Master the 3 boxes

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golfer21I love the game of golf for the personal challenge and the natural beauty. Hilton Head Island golf is attractive to all players because it offers courses that are both playable for the novice and a challenge for the elite. Many courses have as many as six tees to accommodate all skill levels. The 8th hole at the Robert Trent Jones course has a black tee from 76 yards and gold tee at 227 yards. Both tees have forced carries over the water, which is full of spottail bass and snowy egrets.

When many golfers reach this hole and see the water, their attitudes suddenly change.

You have been playing well the first seven holes, enjoying fellowship with your partners. As you approach the 8th tee, now the anxiety begins to set in. Sweaty palms. Tense grip. Shortness of breath. You begin to doubt yourself and your strategy becomes clouded. The backswing feels short and quick. A mullet jumps out of the water and makes a splash, distracting you for the moment.

You refocus.

Thoughts begin racing through your mind, thoughts like “just get it over” or “swing hard and hope for the best.”

I can help you prepare for these shots by developing your pre-shot routine. I call the routine the three boxes — the rest, think and play boxes.

David Frost, the South African, passed on Gary Player’s wisdom to me. He taught me that if you take your time, you will hit better shots. If you hit better shots, you will score lower. If you score lower, you will take less time.

The three boxes will help you three ways: 1. Eliminate beating yourself, 2. Play faster, 3. Score lower.

BOX 1: In the rest box, you manage your heart rate and arousal level with strategic breathing and stretching. The oxygen elevates your mental focus and strengthens your muscles. Simultaneously, your heart rate goes down. The stretching prevents tension from shortening your swing. Fred Couples does this and you should, too.

BOX 2: The think box is where you make conscious decisions about club selection, wind, ball flight, an so on. These conscious decisions lead you to a practice swing which stimulates a feel of the appropriate swing. When you find the feel of the swing you want to forget everything else and move into the play box focused on the feel.

BOX 3: The play box is where you are “playful” and relaxed and dwelling on the feel of the swing and visualizing the desired ball flight. It is key to not allow mechanical or negative thoughts to disrupt this focus. If you do, then stop and start the routine again.