Mental Mistakes Golf

The #1 Round Killer in Golf

In golf there are 7 Round Killers. These are 7 mental mistakes that will kill your ability to play to your potential. If you make any of these errors, the round will get away from you and you won’t be able to play your best.

The root cause of almost all of these round killers stems from being focused on outcome instead of process. When you start to focus on outcome (i.e. the results of your shots and your score), you start to try too hard and the less you focus on what you need to do to achieve those results and then it all starts to unravel…

The answer is to have an awesome process that you follow throughout every shot on the course. So what does this process look like?

To achieve this awesome process you need to combine 3 key ingredients (the 3 pillars of the perfect process) and when you’ve done this, I’m confident you can go from where you are right now, to the player to beat in the club championship and see several shots come off your handicap quickly. The great thing about learning this process is that it doesn’t require any change in your technique, it just requires some basic understanding and a change in your mental approach.

The 3 pillars of the perfect process:

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1. Conscious Thought

This pillar is about what you should be thinking about consciously during your round. Over the years you’ve probably accumulated hundreds of swing tips in the attempt to give you a swing to hit the ball consistently straight. These typically manifest themselves as “swing thoughts” e.g. make a full turn, keep your head down, make a full release etc. For most golfers these come up a lot and although you might see something work on 1 or 2 shots, it’s ever long lasting. The bad news is that swing thoughts are crippling for a good round of golf and it’s one of the biggest reasons you don’t play to your potential. But fortunately, the fix is an easy one…

In practice, you are allowed to have swing thoughts, it’s how we get better and make the right moves second nature and part of your muscle memory. But conscious thought about your swing will kill your scores on the golf course.

Your conscious mind needs to be 100% absorbed with the process of hitting (the next) good golf shot. This is where you use your Pre-shot routine, which is another of my eLessons that you can get if you sign up (it’s free).

2. Sub-conscious.

This pillar is about how we use our sub-conscious mind. This is what we use to play the shot, once we’ve gone through the pre-shot routine with the conscious mind. The second you start to use your conscious mind to play the shot, that’s when you’ll start trying too hard to control the shot. As you may know from one of my previous lessons – in golf you need to “give up control to gain control“.

E.g. Think about something you do sub-consciously like driving your car. Your conscious mind is focuses on the traffic and the route while your sub-conscious mind is controlling the vehicle. Imagine letting your conscious mind drive the car and tell your body what to do e.g. “ok, it’s time to push your foot on the brake now” or “now you need to change gear from 2nd to 3rd”. You wouldn’t drive very well and your chances of getting in a accident would go up. The same goes for your golf game when the conscious mind gets involved in the swing. The more you try to control it the more errant your shots become and then it snow balls out of control. For the better players, the conscious mind goes through the pre-shot routine and then hands it off to the sub-conscious. I’m sure you’ve felt this if you’ve ever been “in the zone”.

“You turn off your mind. You feel your golf swing without really thinking about it. It’s almost like you don’t think at all. Maybe you have one little thought, and everything else becomes automatic.” – US Open Champion, Graeme McDowell

In a recent survey of 24 PGA Tour players, 18 said they didn’t think about anything at all during their swing. Those that did have a swing thought said it was to focus on a spot a few inches in front of the ball, to encourage swinging through, instead of hitting at the ball. NONE of them said they had ANY technical thoughts about their swing. Now compare that to the average amateur…

Next time you’re on the course, make ZERO swing thoughts your goal and although it will be difficult, mark the number of times they came into your head on your scorecard so you have a goal for next time. I guarantee that the more swing thoughts you remove the better you’ll play.

3. Confidence

Confidence is the 3rd pillar of a great process and is the result of the previous two pillars. Without confidence, you’ll never play to your full potential. If you can segment the roles of the conscious and the sub-conscious mind (as above) you will gain confidence in your process as a whole which will keep reinforcing itself in a loop. The result will be a huge shift in the level of your play and you’ll move closer to your potential with every round.

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David MacKenzie

is a golf coach and golf publisher and lives in Washington DC. He is the founder of Golf State of Mind a teaching program designed to help golfers eliminate negative mental interference and play with confidence.

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