Ups & Downs of Golf | Flow Golf Podcast TV | Rick Sessinghaus & Hallam Morgan | Best Golf Mental Game Coaching Tips

Flow Golf Podcast TV Episode 20 – Ups & downs of golf

Welcome back to the Flow Golf Podcast, Rick. We’re here for another episode with best golf mental game coaching tips and in today’s episode I want to talk about what is the reality of golf, the ups and downs. We have ups, we have downs and we have everything in between. 

And Rick, it’s a tough thing to do, but to help and to guide and to support players when they are down, because I’d imagine every single listener has been in a down time in their golf game.

So what advice would you give to coaches, to players to help guide players, to help guide themselves through those down periods?

Sure. I mean, the old adage, when we’re playing well, we feel like we’ve locked it, we’ve got it, and we’re never going to go down again. And then when we’re going down, we feel like we’re never going to go back up. Right. 

There’s this kind of helplessness when we go on the down part and the roller coaster ride that golf is and part of that. I appreciate, of course, as a player, when I’m going through it, I don’t appreciate it as much.

But in order to get better sometimes, obviously, we can have some bumps along the road. I think it’s an interesting topic because we do get tied into the outcome. So much of that, that is what is defining it. 

And what is defining down is a score and a result in a tournament. And I get that. Please, everybody has those goals.

Go and measure yourself on some of those results. Totally get it. Yet. Are we developing that? You and I, we talk a lot about word development. I could have a scoring average, go a little bit higher and actually become a better player. 

I know that sounds weird to some people, but maybe I learn more shots. Maybe I haven’t put it together and maybe I still have to refine a few things, but are we going in the right direction?

So when somebody is down, OK, I want to assess it in a non-emotional way because if I get all hyped up, y’all, man, you’re right, man. You’re playing a horrible Oh my God, what’s going on? Right. 

Good luck now, because now the players are Oh, wow, maybe this is really bad. The coach is really now, you know, but if I come to say, hey, what was the result?

Gosh, dang it, Rick. I shot 79. Right. And they normally shoot 73. OK, well I then say, OK, what created six extra shots? What was that gap? I always talk about performance gaps, right? 

And now we get more into data and facts and less about emotions because somebody is going to want to go on a rant and then later on I may ask about mindsets and stuff, of course, but I think when we’re in that down part, we’re in this like I think for a lot of people learned helplessness oh my gosh, I’m down.

This is never going to get better. I then ask a lot of questions that start to get the curve going back up. So people at the end of that session let’s say with me, go, OK, I have a game plan to get a little better tomorrow, OK?

It doesn’t fix everything. It doesn’t mean tomorrow I go back to shoot 72, but the problem one, the down part happens because the learned helplessness could create even a deeper, deeper, deeper dove down.

Yet if we can catch it and say Huh, I wonder why that result occurred. I wonder why on that day. 

That to me is some good questions, but the problem happens to me is when somebody doesn’t ask those questions after a round of golf, after a tournament, they let three or four poor tournaments come up and now they’re really lost.

I think players need to do a better job of assessing round around, even shot to shot. You and I have talked a lot about pushing out routines with people to learn from a shot immediately, have a feedback loop that is super quick and that way it doesn’t stay with you as much, OK? 

But when people go down, it’s one thing to get frustrated.

Frustration can wake you up, frustration can kick you in the butt. But when it comes to learned helplessness and oh my gosh, I’m never going to get good at this and then we talk about a fixed mindset. I mean, it can go unraveling pretty quick. So to summarize from my standpoint is I want people to get clarity on what the performance was OK?

What are the things that we can do tomorrow that are going to help that? OK, and it could be, hey, now that look that you’re right, Rick, it was a little bit of putting a little bit of I didn’t bounce back because I didn’t do my push out routine. Now we have some tangible things to move forward that somebody will go.

I don’t feel great about my game, but at least I know what I can do about it is a big turning point when we’re in that down downward spiral.

No, I love that. And you mentioned a key concept learning that and we speak so much about learning right now. I actually have quite a few conversations with my clients and I have recently and I’ve asked that question of where do you learn the most? Do you learn the most? If you finish first, if you win a tournament, do you feel you learn the most?

If you just make a cut, what do you feel you learn the most? When you miss a cut, and every single client I’ve spoken to about this anyway, they’ve all said they learned the most when they missed the cut. Now, I’m not saying we want to make cuts, but it can help us just reframe missing a cut and what that means to us.

If we have a baseline understanding and an agreement with my clients that we want to learn, we want to get better, we want to develop, we want to improve. Then ultimately a missed cut now becomes a rich data point or a rich amount of data for us to create a better version of ourselves. And that’s just an interesting way of reframing that down point.

You reframe the down point, but what comes down must also come up if you have the right processes in place. So I think that’s a really powerful way of looking at it is, you know what? Yes, we don’t want to consistently miss cuts, but actually when we do miss a cut, it provides us rich data to create a better version of ourselves.

As long as we have those feedback loops that you mentioned in place.

Right. And so the two phrases I use the most is the feedback loop, which is immediate in that is what am I learning, what is this showing me? And then pattern recognition. Hmm. What is a common pattern I’m seeing? And I know they go hand in hand, but me just having one poor shot and hitting the driver and oh, being laughed at in that immediate feedback loop.

Great. I can learn from it. If I’ve hit five of the last six drives left, I have a pattern that not only needs to have some feedback to it, but now I have to recognize I have a pattern. I don’t think people look at their golf game enough with pattern recognition. I think they just lump it in as I’m playing bad.

Oh my God. Right. Instead of, wait a second, what are some commonalities that we can look at that or the low hanging fruit, I call it. It’s like you had 43 putts. I think that’s low hanging fruit. Or I hit three balls, three balls Obi. I think that’s low hanging fruit instead of catastrophizing yet if I’m playing bad.

Well, no, you hit some tee shots. Oh, be there. Cost you six shots. That’s where we need to look. So that’s where the mindset, how people create feedback is so important. 

I think people get catastrophizing. I think they generalize everything instead of saying, Wait, this is what happened, OK? I’m not happy that I’m hitting that ball left and Obi, but I can do something about that tomorrow.

I can work on my Clubface and I can talk. Yeah, now we can do something with it. And so that’s where the down part. And I think the other thing we need to talk about is now the emotions, right? We have learned helplessness, which is a form of an emotion, but can we use it now to spark like, hey, I’m getting better at this and kick yourself in the ass and go to me?

That’s good, right? That shows you care. Fine. But I think people get into that kind of woe and it’s not going to get better. And believe me, I’ve been there, guys. 

So I’m not, I’m not saying anything that I haven’t felt myself, but we have to get out of the emotion and more into the process of what did happen so we can do something with it.

Absolutely. And this is all levels of the game. You do this at the top level of the game. Players go through this process of quite a long period, extended period of what they would call a down period. 

But it’s that sticking to the fundamentals, trusting the process and still working on the things that create a better version of yourself that ultimately pays off in the long run.

I remember speaking with Michael Campbell, major champion, of course. Yes, I remember him telling me the story and I may get it slightly wrong, so don’t hold me to my exact word. I believe he had missed five cuts in the lead up to him qualifying for the US Open. 

So and not just qualifying. He actually then went on to win the US Open, but he had missed five cuts in the lead up to it.

Obviously he probably called that period a down period. He then comes the US Open qualifying and I believe he was just about on the line of qualifying and in the final on the final hole final shot, he hits a shot to about ten feet while his playing partner hits a shot to about 12 foot on the exact same line that he was on.

His playing partner hits the pop; it goes the opposite way to which Michael Campbell believed it was going to go. He sees that he hits it the way that he’s playing partner just gone. How was the park qualified for the US Open and won the US Open? 

Now there’s an important story there, which is, look, golf has so many ups and downs, you can be going through that down period.

But ultimately, if you’re sticking to your fundamentals, if you’re sticking to the process of learning, developing and growing, then you have to trust that ultimately you will be rewarded for that. It’s a difficult, difficult task. 

Sometimes there’s a powerful one, and I think that story in itself shows that you will go through some frustrating times. You will go through those down periods.

You just never know what’s on the other side. You just never know what’s behind that next door. And that’s a powerful one that I always go back to and speak about with my clients, also myself in my own journey in the world of coaching and business. And all sorts. And I just keep thinking, right, keep sticking to your values, keep sticking to your principles, and ultimately keep learning.

And I know eventually I will be rewarded for it. You know that the seeds that you’re solving will eventually grow into that tree, right?

Well, yeah, and you mentioned the word coaching, right? You and I are coaches. Yeah. We play a little golf now in there but we’re coaches and we have ups and downs as coaches. 

And people may say, What do you mean? I go, Well, my intention is to make players play better golf. And when those players are not playing better golf, I take a little bit of ownership for that.

And sometimes that can be a downpour, like, oh my gosh, why isn’t this person not playing better? Why is this person I mean, and yet I still have to back and not get emotionally involved, like, oh, because I know I’m giving my best OK. 

Now, I still may have to ask different questions. I may have to refine my skills, OK, as a coach, but I know early on I’ve been doing this a long time, the first ten years of my coaching, let’s say at a talented junior, they went to play and they shot 80.

And my expectation for them was they were going to shoot 75. I oh my gosh, oh, Rick, oh my gosh, your coaching is bad. You can’t, I mean, wow, those are some, some rabbit holes. 

I was going down as a coach instead of saying, Wait, OK, I can still help them with this, but I can’t come to the lesson being frantic and Oh my God, you’re right, you’re not playing well because now they’re going to pick up on that.

So that’s part of of this too, as coaches is to not take the emotional attachment so much with our player because we’re going to go through there was a time that I had maybe roughly 80 or 90 students, man, if I am going up and down with all 90 people results, I am going to be I don’t know what the word would be, but it would not be a good one.

Emotional wreck, right? So how do we how do we how do I as a coach, do I do my best detach, let them go play, help them out, celebrate, wins, but also on the stuff how how can I help and that something that I don’t have 100% yet but it’s getting there because I know I’m doing the best I can to to help the player.

I’m glad you stopped me from having to hit the explicit content and win out like this insight that I appreciate it’s so true. And I think a big part of dealing with the ups and downs is also having this long term perspective. It’s so easy to get caught up in the short term. What about today? What about tomorrow?

What about the day after? But ultimately, we drastically overestimate what we can achieve in a year, and we hugely underestimate what we can achieve in ten years. And that’s just the way that we work as humans. So I think coming back to that, reminding yourself of that is so important and understanding that, yes, OK, you might be sowing the seeds today, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to grow tomorrow.

Keep sowing the seeds, keep watering those seeds, keep nurturing them, and ultimately you will eventually see that farm, that tree that you’re looking for. And I remember again, another story for the listeners and I’ll keep telling stories, but a story of a guy called Scott Harrison, who founded a company called Charity Water. And it’s a hugely successful charity.

Now, back when he first started, he didn’t have much money, he didn’t have many donations. And he actually took a plane from where he was, I think it was New York to Alabama. 

To a church to speak and to try and gain some donations that gave the talk, paid for the flight, paid for the flight back. And he got zero donations and he left that church feeling hugely deflated, really demotivated.

Not sure why the charity water would continue. And ultimately, just in a down period like we’re talking about now, years went on. Ten years later, he received a letter and it actually stated that someone had left that their way was a big part of their will to charity water and he did the research because this was a big sum of money.

And it turned out to be an old guy who had been at that church that he attended in Alabama. Now, the family of that guy have now gone on to visit tons of sites in Africa where they do a lot of their charity work. 

They’ve put more money into charity water. And the story there is, as I just mentioned, you sow the seeds, you don’t know when they’ll grow.

But if you continue to sell those seeds and you continue to water them, you stick to your processes, you will eventually be rewarded. And we have to trust that process. 

And that’s exactly what he did. And I cannot believe golfers need to do with their journey as a coach. It’s the same. Keep sowing those dates, keep sowing the seeds and all the magic Rick, from your perspective throughout your career, there’s been that same mentality, right?

I imagine there’s been times where mine has not been long enough quite yet, just to probably have that full experience. But there’s probably been extended periods of time where you felt like, I’m so in all this, I’m doing all these things, I’m doing everything right. Why am I not getting the results or the recognition or the impact that I want innovation?

And eventually it happens, and then people call you an overnight success and all of that stuff that you’ve done for 30 years has led ultimately to this point. So I’d love for you just to share a little bit about that as well.

Yeah, no. And you know, my personal journey with golf mental game coaching is that I sacrificed a lot. I, you know, a PGA instructor, swing coach, slash mental game coach, you’re working weekends every single weekend. You’re missing some stuff with your family. 

You’re not being able to travel as much as you would like. You’re a solopreneur so you’re running your own business and their sacrifice.

And yet I wouldn’t want it any other way. I signed up for that and I love it. Yet there’s ups and downs of, you know, I live in the Los Angeles area. We had a year where there were El Nino storms and I had two days of coaching in a month. 

Well, that doesn’t pay the bills very well. And so now you have the struggle of do I have enough money for next month?

And my rents go up at this facility and this. And so those are the things that as a coach, I’ve had to deal with, much less how do I become a better coach? 

Maybe I’m not getting the results I want from my players and I’m figuring it out and that’s where my curiosity of going down different roads has been. If I get stuck with a player, I take ownership of, wait, why can’t I get him to that next level?

And that has pushed me professionally to become the best version that I can be. I have a long term goal of what I want to do with my coaching, but I think it’s back to there is as a business professional, there’s been so many ups and downs, yet I was still committed to that long term vision and knew that where I was going was least kind of going in the right direction.

But back to what I talked about before, there has to be immediate feedback. There has to be a pattern that’s going, Hmm, this is not happening how I want. Maybe I make slight adjustments, but that has been very valuable for me in business also.

You know, I love that something I’d love to get your, your kind of opinion on, Rick, actually, is the conversation of self belief because I’ve often thought this myself and I think I’m still trying to figure out, work out myself, but when people ask, like, how do you just keep moving forward even if the results aren’t showing up, how do you just keep moving forward?

And I’m still trying to figure out how to explain it in terms of golf mental game coaching process. Well, I just have this deep sense of belief in myself that I am destined for something and to achieve these things. And no matter what happens, any failures, any setbacks, it’s just within me. I have this self-belief now. I don’t think that’s I don’t think I’m born with that.

I think that’s been developed. How would you suggest or how do you believe people can develop that level of self belief? Because I think that’s vital to help you and support you through those ups and downs, no matter what’s fluctuating, you have this inner self belief that it will happen, that you are capable.

Yeah. No, I, I may answer. It’s slightly different. I think self-belief comes a lot from are you doing the daily actions yet? The daily actions towards what? Right. And I think I’m very purpose driven and so I kind of live by some values of how can I serve people, how can I be the best version to help people?

Right. And if I tomorrow show up late to all my sessions tomorrow, I don’t even show up to work. I’m like that. How I mean, I could have a belief that I’m a good coach, but I am not doing the things I said I would do to be the best version of that. 

Right? So to me, self-belief has come from me putting a plan out, me doing the daily actions, and now daily I’m going, Oh, OK, I did that now.

Wasn’t easy, but you go from there and then, yes, you may get some successes along the way. OK, my coaching model looks like it’s working in the right direction. 

Fine. It’s back to the feedback, but I think when we talk about that deep self-belief, I think it’s tied to a purpose. I think it’s tied to a mission and a vision of where we want to go, and that pulls us to a spot even when things are not good yet.

Then if you get through a week that seems like this is awful and you look back, you go, Wow, I worked my butt off and I did that. I think that builds self belief that is beyond just results. It’s about being able to look in the mirror and say, Hey, I’m proud of myself. Of dealing with all that crap.

Love that. I guess a big part of it is the relationship you build with yourself, the relationship you have with yourself. So if you say you’re going to do something and you keep that promise. 

Exactly, build that self-belief that builds that trust, that self trust. And I guess that then allows you to believe that no matter what’s thrown at you, you will be there and you will push yourself and you will get through that obstacle.

And I think that’s a massive part of it. That’s definitely from my side anyways, doing the hard stuff and then actually backing myself because of what I’ve done in the past, because of the promises I’ve kept to myself, that I will be able to overcome those challenges. I think that’s a huge part of minimizing the kind of severity of those ups and downs.

Exactly. I couldn’t agree with you more.

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Golf mental game coaching by FCGA episode 20
Golf mental game coaching by FCGA episode 20


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