Have you ever watched how focused and zeroed in the golfers on TV are? Sometimes it seems like they don’t even blink when they are locked in this zone! The “zone” or “state” that those golfers get into is what it looks like to master the mental game. The mental game is the holy grail of golf improvement. So much time and money are spent on equipment and proper technique that many forget that in golf, you need to train your mind as well. It takes time to practice and condition the brain but it is possible for anyone to learn and master.
All you have to do is switch the way you currently think about the game of golf using this tips below!
Confidence is the fuel your brain needs to succeed
Collecting and absorbing all of the information below is nothing without first obtaining confidence. It is more than saying to yourself “I think I can make this putt.” It is saying “I WILL make this putt.” Confidence is knowing the result before you even take action. Yes, this takes a lot of time and practice to change your mentality, but you will start seeing huge changes in your game. When you start seeing your end result first, your brain instinctively comes up with ways to achieve that result or goal. (just like a computer solving a problem)
When you think of sports players like Larry Bird, Wayne Gretzky Jack Nicholas, Tiger Woods or Kobe Bryant you think greatness right? Not only were all these players extremely confident, but they all also visualized their successes before they even succeed! They are all so mentally tough and believed so much in their ability to achieve, that they forced success to come to them! A great way to practice gaining confidence in your golf game is to make a significant, end objective for your game, followed by small goals that are needed to achieve that objective. For example:
End Objective: To hit more fairways out on the course
- Going to the driving range to practice drives and swing alignment
- Investing in golf lessons to straighten your shots
- Purchasing training aids and practicing drills
- Researching golf tips and videos online
- Reading golf books
- Trying out new clubs that can help you hit more fairways
Your brain will feed off of each tiny goal that you complete towards your end objective, making it feel more obtainable. Soon the end result will feel so real and inevitable that it will become a reality. And that is the power of confidence!
Shake Off the Bad Holes
In sports, it is widely believed that only repetition and a short memory will get someone out of their shooting slump. No one can make every shot playing basketball, hockey or especially golf. That’s why you need to develop a short memory, so when bad shots happen (and they will), you can shake it off and stay on track. I see this most often with my beginning students. They are playing great, and then they have one bad hole which derails the rest of their round. Don’t let this happen! Accept that bad shots and holes happen and that you will bounce back on the next hole.
The best golfers turn every situation into an opportunity! Do you know about the law of attraction? The law states that positive thinking attracts more positive thoughts and negative thinking attracts more negative thoughts. Ever wonder why your lousy day keeps getting worse? Your focus on all the bad things happening attracts more bad things to happen. That’s the law of attraction in action! There are countless studies and testimonials that prove that this how the world operates. Thoughts become reality!
So how does this relate to golf?
As you are probably aware, golf is mostly a mental sport. You’re not always going to hit perfect shots that go where you want them to go. It’s how you handle your miss- hits that separate you from the pros. The key is not to allow yourself to be negative. An excellent exercise to try on the course is to be positive about every situation on the course. This is going to rewire your thinking and condition you to see only opportunities and not failures.
You are the one in control of your golf game, and by changing your thoughts, you will change your results
Recall Your Good Shots
Wish you had your own highlight real on youtube?
Make one! Maybe don’t put it up on YouTube but save your greatest shots in your memory bank that you can take out whenever you need too. Piggybacking with the staying positive tip above, recalling your greatest hits during a round will help give you motivation and confidence. Many golfers get held up remembering their bad shots and immediately become hesitant. Again, negative thinking attracts more negative thoughts so by thinking about “your past miss-hits,” you are attracting more miss-hits! Inversely, thinking of positive shots in your past catapults your confidence levels and elevates your brain waves. Your brain starts thinking about more times that you have hit shots successfully increasing the belief system you have for your own game
Build your memory of positive shots and make them a routine in your game
Breakthrough your Comfort Zone
The expectations of your golf game become reality when you are comfortable with your play
This is noticeable when you are playing either very well, or worse than you usually do. Your brain analyzes your game and says “hey, this isn’t how I normally play” which makes you feel anxious and uncomfortable. This is because you are out of your comfort zone and your reality is different than you are accustomed to. The trick to breaking out of your comfort zone is to focus your brain more on your play rather than your score. You can do this by keeping track of your :
- Greens hit in regulation
- Putts in a round
- Fairways hit in regulation
- How many times you scrambled to make par (chipping on the green and one putting for par)
By shifting your focus from your golf score to your golf stats, you will take that unnecessary pressure off your back and set new expectations for yourself. The players that break out of the comfort zone and focus on “improvement and execution” over ” keeping score” are the ones that see the most significant results.
If you have read my article on how to score better on par 5’s, you know that staying aggressive is an vital mindset to have. A lot of beginning golfers think that by playing “safe,” they will score better. What this way of thinking tells your brain is that you are afraid of hitting poor golf shots (which leads to you hitting poor shots thereby lowering your confidence).
Now, there is a difference between being aggressive and being risky.
- Being risky means that there is a high chance of error for a particular golf shot
- Being aggressive means that you are playing with confidence to give yourself the “best” chance to score lower.
Here is an example of being aggressive: Let’s say that you are 400 yards out on a par 5, after your drive. Instead of thinking, “I’m just going to hit something up there because this hole is ruined,” change that too “I’m going hit my 5 wood because I’m going to get as close to the green as possible for a chance at birdie”. See the differences in thinking? Aggressive playing means that you stay on the offensive, trying to get the lowest score possible on each hole.
Channel your Frustration
Golf is hard. Strike that. Golf is very hard! I have seen people: Throw their clubs, break their clubs, break their golf bags, throw their golfballs, punch their golf cart, scream and curse from frustration. You cannot allow this to happen!….at least not on the outside
I can tell you from personal experience that many of your favorite golfers on TV feel what you feel when you hit a weak shot. The difference is, they absorb their frustrations and use it as fuel to play even better. To practice channeling your energy, the next time you start to feel mad or angry about a shot:
- Take a deep breath
- Count to 10
- Get back into your pre-shot routine
- Visualize your swing
Do this every time you feel frustrated, and you will learn to control your emotions and channel them towards better shots.
Play your Strengths
We all have strengths in our golf game. Let that be:
- Wedge shots
- Long Irons
- Hybrid shots
Every one of you feels comfortable hitting at least one type of shot on the course (or at least enjoys hitting a particular shot). What we need to use these shots as momentum builders in our round. Here’s an example to prove my point:
Let’s say that you struggle with the driver off the tee. Your shots go all over the place, and there is no consistency. Next, let’s say that your strength is your short game. You love chipping and putting. Your best strategy would be to put away the driver and hit an iron off the tee. (This will avoid added frustration and self-doubt). Then on your second shot, you hit another iron, getting as close to the green as possible. Because your strength is in your short game, you will feel much more confident in your ability to get up and down for par! I see too many people try and force shots they haven’t practiced much on the course. Why hit a low percentage shot that can hurt your mental game? It’s better to play your strengths and build upon your success rather than experiment with shots you are unfamiliar hitting.
If you can see it, you can achieve it! The last tip I want you to know about is how to use the power of preparation. Visualizing and practicing your golf shots before actually playing mentally prepares you for your round. A few examples are:
- Practicing with a purpose
- Reviewing the course’s scorecard
- Having the right golf accessories
Practice with a Purpose: Just going to the driving range and hitting golf balls isn’t enough to mentally prepare you for a round of golf. You need to simulate a real golf course and pretend that you are playing a real round. Take your time for each shot and pick targets to aim for (just like out on the course).
Review the Course’s Scorecard: It’s just like studying for a test. You want to know where the hazards are and which holes are more difficult than others. This helps prepare your mind for what is to come and enables you to stay in a high mental state.
Having the Right Golf Accessories: Having enough accessories like golfballs, tees, ball markers, etc. frees your mind and keeps you focused in on your game. (if you want to know what kind of golfing accessories I recommend, check out my post here)
Golf Professionals know the power of preparation and make sure to place themselves in the right mental state before their round even starts.
The brain is a powerful tool on the golf course and can be the difference between lowering and improving your game vs. frustration and mediocrity. Remember to follow these tips every time you are on the golf course and you will not only see improvements to your game but also in your enjoyment levels and love for the game!
- Stay positive no matter what the situation is
- Create end objectives and feel the progression with every tiny goal you achieve
- Recall your good shots to reinforce your confidence
- Keep an aggressive mentality while channeling your frustrations towards improvement
- Play your strengths
- Use the power of preparation to be mentally ready for your round
I hope you learned some new skills to master the mental golf game and I hope you start, now, implementing them into your golf game!