Looking for a way to boost your golf game without getting on the course more often than you already are? Bolstering the most important mental skills for golfers will benefit your game in surprising ways.
Golf is a mental game. Sure, you need the power to hit long drives and the gentleness to guide a putt to the pin. But ultimately, you can have all the power and precision you want, but if you aren’t mentally tough, your game will always be mediocre.
Obviously, working on your physical game is important and can’t be neglected! But if you aren’t strengthening and nurturing your mental skills, you’re missing out.
The good news is that working on your mental skills is fairly easy to do. If you choose the right skills, work on them daily, and stay consistent, you can expect your game to improve… As well as every other aspect of your life.
Top Mental Skills for Golfers
Some mental skills are more important than others for golfers. Placing emphasis on these particular skills will ensure that you get the most bang for your buck, on and off the course!
Don’t think this is some new-age weirdness. Visualization is a tried-and-true skill, especially in sports, that can make a substantial difference to your game.
In a nutshell, visualization is the practice of creating mental images in your mind of the outcome you want. For example, visualizing your golf swing. If you want to improve your form, you would visualize yourself going through your swing perfectly, everything in the right place, and moving the right way.
One of the best things about visualization is that you can do it anywhere. Well, almost anywhere – don’t try this while driving or operating heavy machinery!
But you can do this while standing in a queue, sitting in a meeting, or as you fall asleep at night. If you truly want to supercharge your visualization, check out the idea of lucid dreaming! Research suggests that it can be an excellent way to boost your skills.
How to do it: Choose a clear outcome. Do you want to improve your swing form? Putt more precisely? Get more power during drives? Choose just one for this to work effectively.
Once you have your outcome, picture yourself doing it exactly. The key here is to incorporate the senses and emotion. Smell the freshly cut grass. Feel the wind in your hair. Imagine you can feel the club in your hands. Your muscles tightening and moving.
Don’t forget to include the feeling of excitement, elation, or joy that you get when you accomplish the outcome. Make the moment as real as possible in your mind, and when you get to the course the next day, aim to do it the exact same way.
Let’s be honest – in a digital world where everything is at our fingertips, it can be tough to really focus on one thing for an extended period of time.
To be a great golfer, though, you need to cultivate the ability to focus on the task at hand and not let your mind be clouded with other things.
Small details are important in golf. The angle of your club head, which way the wind is blowing, and how much power you put into each shot. To get these things right, a deep level of focus is required.
How to practice it: Meditation is an amazing practice for learning to focus. Contrary to belief, meditation is not “emptying the mind”. Instead, it’s about extreme focus on one thing.
Try focusing on your breath and see how long you can keep focused. When distracting thoughts arise, brush them off and refocus on the breath. Alternatively, try focusing on a candle flame.
Being competitive is a very tricky thing. If you’re too competitive, you may find that the game loses its fun, or your friends no longer want to play with you because it’s all about winning! But not being competitive enough means you lose that edge that could drive you to improve your game. Finding the happy medium is key.
How to do it: A good way to get some competition going is to have an incentive to each game you play.
For example, if you lose, you buy lunch at the clubhouse. Or, the rest of the team club together to buy the winner a bottle of wine. Something that’s motivating but keeps the fun!
If you’re playing alone or on the driving range, you can still keep the competition alive. Offer yourself a reward if you beat your previous score.
This is a key skill that can change the way you play golf. How do you react when your game isn’t going well? Being adaptable is key to maintaining good luck throughout your round!
Things change in the blink of an eye. Your game plan could be thrown off course by a breeze that pops up out of nowhere. Or you just can’t seem to avoid the bunkers on a particular day.
Being adaptable means you can change your game plan when you need to. Adapt to the wind that arrives suddenly. Shift your tactics to suit what’s working and what isn’t.
How to do it: Be aware of your surroundings. When something changes and your game begins to worsen, it’s time for you to change something in response.
Staying Calm Under Pressure
This goes hand-in-hand with adaptability. While playing a casual golf round with friends isn’t the most high-pressure of situations, cultivating the ability to stay calm when you do feel the pressure is a skill that can take you from being a casual golfer to winning awards (if that’s where you want your game to go!).
Challenging yourself is a key part of improving. But challenges are not always easy. That’s the point! Pressure is a natural part of getting out of your comfort zone, trying new things, and pushing yourself to improve.
The ability to calm yourself when you start to feel the adrenaline racing is a sought-after skill.
How to do it: Pay attention to your body and recognize the signs. When your heart rate starts to increase, you begin to sweat a little, and you’re feeling nervous, take a moment to consciously control your breathing.
Breathe slowly and deeply. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which will help to lower heart rate and reduce that nervous feeling.
The most important mental skills for golfers deserve a spot in your training regime too! Working on both your mental game and your physical game will give you the best chance of success.
The great thing is that while you can’t exactly swing a club in the office or while shopping, you can work on your mental skills anywhere, any time. Get these 5 right, and you can expect your game to skyrocket!
About the Author
Jordan Fuller is a retired golfer and businessman. When he’s not improving his own game or working on his own mental toughness, he researches and writes articles for golfers on his website, Golf Influence.