Getting yourself in the right mood and mindset to play, can make all the difference. In this lesson, we’ll go through the mental game warm up for golf (adapted from Jason Selk’s “10 Minute Mental Toughness Warm-up”) that my elite players use to have them feeling confident and ready to play their best.
1) Focus on your breathing (5 mins)
Focusing on your breathing for 5 minutes serves 2 purposes. First, it keeps you in the present, which is a very important skill to learn for golf and something you should be practicing during your rounds also. Instead of trying to predict what’s going to happen over the next 4-5 hours and increasing your stress levels, relax your mind. Second, good breathing techniques for golf is the best way to regulate your heart rate and feel more relaxed. At first, it’s not easy to hold your attention on your breaths (without getting distracted) but it gets easier with practice. I highly recommend making 10-15 minute meditation a regular daily exercise but this is a great start!
2) Visualize Your Personal Highlight Reel (2-3 mins)
Remind yourself of past success and how well you are capable of playing. These positive images of success will give you a boost of confidence. Spend a few minutes thinking about particular shots, great moments on the course or tournaments you’ve won or placed well. See those moments as vividly as possible in your mind and remember how it felt.
3) Mental warm up for golf: Visualize success in the round you are about to play (2-3 mins)
Next, we’re going to imagine what success looks like in the upcoming round. Most Tour players do what’s called “Mental Rehearsal” and you can benefit from doing the same. Sit down, close your eyes and visualize hitting great shots on the course you are about to play (drives, approaches, putts etc). Getting these images into your subconscious can help them become a reality and help you feel more prepared for the challenges ahead.
4) Remind yourself of your process goals (1-2 mins)
Your goals for the upcoming round should have nothing to do with score or other anything that is not 100% within your control. Process goals are certain actions and areas of focus that you know you do/have when you are playing well such as: visualization (process and outcome), rehearsing feel, accepting shots, picking a clear target etc. Write these down and measure your success by them. All my Tour player clients score themselves by the number of shots they stayed “in their process” and other important criteria such as body language, self-talk, staying present, intensity level etc. If you’d like to download my “mental game scorecard”, there’s a button at the bottom of this post.
5) Be grateful (1-2 mins)
Spend a couple of minutes thinking about the things you are grateful for in what you are about to do, no matter how you play. Put the round in perspective no matter how serious it is. You are about to go and play the game you love, not something you hate. You’ve been afforded time in the fresh air, in beautiful surroundings with people you enjoy. Think about these things and have an attitude of gratitude.
6) Get yourself in your “optimal performance state” (2-3 mins)
When you play your best, what kind of mood are you in? Are you excited, happy, intense/pumped up or serious? The Tour players I work with know this. Try to notice patterns in your previous rounds and notice what brings out your best performances. Knowing this can help you recreate that mood and maximize your chances of success.
Make this mental game warm up for golf part of your pre-round routine and I’m confident you’ll be able to access your best skills more often on the course.