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To read with pictures and headings, visit this link. Recently, I was struggling with my game, frustrated, and didn't know how to get out of the slump I was in. I was shooting in the high 70s just about every round, and couldn't seem to get myself to even par or better if my life depended on it. After several weeks of reminiscing on some of my better periods of golf, I realized that the main reason I was struggling was a result avoiding high numbers rather than trying to shoot a low numbers. In golf, there are two mindsets that play tug of war while we are on the course. In order to play our best, we need to feed the mindset that produces low scores. As a golfer, I know that this is easier said than done! Changing your mindset on the golf course is nearly impossible if you don't know how to go about doing it! About two years ago, I was playing some of the best golf of my life. I would arrive to the course with a smile on my face, and shoot even par or better without much of a sweat. Golf seemed easy at the time, but as we all know, these streaks don't last forever. Eventually, I fell into a bit of a slump. For several months, I would arrive at the golf course nervous, lacking confidence, and would wish my 3-footers on the first hole in for par. I became frustrated with the poor results I was getting, and starting thinking about where my mind was when I was playing my best. I realized that at my best, I was playing for the sake of playing great golf. The only thing I thought about the night before an important golf tournament or casual round with my buddies was how I was going to break 70 the next day. Not everyone is as score oriented as I can be, but it seemed to work in my favor. Having this mindset completely changed the way I would approach a golf round. Instead of wishing the ball in for par on the first hole, I was charging birdie putts into the back of the cup. I remember a period of time where I started my round with a birdie six rounds in a row! When I was struggling, birdieing the first hole was the equivalent of holing out from under a tree in the rough. It seemed impossible. I don't want to get too personal about my own game, because everyone is different, but I would like to share some things that I learned when I was finally able to turn my game back around. The truth is, every golfer, no matter what skill level can play to win. When I say "play to win," I am referring to the mindset that we as golfers have when we are playing at our potential. For some, this could be shooting a round of 90, and for others, it could be shooting a round of 70. Regardless of your skill level, the lessons I learned in the process of getting out of my slump should hopefully do wonders for your game! Here are the four ways that I was able to break out of my slump and start playing well again: 1. Trying to birdie the first and last hole of every round This may sound a bit strange, as we all know that our first and last holes do not determine the outcome of our round. By consciously making an effort to birdie the first and last hole, we are priming the winning mindset I'm talking about, whether we know it or not. If you are like most golfers, you have probably tried to "ease" into a round. I think that trying to "ease" into a round is another way of avoiding the pressure that comes along with a good start. Sure, it's easy to bogey or double bogey the first couple of holes and enter the "comfort zone", but what good does that do for our score? If you decide to take this piece of advice, apply it with reason. If you hit your drive into the trees on the first or last hole, there is no reason to play the "hero shot" in a desperate attempt to birdie the hole. The point of this is to prime your mind to think in terms of playing to win rather than avoiding losing. Also, if you are a 20 handicap golfer, your goal might be to par the first hole. Use common sense, and I think this will help you. Next time you go to the course, ask yourself: What will I have to do to birdie/par the first and last hole? Where must I place my tee shot to give myself the best approach angle into the green? What is my target? Which side of the fairway/green should I favor? What shot should I hit? By asking yourself these questions, you are opening your mind to an entirely new world. Welcome to the mindset of shooting lower scores 2. Practice practice practice Argghh!! I know this is a scary word, but let's be honest... How are you going to play to win with no confidence in your game? In my opinion, the best way to get some confidence back is by getting in the reps. Go on my Pinterest account and watch some of the instructional videos that pertain to your current struggles. If you can't find what you're looking for there, search YouTube for instructional videos. Then, go to the practice area and apply what you've learned! If you're busy with work, intentionally schedule some times to practice. It is amazing how much confidence a two hour, focused practice session can give you. Just do me a favor, and avoid watching too many instructional videos at once! If you have too many tips in your head, this exercise will be counterproductive. I suggest that you first find some credible sources of instruction, and then stick with one source for all of your instruction. There is nothing worse than jumping between instructors! If you want a great site for golf instruction, check out Bradley Hughe's site. Bradley is a former PGA tour player, and was actually the first player to ever win a professional event with a Titleist Vokey wedge! He is a two time Australian Masters champion, and can surely provide you with the advice you need (I do not receive commissions for referring to his site -- I just love his instruction so much that I can't help giving him a referral). The goal of practice is to give us the confidence that we need to go out there and birdie the first hole! No matter how much you are tempted to play play play, getting to the practice area is essential. If you get bored, listen to some music! 3. Listen to Golf Self Hypnosis Tracks I personally don't know many amateur golfers that utilize self hypnosis for their golf game, but would highly recommend it to anyone. No, it does not require you to embarrass yourself, and no, it is not as uncommon as you might think. Tiger Woods has practiced self hypnosis, and other forms of hypnotherapy (meditation) to improve his game. I like to think about self hypnosis as "intentional visualization." I can't sit in one spot and visualize for an extended period time, which is why I use self hypnosis scripts before bed a few times a week. Personally, I use the scripts from the book Zone Golf, but you can make your own audio scripts, or find others online. By falling asleep to a golf specific self hypnosis track, your brain is basically primed to dream positive golf thoughts. Kelly Sullivan Walden talks a lot about dream therapy in this book, and I have been amazed with the results! If you would like to see my summary or purchase this book, click here. The key to having success with forms of hypnotherapy is having an open mind. Give this a try for a couple of weeks, and be sure to comment with your results! 4. Gain Momentum with Little Victories Although golf is unpredictable, and we often see players turn their games around from day to day, you most likely won't get out of a slump in a day. It will take a few weeks of applying these tips consistently to see results. Unfortunately, a golf game doesn't get better without conscious action. It might improve day to day, but if you want to see long term improvement, I suggest getting serious about applying some or all of these tips. When I talk about "gaining momentum," I am referring to the thoughts that go through our heads while on the course. Say you are standing over a five footer on the first hole for birdie... If you aren't comfortable birdieing the first hole, this putt will not bring a good feeling to you until you make it. Use these small opportunities to gain some momentum, and transform your game! Say to yourself: "I'm going to make this putt, and it will be the beginning of a great round! I will make this putt and keep my foot on the gas for the rest of the round!" By talking yourself through an uncomfortable situation like this, you will train your mind to "play to win." The more often you use your conscious brain to create this type of momentum, the faster you will improve your golf game. Over time, your mind will become aversive to negative thoughts, and you will see your scores drop. If you commit to continuous improvement, it will almost be difficult to play bad! Golf won't get any easier, but it surely will become a lot more fun! I hope you have found some, or all of these tips useful, and I hope that you will apply them (consistently) to your game over the next few weeks, struggling or not. I also hope that you will apply these tips to anything you do in life! Playing to win is not only a great way to approach golf, but also your job and many other competitive arenas.