The Mental Side of Golf: How to Play it Right
Over the years, playing with and tutoring amateur golfers, you discover that for many, the mental approach to the game is where their struggle lies the most. There is an old adage that your round of golf is always broken up into 3 different parts. The first 6 holes are all your preparation, the middle 6 holes are your mental strength and the final 6 holes are your endurance.
On how many occasions have you started out your round with a string of pars or been 1 over through 7, only to double and triple bogey the next 3 holes and wreck your round? That one shot starts to sneak into your head and you start trying to fix your swing to ensure that whatever has happened does not repeat itself again. This is where nearly all amateurs fail. You must learn to keep away from the fear and frustration that often sneak into our minds during a hard round of golf.
It has long been believed that golf is a mental game. Arnold Palmer told said it long ago that the game is at least 80% mental. Definitely, most of today’s tour professionals visit a sport psychologist or “mental game coach”. So if most of us have come to terms with the impact of the mental side of golf on our performance, why have we not worked out a way to learn and develop this area of the game?
Golf has developed into a game of gimmicks and the “next best thing” to facilitate finding that swift fix and cure your golfing woes. The golf industry places enormous importance on how the latest equipment will take you to new levels of scoring. But as we are now finding out, these are, for the most part, false promises.
The game has seen vast technological development over the past twenty years – we can hit the ball further and, apparently, have more control over the golf ball than ever. But for some unexplained reason, the average handicap of 16 has not fallen. Notwithstanding all the improvement and hype about how much easier the game is with the latest clubs and training aids, our scores have not got better.
Introducing the idea that there might be something else that we can do as a substitute to buying new tools and taking more lessons is not in the profit-making interests of the golf business. For this reason we hear very little about it. But obviously, being given the physical tools only is not sufficient to lower our scores and boost our enjoyment of the game. We need to try something else.
The Mental Side of Golf
Understanding the mental side of golf is now the final border for golf development. One of the reasons we adore golf is one of the reasons we fail to get better at it. Standing on the first tee with no idea what to expect in the next 4-5 hours is one of the appealing qualities of the game. But the fact that we are out there for such a long time, but truly “playing” the game for about 5% of it, means that our mindset is the major factor in our performance. Why is it, with the same golf swing we are able to shoot 80 one week and 100 the next?
Golf has more ups and downs than most other sports and more time to mull over them. But this can be improved upon. If we can build up a steady mental approach to each round we will play more consistent golf. Being able to have power over our emotions and get into the right state of mind before we play a golf shot is the key to good scoring.
We need a mental discipline and schedule to ease this inconsistency. Here are five simple tips to make your mental game stronger and break through your mental collapses while on the course.
After Rory McIlroy won the British Open in 2014, he said ‘’I focused on two things during the tournament: process and spot. His pre-shot routine (or process) was debatably the most significant part of his win that week. Developing a pre-shot routine will keep your mind engaged with process and fear will not have any time to sneak in.
Fear is what makes a great player turn around into a disaster. A pre-shot routine can keep your head from being filled with fear. Whether that is your next shot or the panic of repeating what just went wrong on the preceding hole, steer clear of fear all together by settling in to your pre-shot routine.
Once you have your pre-shot routine completed all that is left is to hit the shot. But where are you actually focused as you hit your shot? The most widespread response is “I don’t know.” What you are required to do is clear your mind and stare directly at a dimple on the ball. Focus solely on hitting that dimple and go.
As you are moving on to your next shot, talking about something different from your round will help you stay calm. Don’t over think holes you have previously played or shots you wished you didn’t take the way you did. Counting backwards as you walk or counting the steps you take will help keep your mind occupied and keep you relaxed for your next shot.
Certainly, golf at one point or the other will make you to hit a bad shot, even the professionals experience it. This is where your “go-to shot” will need to be used. This is a shot that you can at all times count on to have up to standard distance and precision. Getting off that bogey train is a must for your mental game and you will need to build up a go-to shot that you can always count on. For a few, the go-to shot may be a 6-iron they can play from any lie. For others, it may be an 8-iron. Anyway, this shot will help you build up confidence and drive for your round to get you back on track.
Many amateurs do not know what club to hit off the tee to avoid the hazards of the course. Much of the time golfers steps up to the tee and try to hit it as far as they can to leave a shorter shot into the green. This is not always the most brilliant idea! A simple pre-round strategy will help you get rid of the simple errors that build up in your mind and cause your big scores.
Make sure to always know how far it is to the water hazard or bunkers before hitting your shot. Make a decision on what tee-shot will give you the best approach to the green on each hole and what club you need to hit. That way you can step up to every shot with confidence and play your round with no fear around the course.
The aforementioned are some of the useful tips to help you in developing your mental golf game. Try these out next time you’re on the golf course and talk to your local professional coach or qualified Personal Coach today to put together your personalized game plan for all areas of your golf game!