How Can I Improve my Mental Game?

Improve Mental Game

Any top performer, during practice might feel prepared and relaxed, but when the competition starts he finds himself under-performing. The reason for his weak results it is his mental game, witch needs to be improved.

As a golf professional, my lessons often take place on the driving range. There, a student will rake a ball and pound it until he or she gets a satisfying result.

Unfortunately, I often hear this: “I hit great the balls on the range (especially under the watchful eye of an instructor), but when I get to the first tee, I lose my swing. Suddenly, I’m hitting balls in every direction but straight.” It is a frustrating experience. And, it happens a lot.

Bob Rotella noted that there are three fundamentals in the game of golf. “There are physical fundamentals (how to hit the ball), strategic fundamentals (how to play a golf course), and mental-emotional fundamentals (how to think under pressure.)”

The key to success is to think correctly. Bobby Knight said the mental is four times more important than the physical.

We play poorly because we place an inordinate amount of pressure on ourselves. Everything suddenly changes when you have to count every golf shot. You become conscious of every technical move. Confidence begins to wane when you need it most. There is a big difference between making perfect golf shots on the range and putting a low number on a scorecard.

Patrick Cohn noted that confidence is why we struggle. “When you perform in practice, you play freely without worry. You have no qualms about taking risks,” he said. “In competition, you feel nervous and play it safe.”

Once you decide to take a risk and it doesn’t pay off, you play more cautiously. You are afraid to make more mistakes. A mindset develops, “I always make mistakes in competition.” This notion begins to seep into your brain, and it becomes part of your mental game.

Why do you do this? It’s because you see the competition more important than practice. It is a perception problem, not necessarily your game.

When you place more emphasis on the competition, you place more pressure on yourself. Ask yourself, “how do you feel when you practice?” You feel powerful, smooth, quick, and loose. What about the competition? You tighten up, become apprehensive, and become controlled by the circumstances.

To overcome pressure you have to learn how to take your practice to the course. Sense what you are feeling on the practice range.

  • How does it change when you reach the first tee box?
  • What fears or expectations are you experiencing?
  • How can you minimize the feeling?
  • Can you approach the first tee with the same light and confident feeling you had at the driving range only minutes before?

No matter how much you practice on the driving range if your mind isn’t in the right place your swing will not work efficiently when it matters. The thoughts you let into your mind and the way you talk to yourself determines your mental potential.

Success begins foremost in your mind. Play to your strengths. Focus on what what you do best. Focus on what motivates you at practice. And, enjoy the practice. Self-talk yourself into greatness. Snap out the negativity and think positive.

The people who succeed aren’t the ones who avoid failure; they’re the ones who learn how to respond to failures with optimism. Confidence will follow optimism; it’s not the other way around. A positive attitude delivers positive outcomes.

Dr. Kevin Goddu, Ph.D.


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