Mental golf training is key for you to access your best technical skills when the pressure is on. In this article, I’m going to define why you need mental golf training and how it’s going to help you reach your goals in the game.
What is Mental Golf Training?
Anyone that’s played golf knows that the mental and emotional aspects of the game have a big effect on your scores. In fact, it’s one of the biggest allures of the game – we get to experience many different emotions and mental challenges during a round – it’s like a virtual reality, without any real-life consequences. How well you’re able to stay focused, keep your mind quiet and your emotions under control will affect your performance and overall enjoyment.
As a mental coach, I set my players goals for each round that have nothing to do with their score. Instead we set goals for the things that are going to give them the best chance of unlocking a great performance. Through this process, combined with mental golf training off the course, the player develops the mental skills necessary to access their best physical skills when the pressure is on.
How does mental golf training work?
First, let’s take a look at some of the mental skills or “success factors” that you will need if you are to break out of your comfort zone and play better golf at higher levels. Examples of these are:
You will probably notice that these are all “human skills” which when developed can lead to a better, happier and more productive life. That’s one of the great things about golf – if we let it, it teaches us a lot about ourselves and what we need to work on, not only to become a better golfer, but a better person too.
How to develop your mental skills as part of your mental golf training
The first step in the mental golf training process is to assess the student. If you’d like to take a basic version of my mental game assessment, you can do so by clicking here and I’ll send you it directly to your inbox.
1. Identify Your Learning Style
What is your learning style? Do you learn best through verbal communication? Visual? Auditory (sound)? Or Kinesthetic (feel/touch)? Have a think about this. This is important to know as we work through the mental golf training program, and communicate the material and develop the mental process.
2. Defining your “process”
Once we know what type of learner you are, we can put together an effective shot routine, aka “process”.
Where do you put your focus before, during and after every shot? Do you have a routine and are you able to consistently perform it, even under pressure? Aside from getting you as prepared as possible to play a shot, your routine is your “bubble”, that is impenetrable by pressure. All distractions fade away, and it’s you, your routine, and the intention for the shot. I work with my players to define their “process”. We do this through experimentation and finding out what it’s best for them to focus on before and during their shots. After all, we are all different and see the world/learn in different ways. Once we’ve established a process for playing the 3 types of shot – full shot, short game and putt, we have a measure of success for every shot. The player is now accountable for executing their process during every shot.
3. Learn how to stay present
Learning how to “quiet” the mind should be another part of your mental training for golf. All the players I’ve worked with who have shot their lowest tournament rounds in the low 60s, describe the same thing – being completely in the present moment and having heightened awareness. A few of them mentioned that they didn’t even know which hole they were playing and were surprised when the round ended. When they’re in that mental state, they’re not thinking about the past, or what might (or might not) happen in the future. Instead, their mind is quiet and in the moment. Being more present is a skill, something that you can get better at with every round. Learning how to be more present is one of the modules in my Mental Game Training System. Daily meditation can help with this too.
4. Managing Performance Anxiety
How well are you able to deal with stress? Preparing yourself for being able to manage the performance anxiety that will arise when you are feeling pressure or in contention in a tournament is an essential part of mental golf training. How well are you able to lower your heart rate, control tension and stay focused when you are feeling under pressure? You’ll also need to be aware of your tendencies (physical and mental) when you are under pressure, as we all have them!
5. Acceptance of (the inevitable) negative outcomes
In 99% of your rounds of golf, you will make mistakes. Sometimes they will be big mistakes like hitting it OB, or missing a 3ft tap-in. How well you can deal with those mistakes and accept them, will make a big difference in your overall performance.
6. Getting yourself into your “competitive mindset”
What you do before a round (not just physically, but mentally too), will also determine how well you play. When you are playing your best golf, how would you describe yourself? Determined and competitive? Intense? Relaxed? Fun? Focused? Defining your best “player self” and getting yourself into this role, will get you in the right mindset to play your best.
7. Practice for the pressure
Too many golfers practice in a way that has no resemblance to the golf course or tournament golf and hence it’s not surprising that they don’t improve. In order to play better when it counts, you’ll need to practice for it – by having constraints and challenges that increase frustration and require you to muster up the same mental resilience and process focus that you’ll need in competition. A good mental golf training program will include ways to increase pressure and consequences in practice. Pressure drills should also form part of your pre round warm-up, so you get into game mode and out of “practice” mode and ready to play from the first tee shot.
8. Work on body language and self-talk
Self talk and body language are the 2 ways we communicate with ourselves. How do you talk to yourself on the golf course? Are you your best friend or biggest critic? We can work on our self-talk daily. Words and phrases can be emotionally charged and can change the way we feel about ourselves – for better or worse. Knowing how to use the power of positive self talk is a key part of mental golf training. Body language is the same – your posture can make you feel a certain way within. Strong postures (eyes up and shoulders back) will make you feel more confident and powerful. Weak postures (shoulders hunched and looking down) will make you feel less confident. For more information on this, you can check out Amy Cuddy’s Ted talk on the subject.
9. Good nutrition
A health body and mind has a lot to do with what you eat and drink. All my students have a healthy diet – both off and on the course.
10. Develop a high “Golf I.Q,”
Learning how different weather conditions, grasses and lies affect the carry and flight of the ball is something the top players have mastered and it saves them several shots per round on amateurs. Developing your “Golf I.Q.” should be an ongoing project.
When I review a round with one of my students, it’s these things that I’m scoring them on. If they are able to build these skills, they increase their chance of future success.