Area Guide | Wellness
PGA Championship: How the Best Golfers in the World Prepare to Perform on the Biggest Stage
Guest Blog by Brinson Paolini, Professional Golfer and Trainer
It is an exciting time for the Charleston area with the PGA Championship coming to Kiawah this month. The best golfers in the world will be in town competing for one of professional golf’s four major championships on one of the most scenic and difficult golf courses in the world, the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island. How are these players preparing both physically and mentally in the coming weeks to handle this challenge? The answer is preparation and perspective, which can also help us perform our best in our own lives.
The difficulty with golf is that it requires a broad range of skills. You need good technique, brute force off the tee and out of the rough, the most delicate, refined finesse on and around the greens, and a solid mental perspective. The Ocean Course will be the ultimate test of these abilities.
Leading up to the tournament, the golfers will focus on effective practice in their preparation. This involves focusing on the four key physical areas of golf: putting, short game (pitching, chipping, and bunker play), distance wedge play (shots between 30 and 130 yards) and full swing (driving and iron play). Players will strive to spend equal amounts of time and energy on each area during a practice session. Golf is an all-encompassing sport. Treating each area equally is the best way to build consistency, flow and feel, especially when training for a major championship.
Check out my latest eBook “The Practice of Golf” for a more detailed explanation of effective practice plans. Taking our golf game from the driving range onto the course is a challenge for golfers at all levels. These training programs help bridge that gap resulting in practice that leads to lower scores on the golf course.
Maybe more important is how these professionals are preparing their minds to deal with the pressure that comes with playing on golf’s greatest stage. Perspective is everything. Interpreting their nerves as a positive is a priority going into the week. They want their heart to beat faster and the other physiological responses that come from being nervous. This is their body preparing to perform at its best.
These golfers understand the importance of embracing these feelings instead of fighting or repressing them. They have specific tools they use to maintain control in high-pressure situations and use their nerves as fuel to maximize their performance. Let’s take a look at a few of those strategies.
When we resist our nerves, they can overtake our minds and bodies to the point where even historically repetitive functions like a golf swing become difficult to execute. Often an emotional reaction activates our body’s sympathetic nervous system, which puts us in an involuntary fight-or-flight state. We respond by feeling threatened, compromising our cognitive functions that influence decision-making and physical coordination.
Our sympathetic nervous system does not know the difference between real or perceived danger. To avoid a fight-or-flight response, repeat the mantra “I am safe,” or “Everything is Unfolding Perfectly.” These messages reaffirm to our subconscious that we are not in danger, and they help keep our cognitive functions intact so we can think and function effectively.
2. Nasal Breathing
The simple act of breathing through the nose activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for our body resting and digesting comfortably. Nasal breathing calms us and prevents the mind and nerves from spiraling out of control.
A great exercise is to breathe in on the count of six, hold for six, and then breathe out for eight, all through the nose. During this process, exhalation needs to be longer than inhalation so the body actives the parasympathetic nervous system, and in response, it lowers your heart rate. The golfers will be breathing like this at the Ocean Course during their pre-shot routines and we can do the same when we feel the pinch of pressure.
One of the strongest emotions we can create is gratitude because it always makes us feel amazing. This shift of perspective immediately activates our creative genius and all forms of intelligence in a matter of seconds. All we have to do is ask what we are grateful for. No matter the trials and tribulations we experience, there is always a lot to appreciate.
Although we can’t physically see the golfers cultivate this emotion, it shouldn’t be hard for them. They will be competing in a grand slam tournament on one of the most beautiful courses in the world.
The mind does not know the difference between what is real and what is imaginary. If we imagine hitting a golf shot in our mind with great detail, the same neural pathways fire as if we are hitting that physical shot.
These golfers will be utilizing imagery leading up to each round and before they execute each shot on the course.
It will be fun watching the best players in the world compete in our backyard this May. While you may not have a major golf championship in your future, the same techniques around preparation and perspective should help you the next time you have something important to accomplish! For more information about performance training, check out www.brinsonpaolini.com.
Author Brinson Paolini, Professional Golfer and Trainer
Brinson Paolini is a professional golfer and performance coach. Before turning professional, Brinson was a two-time All-American at Duke University, Byron Nelson Award Recipient and a four-time Virginia State Amateur Champion. He has been a professional since 2013, competing in over 160 tournaments in 43 countries on the European Tour, Challenge Tour and Canadian Tour. In addition, Brinson offers one-on-one training. His individualized approach to coaching includes practice and preparation strategies and on-course tactics to help golfers reach peak performance. Brinson’s passion for golf has been the foundation for his coaching career as he lives his dream of playing the game that has brought him joy since he was a kid.
Learn more about Brinson’s coaching opportunities at https://bit.ly/2OYyupD.
Purchase a copy of his eBook, “The Practice of Golf,” on Amazon.