Your Mental Game is Critical to Your Success on the Course

Your Mental Game is Critical to Your Success on the Course

By GBB Staff


What is the one thing that professional golfers understand that most amateur golfers forget? Golf is much more of a mental test than a physical one. Two of my favorite golf quotes are related to this subject. Bobby Jones said, “Golf is a game played on a 5-inch course – the distance between your ears”. Jim Flick once described the game in this way, “Golf is 90% mental and the other 10% is mental too”.

We have all done it. We hit the ball great on the driving range, but once we get to the course, we can’t seem to hit a single shot solid. Nothing changed from the range to course, except you know the shots on the course count towards your score. Do you make every putt on the practice green, but once you start your round you can’t stop 3-putting?

Regardless of your skill level, your mental approach will impact your score.

Do Not Get Frustrated During Warm-ups

You head to the range to hit a few balls prior to your weekend tee time. Why are you hitting range balls before a round? The goal of a pre-round range trip is to get loose, not work on your swing. A common mistake by beginner to intermediate golfers is they get frustrated during their range session. Do the balls you hit on the range count towards your score?

The last thing you want to do is be frustrated with your game before you even step on the 1st tee. Warming up before your round is critical, but it is not an indicator of how well you will play on the course. Get loose, practice some putts, and head to the starter’s shack with optimism about how you are going to play.

The Next Shot is An Opportunity for Greatness

One of my playing partners used to always say that his goal was to stay “relentlessly optimistic” throughout the round. His point was simple – no matter how bad the previous shot might have been, the next one could be great. You never want to let your round “snowball”. In other words, one bad shot, leads to another, and another, etc.

This requires discipline but think of each shot as a unique activity. Your previous swings have nothing to do with the one you are about to make. If you play 5 bad holes in a row, there is no reason you cannot birdie #6. Stay positive and stay in the moment. Dwelling on a previous shot never helped anyone. We all know that making an aggressive, positive swing will produce the best results.

Keep Perspective – You Could Be Mowing the Grass

Golf can be very frustrating, and it is easy to get angry early in your round. Here are a couple tips to fight off these negative feelings.

  • First, be realistic about your golf ability and the score you are hoping to shoot. For example, if you are an 18-handicap and you bogey the first few holes, you should not be upset, because you are playing consistent with your stroke average.
  • Second, keep perspective and remember that you are getting to spend time out in the fresh air with friends and getting some exercise. As the saying goes, “a bad day of golf is better than a good day at work”. Sure, you may not shoot your best round ever, but it could be worse. You could be working a 10-hour shift or be home mowing the grass. You do not have to play great to enjoy your time on the links.

If you are thinking you would prefer to work or mow grass than play golf, you might want to give tennis a try!

Focus on the Good

You finish your round, grab a drink at the 19th hole, and head home. As you reflect on your score for the day, what do you remember? Do you find yourself thinking about the ball you hit in the lake and the time you 4-putted or do you remember that sweet 7-iron you stuck to five feet?

It is always a good idea to spend five minutes following your round to assess how you played, but make sure you focus on the positives. Of course, you want to understand where you struggled and what part of your game cost you strokes, but this should not be the only thing you consider. What did you do well?

Regardless if you shot 72 or 120, you hit some good shots during your round. What were the top 5 best swings of the day? On what holes did you make pars or birdies? Thinking about your good shots will improve your outlook for your next round and will make you want to get back out there sooner.

If you have a tendency to come home from the course frustrated, this might be hard for you, but force yourself to do it. And if you truly had a terrible day on the course and can’t think one of positive thing about your round, just remember – you will have to play better the next time!

Final Thoughts

Golf is a significant mental test for all players. How did Tiger dominate the tour in his early years? Sure, he had a great swing, but his mental game was unparalleled. He made every putt that mattered and quite often beat his opponents before the round even started. He did not intimidate other professionals because of his swing – they couldn’t match his focus, confidence, and mental strength. He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was going to win.

No matter how much you improve your mental game, you probably won’t make it to the PGA tour, but you can become the Tiger of your weekend foursome. Do not get in your own way. Stay positive and patient. Never forget that your next shot could be great. Some days you will play well and others you will struggle, but regardless, enjoy the journey.

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