Most sports have a mental aspect that the best players struggle to overcome. In fact, it’s safe to say that golf is one of the most psychologically intense sports out there. There are many factors that contribute to the extreme pressure level that many players face. Often, it’s an individual sport — you have no team to fall back on. Also, a round of golf can last for hours, during which time any mistake can have a dramatic effect on the rest of the game.
So, how do you overcome the mental pitfalls that seem to wait for you every time you walk onto the golf course? The simplest answer is to stay in the moment. Of course, this is much easier said than done, but there are a few techniques that you can use that will help your mind and body focus on what’s happening right now, rather than that three-putt on the last hole.
Train Your Mind with a Pre-Shot Routine
Your body and mind are designed to react to certain repetitive triggers to prepare for an activity. With this in mind, you can train your body and mind to prepare for the activity of swinging your golf club with specifically designed triggers. This is your pre-shot routine. If performed correctly, your pre-shot routine gets your body lined up and ready to swing. It also clears your head so you can trust your body to perform the task at hand without over-thinking your swing.
Here’s an example of a good pre-shot routine:
- Stand behind the ball and picture a line through the ball to the target
- Focus on a spot on the line 3 or 4 feet in front of the ball
- Position your clubface behind the ball
- As you stare at the target, position your feet
- Now look down at the ball and try to focus on a single dimple
- Allow your fundamentals take over
Boost Confidence with a Go-To Shot
One of the toughest parts of the game of golf is letting your mistakes go. One of the most effective techniques to get your game back on track after a bad shot is to fall back on a tried-and-true shot. Grab a club with which you’re particularly strong, even if it isn’t the right club for your next shot. Try to clear your mind and trust your swing. You may need to adjust your strategy slightly to get onto the green, but that one confidence-building swing could make a big difference in the direction of your game.
Another effective way to get your mind off a bad game is to simply change the subject ‑ strike up a conversation with one of your buddies about anything BUT golf. Talking about something that’s not related to golf will relieve some of the intensity and allow you to focus on the fun. You can also use this technique to get your mind off golf when you’re away from the course. You’ll drive people nuts if it’s all you ever talk about.
The psychological side of golf can be just as difficult to master as the athletic side. If you take time to train for both, however, your game will quickly improve. Maybe that’s the most important thing to remember. After all, it’s just a game.
Matt is an avid golf enthusiast and part of the TruGolf.com team. When he’s not working on his fairway shot, you will find Matt writing about his passion for the process of the game.