One of the common misconceptions that I hear too often, is that your mental skills for golf can’t be improved like you improve your technical skills. Too many golfers think that the mental side falls into place once the technical game does. But those golfers who become more successful, realize that you can’t access your best technical skills (more consistently) without a good mental game.
But how do you go about improving your mental skills for golf?
Improving your technical skills would appear to be much easier, with all the instructional videos, launch monitors and instructors teaching that aspect of the game.
The technical side of the game is about physical movement, which you can see and measure more easily. The mental side however, is about thinking, attitude and confidence – it’s more intangible. But measuring mental performance is something I’ve worked on improving over the past 10 years that I’ve been a mental coach. If we are setting goals around mental performance and reviewing them properly afterwards, we can improve mental skills with every round.
My students see each round as an opportunity to develop the following mental skills, regardless of score, and by doing so, it increases their chances of scoring well.
The mental skills for golf:
- Process focus (knowing the routines that work best for you and sticking to them)
- Mental toughness and emotional resilience
- Controlling performance anxiety (including tension and tempo awareness)
- Being in the present
- Positive Self talk
- Body language
I was talking with a new student this week who said (about his last tournament):
“I was so many over par at the turn that I wanted to just give up and walk off the course. There was no way I could qualify, so what was the point?”.
My response was:
“Those rounds are the perfect opportunity to develop your mental game! When you’re feeling like that (and you’ll definitely feel like that in the future to varying degrees), the challenge is there to be mentally strong, develop your winner’s attitude and persevere! Success in golf is about dealing with adversity and those rounds where you’re not playing well is a great time to practice doing so, even if you might not be scoring well.”
For me, the measure of success for each round has to be the mental game. My post round review process tells me how well a player stayed process focused, present in between shots, accepted misses and moved on, had positive self-talk and a good attitude. As a mental coach, developing these mental skills for golf are the priority, and will help a player develop confidence and reach their potential and play their best in tournaments in the long-run.
Make Your Mental Game The Goal and Let The Score Take Care of Itself
My best students use each round to develop their mental skills and let the score take care of itself. Golf is a variable game – we have to do our best to not let the external variability affect us internally. No matter what your score or what’s happening around you, you have to learn how to stay constant inside.
At the end of each round, I want to hear from my students about their mental performance, not their score. And if they put in a good mental performance, their score was usually a good one.
I was talking to one of my long-term students today who told me about a quadruple bogey he had on the 11th hole of the final round of a tournament recently. He said:
“The old me would have got upset about throwing away 4 shots on one hole and started to question my ability. But now I just see those times as an opportunity to show my mental toughness. I used my deep breathing, made sure I had positive self-talk and strong body language and I went on to birdie the next 3 holes in a row and finish in the top 10!”
Real satisfaction in this game comes from doing the things like my student did. Dissatisfaction from this game comes from feeling beaten by it, becoming frustrated and paying attention to doubt, instead of squashing it immediately. This is how we develop mental toughness and the ability to handle adversity, which is ultimately what you need to do to succeed in golf, and in life. Every player faces challenges such as hitting bad shots and having blow up holes, but those that reach the top are those that have developed the coping strategies to allow their true ability to come through when the pressure is on.
So next time you go out to play, give yourself mental goals such as:
- Staying in your process
- Being committed to your shots
- Having good body language
- Staying present
- Putting bad shots behind you quickly
If you’d like to learn the tools to make these goals more achievable and access your best skills more often on the course, sign up and get my mental game scorecard and free mental game eBook below: