Golf Mindset – Inside the Golfer’s Head
The game of golf is both simple and complex. Theoretically, all you need to play well is good competence and a healthy dose of confidence.
Skills are important for sure. A bad swing will not produce a good shot... so technique & practice are essential if you want to improve your game. That said, I believe many people underestimate the other aspect of golf, confidence. And while this does increase alongside your physical capabilities, it’s also very much related to mindset.
If your mind is not functioning well when you play golf, you'll be highly unlikely to play a great game. No matter how skilled you become or how long you practice your swing, if your head is not in the game, your scorecard will suffer.
In this blog, I talk about the importance of mindset in golf and how you can improve yours, sharing 3 simple concepts you can use to ensure you get yourself into the right frame of mind… before you even pick up the club.
#1. Focus on your game - not your score
In each of us, there is a drive to win. It’s stronger in some than others. As kids, when we play sports, we are encouraged to be competitive, to be the best. And while that’s not a bad thing (a little competition is healthy) if you’re only focused on the outcome (eg winning), you may be missing the most important thing. The joy of playing.
In golf, as in life, too much attention on the destination can actually detract from the journey. We get so caught up in the end game that we miss the moments that matter along the way.
Think about it, if you’re only playing to win (whether that means beating your opponents or your own best scores) how will you feel if you don’t?
Angry? Annoyed? Frustrated? Replaying and regretting every bad drive or putt? You could end up with all these negative emotions which are actually the opposite of why you wanted to play in the first place.
On the other hand, when you play for the love of the game, you appreciate everything much more. When shots don’t land where you want or the ball misses the mark on the green, you’re still smiling because you enjoyed making the swing. You were present in the moment, not using it as a means to get to the end.
In this way, each and every game can be your best game. Even if you don’t get the scores you hoped for.
#2 Embrace the challenges & the mistakes
Golf is an unpredictable game. There may be sudden gusts of wind, imperfections on the turf and unexpected bounces. Your shots will go astray and no matter how hard you try, you will never be perfect.
There will always be room for improvement.
One thing to remember is that while you may not have complete control over the golf ball, you can always control your attitude. Be proud of your good shots but also be aware that how to react to your mistakes and external influences is equally as important.
If you can’t accept that golf is a game of mistakes, then perhaps golf is not the game for you!
Through our mistakes we learn and grow. We may get a little worse before we get better. We may miss easy shots, this happens to everyone. But with each challenge you overcome, your confidence increases. Your love of the game grows.
You’ve heard the expression “life begins at the end of your comfort zone”, right? Well the same can be said for golf. Each time you end in the bunker or miss a shot on the green, you have an opportunity to get out and try again. Accept your mistakes and you’ll find you automatically start to play better each time.
#3 Play each shot in your mind first
“Everything is created twice. First in the mind & then in reality” - Robin S Sharma.
The concept of all things being created twice is not new. Popularised by Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the premise is that every single thing in existence today was once created in someone’s head first. That we have to “begin with the end in mind.”
This applies on the golf course too. Using imagination and visualisation we can all play a better game and unlock our true potential.
When you visualise the target, it’s like a laser beam linking the mind to where you want the ball to go. It becomes a very powerful way to cut through the distractions and potential hazards. You don’t see the woods or the water, nothing else exists but the target.
Many of the world’s greatest golfers use this technique - they imagine their ball going exactly where they want it to BEFORE they take the shot. Nick Faldo once famously said “Visualisation is the most powerful thing we have”. Who am I to argue with that?
While this may sound a bit like spiritual, new age stuff, there is an actual science behind it. The subconscious mind (which controls movement) doesn’t know the difference between a real shot and an imagined one. When you visualise a shot, the muscles are actually stimulated - a concept known by sports psychologists as Functional Equivalence. Through this visualisation, the brain uses specific neural pathways to send impulses to the muscles, in effect firing them up to play the shot, not once but twice. Firstly in your head, then in real life.
So there you are, 3 powerful concepts you can use to improve your golf mindset and your game. Will they work every time? Not likely.
But with consistent application, these can give you some truly amazing results. Try them next time you’re out there, you might be surprised at what happens