." It will help you build that confidence.

And if you have "Own the Zone," but haven't listened for a while, dust it off and listen to it before or after your next round.

The sun will come up tomorrow… despite the ugly look of your scorecard today.

Everyone can have a bad day on the golf course. (I just did.) No one feels good when this happens, but here's what's important:

Your Subconscious Mind is always eavesdropping on your thoughts. You don't want it to be persuaded that you're a terrible golfer and shouldn't be playing this game, do you?

That would be the road to more bad days, more frustration and more low self-esteem. Remember, your Subconscious Mind only takes in the perception you give it - even if that's exaggerated or untrue. It's like a sponge, and whatever you repeat to it becomes its new reality.

Instead of berating yourself, the next time you have a bad round, make sure that after you leave the course, you focus on the good shots you made. (I'm still focusing on my chip-in today on a Par 4.) Pump yourself up, because what you focus on affects the feeling you have about yourself, dominates your Subconscious and will seriously affect the way you play next time out. It may seem like you're lying to yourself, but you're not. You're just choosing to applaud the good and ignore the bad.

So tonight, before you drift off to sleep, make sure you tell yourself what a great golfer you are as you visualize one of today's best shots happening tomorrow when the sun comes up and you're looking forward to another round.

Happy New Year! Here's a Mental Tip that can jump start your season of golf.

It goes without saying that learning how to groove your swing in a nice easy rhythm will go a long way to improving your golf. But it can't go all the way. Because there's something else out there that's equally important.

The Target.

Since accuracy is just as important as distance, fixate your attention on the target in your pre-shot routine. Focus not just in a general way, but also on something very specific. For example, don't just look at a tree or a shrub. Concentrate on a specific branch of that tree or a spot on that shrub.

In putting, focus on a blade of grass or a spot on the green or an edge of the hole. This will not only help in your aim, it will also help distract your conscious mind away from all that useless mental chatter.

By focusing intensely on a very specific target, you're creating a neural pathway -- an energy connection between you and the target. Now hold it in your mind's eye.

The more focused you are on your target, the more powerful that pathway will become. Then, when you're ready to swing and you're looking down at your ball, the image of the trajectory of your ball moving towards its target becomes so strong that your Subconscious Mind gets triggered. And it knows just what to do. It initiates your swing, moves your arms, hips and shoulders back. They coil, "load up" at the top of your backswing, and then uncoil. Whoosh! Your ball heads majestically and purposefully towards its target.