The worn out cliche, “Golf is 90% Mental” is accepted without thought by most of us and repeated over and over. Yet based on our market study, most golfers are not working on their mental games at all. Our study found that among the avid golfing public, only 15% were doing anything on their mental game.
If the game is 90% mental, then 85% of the general public is blowing it big time. What a great opportunity to raise your game and give yourself a competitive advantage.
Do you need to work on your mental game? Some players are “Naturals” for golf. They are better suited by personality to think better and play better than the rest of us. This is what we discovered with our studies of the Tour players on the LPGA, PGA, and Champions Tours. The frequent winners on Tour are different from the other Tour players, and us, in 8 personality traits. They think different because they are different. A very small percentage of all golfers are “Naturals”. The rest of us suffer frustration and inconsistency because we do not think like they do. When you work effectively on your mental game, you are moving closer to these “Naturals” and your play will improve along with your satisfaction.
Symptoms of Poor Mental Golf Skills
Wondering how to know if you need mental game coaching for golf? If any of these symptoms sound like you, then you could be suffering from a poor mental game.
Your score is a lot higher in competition than practice or fun rounds
This is one of the classic symptoms of poor mental golf. You have worked hard on your game. Everyone says what a great swing you have. Your practice rounds go well. Your score is typically _______ in practice and fun rounds but in competition it is 10 shots higher or more. You are trying hard. You are motivated to play well for lots of good reasons but your swing or putting is just not working. Sometimes old swing flaws show up. This is not logical. This should not be because you have followed all the experts recommendations and you are working so hard to make good swings and good strokes. So frustrating, but it can be fixed.
You Start Your Competitive Rounds Poorly
You always seem to mess up the first few holes until you settle down. Often the damage is done early and has a big impact on your score or potential score. If you could just start better everything would be better. This comes from poor preparation before the round and lack of good mental skills to manage your thoughts and level of arousal on the course.
Your Performance is Inconsistent
Shot to shot, round to round, within a round. This is true for most golfers. If you don’t have an effective mental routine you are guaranteed to be inconsistent. If you are score-focused and outcome-focused you are guaranteed to be inconsistent. There are so many possible sources of inconsistency, mostly mental, that most golfers are inconsistent. “Digging it out of the dirt” does not work quickly or at all. And the problem is not your swing. Instead, your swing will vary because of your mental errors. If you can identify and fix the mental errors, your swing will work.
You Experience Your Emotions A Lot On the Course
This is another of the most common symptoms of poor mental golf games. Your emotions are triggered by your thoughts. When you feel your emotions your body is releasing chemicals that change your body and reduce your physical skills for golf. Big emotion means lots of chemicals and much worse performance until the chemicals are used up. This can last for several shots and holes. Learning what your trigger thoughts are and learning how to control them is part of a good mental game. Just stuffing your emotions or hiding them does not work. The chemicals are still having their bad effects.
Your Play is Getting Worse
If your play is getting worse, it’s usually because of bad coaching, wrong thinking, and poor mental skills. Your natural instincts are to respond to a miss with emotions and motivate yourself to do it better on the next shot. If you then focus on your swing keys and get more careful and deliberate on the next shot, you will likely hit it poorly too. These experiences build on themselves and pretty soon create anxiety about the next shot which hurts your ability to play it and continues the process of increasing tension. This can happen in any part of your game, and eventually results in conditioned responses known as the Yips. You need to take effective steps to stop this slide. Just practicing this skill more is not enough. Getting your mental game in order is key, as a good mental game will help you get the most out of your game and improve faster.
You Are Stuck at Some Level of Performance
You always shoot around _____ (fill in the blank). You have not improved in a long time. This is a good indicator that you are not working on the right things in practice, and don’t have the mental game to make improvements translate to the course. If you’re simply not practicing or trying to improve, that is a different story. But if you are trying to get better and are not seeing results, you need to consider what you are doing, how you are practicing, and how much work you’re putting into your mental game. Remember, this game is “90% mental”.
Your Tempo Gets Fast
This could be on the first tee or it could be anytime in the round. Increased tempo usually has to do with anxiety and concern with how you will play or how you are playing (not good). Sometimes it can be because of excitement or aggression. Good thought control methods will fix this along with some good abdominal breathing. Your overall perspective and attitude about playing golf may need to change.
You Putt Poorly
Putting is the simplest physical part of your game, yet many putt poorly. This is because putting has everything to do with your mental game. A good mental game has you focused on the right things and creates confidence and great feel for the putt. Aiming carefully, lining everything up exactly, thinking about your stroke and controlling it, and super concern with making it and your score are all examples of poor mental for putting. Then when you putt poorly it hurts your confidence and may put pressure on your approach shots because you think you need to hit it closer because you are putting so poorly. This leads to further problems with your approach shots.
You Lose Focus Over Some Shots
Do you ever get over your shot and have other thoughts come into your mind that have nothing to do with the shot? Are you easily distracted over the ball? Does it get worse as the round progresses? Does it happen at odd times? This has everything to do with a poor mental game. Many golfers are trying to focus intensely on the round and each shot the whole time they are on the course. This takes too much mental energy and isn’t a sustainable strategy. Research shows that you can only focus intensely for 90 minutes before your mind needs a break and will take one. Higher anxiety and arousal will widen your focus and make you more easily distracted. A good mental routine will help you focus intensely on this shot. When the shot is over you need to open your focus and relax, think about other things, not the round between shots.
Golf is Not Fun for You
This is the ultimate symptom of a poor mental game. Remember: this is a game. We are supposed to have fun playing. It is outdoors and in beautiful surroundings. You are getting a break from your regular routines. You may be playing with good friends. There is a lot to like. But if you are frustrated and beating yourself up, there is a problem. I am not recommending accepting any level of performance and score. I am saying that if you are fighting it and hating it, then your mental game is very poor. A good mental game will help you control the things you can control and let go of the outcomes. When you effectively control your thoughts and emotions, your focus and reactions, you will build confidence and perform much better more consistently.
If You Have These Symptoms, You Need a Mental Game Coach
If any or all of these symptoms sound like you, then you need to work on your mental game and mental skills to play your best golf and to develop your game faster.
Nobody in golf has a better track record teaching the mental game. Nobody else in golf has the research and Tour experience we do. General coaching will have limited effects. Customized coaching based on your personality and experience will give you the mental skills you need to play your best golf.
We’re ready when you are!
Our Mental Game Builder Package has the assessments and online tools we like to use with our clients. It may be all you need because it gives you customized coaching. Here is the link to that page with details. The first step we take with every new client. For further instruction, check out our weekend golf schools, the perfect way to master your mental game in a single weekend.