Aaron Baddeley came out blistering hot in the first round of the 2013 Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation to shoot a 64 (eventually finishing T27). It was an amazing start for someone who has not played competitive golf for three months, and for most of that time was just playing Mr. Mom to his children because his wife was pregnant and under bed rest.
To get mentally ready for his first competitive round, Baddeley arrived to the tournament site a week early and played highly competitive games with his mate, Geoff Ogilvy. These high stake games were getting him mentally prepared for the intense pressure on the PGA tour.
In actuality, Baddeley was getting mentally tough by practicing what sports scientists have deemed “situational similarity.” Put simply, situational similarity is when practice mimics real life competition, and the closer it does, the better your game will transfer into pressure-packed situations.
Golf Digest did a survey a few years back and discovered that one of the biggest complaints amateurs have is their inability to bring their best swings (and game) from the range to the golf course. I am sure you hear this complaint a lot from your students, as well.
To remedy this problem, I would recommend incorporating the principle of situational similarity into your students’ practice regimens. Here are a few tips to help your students transfer their best game to the course:
1) Create pressure on the range. Instead of just blasting one driver after another into the huge area of your range, create an imaginary fairway that is half the size of your tightest hole on your course. Then, bet your friend a friendly wager to see who can hit the most drives out of 10 into this fairway. (You can do the same type of practice solo as well). This increase in pressure on the range will help you to make better swings on the course.
2) Create pressure on the putting green. Place 10 balls around one particular hole, all three feet away. You need to make all 10 in a row. If you miss one, you will need to start over. You will find the pressure mounting when you try to make the last few balls, and this will help you to better handle the pressure of making those 3-footers on the course.
Practice the principles of situational similarity to boost to your mental game.
Dr. Gregg Steinberg is regular guest every Tuesday on “Talk of the Tour,” heard on Sirius/XM’s PGA TOUR Network. He is a tenured professor of sports psychology and has worked with many PGA Tour players. You can see more about him at www.drgreggsteinberg.com, and you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org