1. They practice in right way:
Life is short. So why anyone would want to spend hundreds of hours trying to improve in the wrong way is crazy. Beating ball after ball at the same target at the driving range and coming away thinking you’ve mastered the game only takes you backwards. How many golfers wish they could take their range game to the course? 99% of them. The other 1% (the elite), practice in a way that is challenging and simulates course conditions. Hitting a bucket of balls to the same target over and over is easy and it’s nothing like playing on the course. The top players make every second count when practicing, so they’re working all areas of the game to the max. The first thing to do in trying to get better at golf is to think about the way you practice, and change your routine. I’ve worked with many players of all abilities and the thing that correlates most to performance is the way you practice. Make practice hard and challenge yourself.
2. They Stay in the Present:
Staying in the present means that you give whatever you are doing your complete, undivided attention. E.g. if you are playing with your kids, that’s all you’re doing, not thinking about work. In golf, this means your’re not thinking about your score, how your playing partners might be judging your performance, why you think you just sliced that shot or 3 putted the last hole. All your energy is on the shot at hand and then enjoying the walk in between.
It’s easy to see how counter-productive it is not to be in the present – just think back to your last round where you started playing well and subsequently thought about shooting your best score, only for your game to unravel. Being solely in the present is easier said than done I know (like everything else it takes practice), but there are good techniques to prevent these tension causing shifts in thinking.
3. They continually work on the fundamentals:
Good players understand the importance of the fundamentals as it’s the foundation for a good golf swing. How you grip the club, how far you stand from the ball, how good your posture is, how good your ball position is and how well you align are all way more important than just trying to swing the club correctly. The fundamentals need to be worked on continuously as it’s easy to get into bad habits – even the best players have to do so.
4. They play with visualization and feel, not swing mechanics:
The eyes are probably the golfer’s most important asset. The top players are always picking small targets and imagining how the shot will look. How clearly you define your target and your shot shape before playing each shot will have a huge impact on how well you execute it. When you practice and play golf, become aware of the feelings of shots e.g. ask yourself when you hit a fade how that felt.
5. They work on a highly repeatable routine:
The top players in the world all go through the exact same routine before every shot, even down to the number of practice swings. Watch the top players in the world and you’ll notice that the number of seconds it takes to go through their pre-shot routine is the same every time. The shot routine is something I cover in the Golf State of Mind Game Improvement Training program.
6. They know how to calm themselves down when the pressure is on.
I’ve worked with enough players to know that the good ones know powerful techniques to calm themselves down to prevent nerves turning into panic and negatively affecting performance. They use nerves to their advantage. There are many ways to do this such as breathing techniques for golf or having special thoughts/places to go in your head in between shots. I recently heard that Jesper Parnevik would try to solve math problems in his head when it all got too much out there! So there are countless ways to do it!
Being able to accept every shot whatever the outcome is an attribute that all the top players possess. Although very difficult to achieve, the optimal state for golf would be if you could become emotionally indifferent to good and bad shots. Padraig Harrington tells himself as part of his pre-shot routine that although he has a positive intention for the shot, if it doesn’t go where he wants it to, it’s better to accept it and move on, than get upset. Try verbalizing this in your head before your next shot.
Become aware of these things and make sure you make every second of practice and playing time count! Practice in the right way and you will see continuous improvement.