Learning the Mental Game of Golf: Are you playing golf or swinging golf clubs?

How many times, after ‘grinding’ on the range,  have you said the words “Now, go out on course and trust it!?”

Have you ever managed to trust your physical skills over a round of golf and just enjoy playing the game?  When you hit those poor shots on course, what do you believe causes them? Golfers often react the same way and immediately evaluate their technique. Something did not feel right and attempts are made to correct it before playing the next shot. So what happened to the trust you spent hours ‘developing’ in practice? One errant shot is often enough for you to doubt your swing again, so how effective is your practice?  For Pro’s especially, it is back to the range to ‘fix’ what was believed to be at fault. This is what I call the Doubt Cycle.

Does it sound familiar to you too? Unfortunately, Trust is not like a magical cloak you can just throw over your shoulders when heading out to play. Trust has to be deliberately practiced at the practice range. Separate from technical analysis. It needs to become your DOMINANT behavior in practice for it to become your dominant mentality in play. Many golfers can not understand why their great swing in practice disappears out on the course. The problem does not lie in how you play but in how you practice. So what is trust in golf? Why does it remain elusive regardless of the effort you apply to developing your technical skills?

Please let me demonstrate the problem with a short sample The Target Oriented Lesson Series:

I’m sure you own a number of training aids. They are an aid for training, NOT trusting. Have you ever owned a trusting aid? There’s a reason for this. TRUST in golf (and life) only manifests itself when you STOP paying attention to your physical actions. What’s wrong with ongoing use of training aids you may be asking? Every time you use a training aid, psychologically it’s like putting your training wheels back on your bicycle. What does this tell you at the subconscious level? I don’t trust my self. Consider this for 1 moment. HOW and when will you ever be able to trust in competition that which is continually doubted in practice?


In order to PERFORM any life skill successfully we must remove the conscious mind from attempting to CONTROL our physical actions. Swing thoughts inhibit physical flow and destroy your natural ability to swing or putt. How do you practice golf today? Many believe physical repetition is the path to mastery. Your hours of range practice may demonstrate why this is not the case. What happens in every life skill we manage to perform successfully is our attentional focus switches from internal to external naturally. You can drive with total trust in your sub-conscious mind to control a vehicle where your life and that of others is at risk! So why can’t you trust your sub-conscious mind to manage your actions when putting or swinging a golf club? Well, let us look at how you are uniquely being taught and practicing the game of golf.

Golf has always been and continues to be taught with a polar opposite mentality to Trust and this lies at the heart of why so many struggle to play it and why so many walk away. From your very first lesson, when your attention is removed from the target (external focus) and onto your grip, stance, posture, takeaway etc. you are being coached to consciously control the physical action of your swing (internal focus).

Irrespective of your technical ability acquired you can spend your golfing life unwittingly switching your attention in practice from 1 body part to another trying to find the answer to your inconsistent play. This actually PREVENTS you from achieving the golf state of mind where performance lives (external focus). If you need to read that last sentence again, please do so for many golfers have taken their game through this process and many continue to do so. So is there a more efficient way of learning how to practice and play the game of golf? There is now and it will reveal to you HOW to Train AND Trust for golf.

It should be clear to you by now that repetition alone does not produce mastery in sport/life/golf skills. In fact it can inhibit the acquisition of a skill if used inappropriately. Some sport research academics suggest 10,000 hours of practice are required to become an “expert”. Whose methods do they use to draw such a conclusion do you think? What if the methods used are fundamentally flawed? You can learn to drive a car in under 40 hours. GSOM exists because ‘mind’ coaches recognize golfers are ‘getting in their own way’.

Your problems begin well before the 1st tee. It is not the NUMBER of hours which leads to expertise. It is what you choose to focus your ATTENTION on during those hours which matters. There is a vital brain function which must be understood in order to perform/play golf and it is called attentional/visual focus separation. This is prevented from occurring in golfers due to existing coaching practices, hence the 10,000 hour theory being presented by some academics. Research evidence is already revealing there is something amiss in the way golf is being taught but sadly, little changes in the real world of golf instruction.

There is a real need for you to understand attentional focus and how to use it in your golfing life for it is not being systematically coached anywhere in the world today. The great news is that GSOM, an alternative coaching site, has brought together 2 “alternative” coaches who have dedicated their lives to understanding this subject matter, both in relation to how to acquire technical golf skills and how to perform out on course.

If the words in this article have resonated with you and you wish to understand Attentional Focus in more detail, please check out the Target Oriented Lecture Series


Photo by TourProGolfClubs

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Colin Cromack

is the creator of Target Oriented Golf, an independently produced applied golf psychology coaching program. He specialises in the brain function of Attentional Focus. This lies at the heart of skills acquisition (how we learn) and psychology (how we perform). His work is supported by the very latest academic research. He is a PGA UK recognised Coaching Specialist and presents his work to PGA coaches, Pro players and dedicated amateurs.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Troy Vayanos

    Yes I can relate to this very much. It’s often hard to let go of a bad shot and think you have to change something in your golf swing.

    As you say it’s vital to trust what you have been working on and don’t panic and change at the first sign of a poor golf shot.

    Great video

  2. Colin Cromack
    Colin Cromack

    Thanks for your feedback Troy.

    Acceptance is not something I see practiced at the range. Most spend their time attempting to “fix” what is perceived as technical flaws, not poor focus.

    It’s little wonder then why these golfers do not behave any differently on the course. Unfortunately the consequences of this lack of acceptance only gets carried forward into the next shot. It’s no fun.

    Understanding the interaction between attention and arousal is complex but it lies at the heart of golf.


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