How Paper Clips Can do the Trick

Antoine Nguyen, M.A. Performance Consultant
& Brad Young

I bet you've always been told to leave your work at the office. I beg to differ. In this case, I'm going tell you how a handful of paper clips, plucked from your office drawer, can make you score better.

Self-talk is the dialogue that you hold with yourself on the golf course. It can be either encouraging or detrimental to your game. From our experience with golfers at all levels, negative self-talk is a plague that can ruin your game. Saying to yourself "don't put it in the woods", "can't you hit the ball straight for once in your life?", or "you're the worst player" will only hurt your confidence and take away the fun. That's why it's important to monitor your inner dialogue because what you say to yourself can be self-destructive. We've all had moments where we've berated ourselves after a bad shot. It's easy to come down on yourself when things don't go your way. Even a great player such as Tiger Woods has been heard saying to himself "Tiger, you're the worst player in the world". It wasn't surprising that he played a very bad round and struggled to make the cut that weekend. Even for the best golfers, negative thinking will often lead to negative outcomes. That's why the pros try to keep their self-talk positive and encouraging in order to play well.

Thus, changing your self-talk can go a long way to improving your game. By using this simple method, and with consistent practice, you too can rid yourself of negative self-talk.
  1. Put a handful of paper clips in your back left pant pocket.
  1. Carry them with you on the course. Every time you become aware of negative self-talk, simply transfer one paper clip from the left to your right pant pocket. Learning to monitor your thoughts is the first step to solving your problems.
  2. At the end of the round, count the number of paper clips in your right pocket and write this number down on your scorecard.
  3. Set some clear goals. You've probably established some goals already in terms of scoring or handicap. Now it's time to set goals for reducing negative self-talk during your rounds. Have clear goals to reduce the number of paper clips in your right pocket.
After your round, think about some of the things you said to yourself. Try to remember the words that you used, and in what situations, then write them down. Once this is done, imagine yourself reacting in a different way and replace these negative statements with positive ones. Use phrases such as "you got the bad one out of your system", "you can make this shot", or "everybody misses sometimes, you made more shots than you missed".

With each subsequent round, make it a goal to reduce the prevalence of negative statements by replacing them with positive ones. The next time you face a difficult shot, stay positive. And don't be afraid to take your stock of paper clips with you to the driving range. People might direct some strange glances at you, but tell yourself that the benefits to your game will surely outweigh a little awkwardness. With commitment and practice, you soon won't need to carry them with you at all.

In the meantime, don't worry about the jingle in your pocket.