A golf quip holds that there are two kinds of golfers: those who have been in a slump and those who will be in one before long.
“Slumps elicit anger and humor and also the game’s very own proprietary brand of self-pity,” wrote NBC’s Jimmy Roberts in his book “Breaking the Slump.”
Slumps may be inevitable and dispiriting but the trick is to climb out of them and not let the game keep beating you up. So how do you set the “reset” button?
Dr. Bill Meyer, a Bellevue-based sports psychologist and lecturer on the mental side of golf, said the key to recovery is three things: recognize, replace, rehearse.
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• Recognize: Identify what you are having trouble with and also what you are doing right. Are you putting and chipping decently but slicing with your woods? Are your problems coming at the beginning and end of rounds? Do the diagnosis.
• Replace: Replace what you are not doing well with what works. This starts with checking the basics — grip, stance, posture, swing path. Often, the problem can be self-diagnosed. Sometimes, it takes an instructor to spot the flaw.
• Rehearse: Spend extra practice time “doing it right” so it becomes automatic, and begin to see yourself as a new, stronger player.
Meyer, who has coached at the University of Washington and Seattle University, emphasizes that the mental message to yourself on the course has to be positive to be helpful.
“Goals can’t be a DON’T, they need to be a DO,” Meyer said. “Rehearse and commit to what you want to DO, not visualizing what you want to avoid doing.”
“For example, avoid saying, ‘I don’t want to hit it out of bounds on the first hole.’ Replace that with, ‘I want to be very relaxed on the first hole, and hit it right down the middle.’ “
Meyer said sometimes just making golf more relaxing can stop a slump, especially if tension is causing problems.
“Trying too hard and not letting things flow can be the poison,” he said. “Chill out, breathe deeply, be grateful to be playing a great game, enjoy … “
Meyer suggests taking a vacation from being score-conscious.
“Who says you have to keep score?” he said. “The game is for fun. Make it fun for you.
“There are a lot of things you can do to mix things up. Play a one-man best-ball and hit two balls and play the best one for nine or 18 holes. Maybe you want to hit from different tees .”
Colorado pro Ed Oldham advises, “Talk to yourself like you would want your best friend to talk to you. Your best friend would tell you positive things about your game. Your best friend wouldn’t say things like, ‘You stink.’ ”
Roberts’ book tells how various top golfers dealt have dealt with slumps.
Phil Mickelson said when he is in a driving slump, he practices bunker shots to regain rhythm in his swing.
Davis Love III remembers the anti-slump advice from his late father: “Try less hard.”
Ar nold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Miller told Roberts they took breaks from the game when slumping. Nicklaus touched his clubs three times in four months then resumed in January 1980, going to his longtime instructor and saying:
“OK, Jack Grout, my name is Jack Nicklaus and I’d like to learn how to play golf.”
Nicklaus went on to win the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship that year.