If you are serious about lowering your handicap, you better work on your mental game. Here are nine powerful and actionable mental techniques any golfer can use.
1) A Commitment to Fun
Yes, you heard me correctly. Too many golfers lose sight of why they are playing in the first place.
You are there to enjoy yourself; embrace it!
Things can go awry when you start taking golf too seriously and focus too much on the performance aspect.
Always remember this is not your job; it is your leisure. A surprising side benefit is you'll likely play better and shoot lower scores by relieving pressure on yourself.
2) No One Gives a Sh*t
Golfers are selfish and mostly care about their own games.
We will all embarrass ourselves in front of each other.
Once you accept that and stop worrying about what others think, your game will be in a better place.
3) Stop Being a Control Freak
Golf tricks us into believing we have more control than we do.
Drawing the line between what we can control and what we can't control is transformational.
Here are my "Big 3" of what you can control
• Preparation: practice, studying a course, etc.
• Routine: exerting total control over how you approach each shot
• Your Reaction: how you process each shot, emotional and analytical responses
Here's what you *cannot* control
• Variability of technique: each day, a different golfer shows up. It's frustrating, but you have to accept it!
• The Universe: golf is played in the elements and on uneven terrain. You'll get a bad gust of wind or an "unlucky" bounce.
4) Staying in the Moment
Golf is a battle between the past and future.
We ruminate on shots that have already occurred.
We also worry about shots that haven't happened.
Introducing mindfulness and meditation techniques to your game can help fight this battle.
Though, you'll never win it.
There are ways to keep your focus on the "now" when you play.
Routine, breathing, taking a moment to soak in the experience.
5) Growing Your Grit
The word grit often gets a bad rep.
You don't always have to be grinding and white-knuckling it through your rounds to see better results.
Grit is "perseverance and passion for long-term goals."
Every golfer needs grit. The game frustrates and challenges you all the time.
Your grit is the fuel that keeps your mind focused on your long-term goals.
It helps you solve problems and remain patient rather than throwing in the towel.
6) The "Caring" Game
Golfers play their best when they can exist between the space of caring too much or not at all.
This is *very* hard to do, but you can get better.
One extreme is living and dying at the result of each shot. That's no way to enjoy the game or get better.
You can't panic or peacock your way around the course. The rollercoaster is not sustainable.
But the other end of the spectrum can be just as damaging. You are not engaged enough when you give up or don't care at all.
Finding a middle space is different for each golfer, but something worth reflecting upon.
7) Swing Thoughts
Most golfers default to thinking about their swing mechanics before, during, and after each shot.
We are trained to think about our swings at all times.
But what if there was another way?
Swing thoughts are "internal" and focused on what your body is doing.
Though not completely damaging, having only one or two can be productive.
However, many golfers can see tremendous results by focusing on "external" or "neutral" thoughts.
External could be focusing on brushing a blade of grass in front of the ball.
Neutral could be humming a song to yourself (I do this when I putt).
There are plenty more examples, but give these a try when you practice or even on the course.
It can be a total revelation!
8) A Pre-Shot Routine
Your routine before every shot is your chance to get into a "mental foxhole."
This is your little zone that you have complete control over.
It helps mitigate many of the game's mental challenges, but you have to spend time and effort building one.
It doesn't have to be long, but it should be intentional.
Your goal is to get into as much as an "autopilot" or reactive state as you approach the ball.
There are three phases...
• Analysis: examing the conditions you face (distance, lie, etc)
• Preparation: Standing behind the ball and establishing your thoughts for the shot
• Execution: Crossing an "imaginary line" and initiating your swing with commitment
Hang your hat on routine!
9) Post-Shot Routine
When the shot is over, you can take a few seconds to absorb what happened.
• Identify a good shot and internalize it
• Do a quick, objective analysis of impact and ball flight feedback if things didn't go so well.
It can be helpful if you can develop a quick system for yourself to go through this process.
The most important part...
Once the shot is over, it is OVER.
Close the door on it and move on to the next one.