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The Mental Golf Coaching Process

In this week’s article, I’d like to share with you the mental coaching process that has helped improve the performance of the many competitive players that I’ve worked with over the years. Whether you use this template to do it yourself, or use my Ultimate Mental Game Training System or One on One Coaching Programs, this mental coaching process has been proven and refined over the past 10 years to help golfers drive results and alleviate pressure.

What are the goals of mental coaching for golf?

Generally speaking, the goals for mental coaching are:

  • Developing a mindset for growth
  • Keeping a player more focused on the process for improvement, instead of the results
  • Training a player to stay in the present moment during their rounds
  • Train a player to observe their thoughts and emotions without living them
  • Building self-esteem and confidence
  • Helping a player overcome their fears and sources of performance anxiety
  • Train a player to deal with pressure and lower nerves
  • Teaching a player to allocate their time most efficiently when it comes to practice

How Do We Achieve These Goals?

Step 1: The Mental Game Assessment

The Golf State of Mind Assessment is an important first step in the mental coaching process. Through a series of written questions, the aim is for me to find out the following:

  • The player’s mindset and how they view challenges
  • Their personality and how they learn (what “type” of thinker they are)
  • Their current scoring average and their goals
  • Their specific challenges and why they can sometimes under-perform
  • How they handle pressure situations
  • What they focus on during the phases of a round of golf, including their shot routine
  • Their best rounds and what could get them into their peak performance state
  • Their sources of fear
  • Their level of commitment to achieve their goals
  • How they practice

Step 2: Getting started with the right mindset for success

The right mindset is the backbone to long-term success. Without it, we will never find out how good we can really become. Developing a Champion’s Mindset is an ongoing process, but it’s the best place for mental coaching to start after the initial assessment. Does the student have more of a Growth Mindset, or a Fixed Mindset? Are they too judgmental of their abilities and focus too much on results, or are they able to embrace failure and mistakes objectively and see them as opportunities to learn and improve? The best players never want to stop getting better (regardless of winning or losing) and it’s their mindset that’s a big driver in their success.

When I review a player’s round with them, I encourage and help cultivate a growth mindset with the questions I ask them. Instead of the question, “what did you shoot?”, I prefer the question, “what did you learn?” Questions such as this get the player to look less at the result and more at what contributed to their success (so they can repeat these behaviors and actions) and what caused their mistakes (so they can change those behaviors).

Step 3: Establishing Goals (What and why)

After helping them understand the mindset they need to cultivate to succeed, we establish what the player wants to achieve. What is their dream goal and why do they want to achieve it? Finding out their motivation for wanting to achieve their goals is also important, as this is another driving factor in their success.

Once we have gathered detailed stats on their game (if they don’t already keep them, they should begin immediately), we can set long and short-term goals. An example would be:

Dream goal: Winning On The PGA Tour
One Year Goal: Scoring average of 72
Short-term (8-12 week) goals:
Increase birdies per round (average) to 5
Improve GIR from 150-175 yds to 60%
Improve putting make % from 10-15ft to 25%

Step 4: Training and Practice (How)

What does the student need to improve, to get them a step closer to their goals? This will be a combination of mental, technical, and fitness exercises.
Based on the player’s assessment, their goals and ongoing reflection of their rounds, we can create a specific game improvement plan for their rounds and practice. This will be some of the following:

  • Identifying The Player’s Shot Routine (Process)
  • Helping Them Understand What Brings Out Their Best Player Self
  • Competitive Skills Drills to test the process and increase pressure during practice, so that player trains their focus and learns how to lower performance anxiety
  • Guided Visualizations
  • Improving focus and being present through meditation
  • Breathing techniques
  • NLP – positive associations or triggers
  • Developing an Attitude of gratitude
  • Body language
  • Self-talk and mantras
  • Tempo/tension awareness

Many of the players I work with keep a performance journal which they share with me to increase accountability and commitment to what they are working on.

Step 5: Preparation

What a player does to prepare for a round can set them up for success or under-performance.
Does the player have a clear strategy and know the golf course? How does that player prepare mentally for the round? I work with all my students on their mental rehearsal of their rounds, putting those images of success for the upcoming round into the “subconscious mind”. This involves meditation and visualization of the round and seeing themselves being successful and positively dealing with challenges. This increases positive focus and reduces focus on any doubts. If you are interested in a Guided Pre Round Warm-up, please check out my Pre Round Confidence Booster Audio Sessions.

Step 6: Execution/Performance

During each round, the player will have a clear plan that is completely within their control, unlike the outcome of their shots and scores. With increased self-awareness and improved ability to manage their thoughts and emotions, they will be able to remain confident, focused and mentally tough and achieve better results.

My Mental Game Scorecard is a great way to stay accountable to the Shot Routine, and give the player more productive things to focus on. Other aspects that I score the player on are:

  • Being present in between shots
  • Body language and self-talk
  • Processing the negatives (letting go of mistakes)
  • Accountability to the process

Step 7: Evaluation/Reflection

As I mentioned earlier, instead of focusing on the results, it’s more important that the player looks at what was learned from the round. The Post Round Review helps guide them through this process. We need to celebrate that players successes and be objective and constructive about the mistakes. After the Post Round Review, we can revise short term goals and the practice plan for the following week based on areas of weakness during those rounds.

Go back to Step 3 and repeat the cycle each week…

Fall In Love With The Process!

Developing mental toughness and learning how to cope with the external and internal pressures that arise during your rounds isn’t easy. But with daily exercises, perseverance and immersion in the mental coaching process, you’ll develop winning habits and bring your goals closer to you every day.

If you’d like to learn more about how I help my players achieve their goals, please use this link to Get A Free Consultation.

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.

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