Mental Game Golf

4 Reasons Your Scores Aren’t Getting Better (it’s time to change it)

Reason 1: Process Focus vs Outcome Focus

From when we were kids we’ve been taught that results are all that count. Get good grades and you’ll get into a good college, get into a good college and you’ll get a good job. Earn lots of money and you’ll be happy…We’ve been hard-wired to think about how the outcome of everything will impact our lives.

In golf it’s no different. It’s all about score. “If I can shoot this score I can win this tournament…If I can make this putt, I’ll be one under….” Score, score score…

And what does this do? It creates pressure, which affects your game in a number of ways.

  1. You rush the shot and don’t go through the proper steps
  2. Your score is not completely within your control – it’s uncertain. When you focus on something that is uncertain, you’re setting yourself up for a rocky ride. However, your ability to execute your routine is completely under your control. Making routine your goal is far more achievable.
  3. You see more of the things that could prevent you from achieving that success (where you don’t want to hit it), which impedes your movement
  4. The impact of missing the target is greater because in your head you’ve moved further away from your outcome goal
  5. It makes you more likely to explain not meeting your goal with something tangible (the swing) and try to correct what you believe to have caused the miss, so you start to give yourself a swing lesson further impeding your movement

Here’s a new approach…

Learning the Golf State of Mind is about sticking to a process that’s going to give you the best chance of executing a shot as best you can. And you measure the success of the  shot, not by where the ball went, but how you well you stuck to this process. Your whole round will be measured by how well you achieved this on every shot. This is perhaps the first step in learning a better mental game. Making this fundamental shift in your focus is going to release pressure and give you the tools you need to play fearlessly.

Reason 2: The Way You Practice

Do you know what you’re about to practice when you head to the practice area? Will you be working on your weaknesses and maintaining your strengths? Or just randomly searching for something? Are you using a combination of block and random practice?

The first step is to set your practice goals. But unless you keep good stats, then this is hard to do.

Block practice is where you focus on just one thing for a set of balls, and you learn how to repeat a particular movement over and over again (to become what we call “muscle memory”). In this type of practice, you can be more focused on what your body is doing, and less concerned about the outcome.

Using block practice also allows you to access areas of your game more easily in different situations on the golf course. E.g. If you’ve spent a couple of hours practicing hitting balls out of plugged lies in the bunker, you’ll more easily be able access that learned skill when you’re in that situation on the course.

Once you feel like you’re on your way to ingraining a particular movement, you’ll want to test it in random situations. This type of practice requires more thought about the target and shot type, not thinking about movement, and is ideally pressurized by playing games, so you get experience controlling your nerves.

Make sure you have a clear practice plan which includes a division between block and random practice.

Reason 3: Your golf swing is not free flowing

The difference between the range and the course, is that your outcome focus on the course means that your movement is not as fluid. It’s tentative because you fear the negative possibilities (as humans we’re preconditioned to look out for danger and then protect against it). This is why sticking to your process and using strong visualization techniques for golf, is key to your success. “There’s my target, there’s the shot shape, now let (trust) my body do its job to hit the shot, without conscious interference”. Just look and react!

Reason 4: You don’t control your nerves

Another difference between the course and the range is your arousal state. Great golf is played from a moderately aroused physiological and psychological state, so you’re actually much more likely to shoot a good score in competition than in practice (so nerves are a good thing). The key is not allowing that “moderate” arousal to become panic and anxiety, which increases tension and makes you more likely to miss vital steps of your routine and hit poor shots. You need to learn how to control your arousal state, which you can actually do as you practice.

The Golf State of Mind Training Program has plenty of tools to help you cope with stressful situations on golf course.

Photo by Zyllan Fotografia


Get your FREE Mental Game Scorecard

David MacKenzie

is a mental golf coach and lives in Washington DC. He is the founder of Golf State of Mind, a teaching program designed to help golfers condition their minds to overcome fear and play with confidence.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *