What do you think when you read the words ‘beach vacation’? Does it make you feel warm and relaxed? Maybe a little anticipation of a cold drink, staring at the sea, with few obligations? How about when you read the words ‘triple bogey’? Anyone get a little chest tightness? A mild anxiety? Defensiveness?

Words matter and they can help us get into the ideal state of mind and prepare for what we need to do or they can totally derail us. What we think and what we say to ourselves primes the body for what is coming next. Particularly when struggling with committing to your shot or staying consistent, developing cue words can help you stay on track. Or perhaps you’ve shifted your technique a bit. Cue words can help you develop a low-effort way to improve your play. 

In order to develop an effective cue word strategy, you’ll want to identify the skill at hand. For the sake of this article, let’s just choose a tee shot with a driver. Think about the mechanics of the shot that you’re trying to achieve and the flow you’re going for. If I think about using my driver, here’s the process of things I need to work on and be focused on – settling my feet and hips firmly but relaxed, twisting straight through at my core, keeping my head neutral, not rushing my backswing, swinging straight through, and squeezing my core through the shot. That’s a lot to think about and easy to get tripped up on or psych myself out. 

So to shorten this process while still heading toward my desired result, I’ll use the words “firm, slow, squeeze”. This reminds me to remain firm in my stance and my core, to be slow and intentional in my swing, and to squeeze my core throughout. If I can approach the ball, clear my mind, and say just those three words, I’ll be cueing up the action and focus that will best suit me. 

The main goals when developing cue phrases are to increase the feeling of focus and confidence, reduce the clutter in your mind, and execute the important components. Ideally, you’d have different cue words for different types of shots. Take some time to sit down and think about what you’re trying to do with each shot. Write out the mechanics of the shot and find three words that can keep you focused on those things. Then give it a try!

Dr. Chelsi Day

Dr. Day is a licensed clinical psychologist. She is an Ohio native who completed her Bachelor's degrees in Psychology and Health and Sport Studies at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio while competing on the Varsity Swimming and Diving team as a diver. She then went on to earn a Master's degree in Sport and Exercise Psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology followed by a Master's degree and later a Doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University New England in Keene, NH.