Published On: Tue, Nov 9th, 2021

The Psychology of Golf and Game Improvement

Golf is a mental game as much as it is a physical one. If you want to score better and have more fun on the course, you have to learn how to master the psychological aspects of the sport. In many cases, this is what separates average golfers from scratch golfers.

Image by Gerard De Mooij from Pixabay

4 Golf Psychology Tips

Over the years, famous golfers have had some pretty good quips about the mental side of the game. Jim Flick once said, “Golf is 90 percent mental and the other 10 percent is mental, too.” The great Bobby Jones once told reporters, “Golf is a game that is played on a five-inch course – the distance between your ears.”

But there might not be any quote more descriptive of this game we love than the following one by the late, great Arnold Palmer: “Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening – and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.”

Anyone who has stepped foot on a course and played a round in their life knows how true this is. The goal is simple: hit the ball closer and closer to the flag until you eventually put it in the hole. But it’s endlessly complicated with different clubs, loft angles, body positions, movement, reads, wind factors, green speeds, etc. When everything goes right, it’s a beautiful game. When everything goes wrong, you want to throw your clubs in the nearest water hazard. But at the end of the day, it’s the greatest game on the planet.

The key to successful golfing – at least from a game improvement perspective – is to master the psychology of the game. Here are several suggestions:

  • Carry Equipment You’re Comfortable With

Golf is such a “feeling” sport. When it comes to equipment, it’s all about how it feels in your hands. It could be the most expensive driver on the market, but if it doesn’t feel right to you, it’s not going to do much for your game. It needs to work with your swing. There’s a high correlation between confidence and equipment. When an amateur golfer trusts his equipment, good things happen.

This is especially true with the putter (which is a club most people neglect to swap out or improve over time). While everyone wants to talk about the flashy brands and $1,000 putters that the PGA pros use, the average golfer needs something different. For example, you might like the putters from L.A.B. Golf, which are designed to eliminate all torque and provide far better consistency and balance. Practice with it enough and you’ll feel confident that you can drain any putt.

  • Block Out Distractions

One of the biggest keys is to block out distractions. This includes visual and audible distractions happening around you. If you need to physically place your hands around the bill of your cap when reading a green (as you’ll see many PGA golfers do), go for it! Try to focus on nothing more than the ball, the target, your swing, and your breathing. Nothing else matters.

If you find that internal distractions are the problem, you can work on eliminating these, too.

“Replacing the problem thoughts is key,” golf psychology coach John Stabler writes. “Take your mind from the problem thought to one that helps you relax, gain confidence and let go of the round between shots. A previous great round or shot can work well.”

When distractions are replaced by calm, relaxing thoughts, good things happen. It won’t always lead to a perfect shot, but the terrible shots will be fewer and farther between. 

  • Imagine Shots

There’s power in visualizing a shot before you hit it. This isn’t some kooky way of willing something to happen – it’s just a simple mindset shift. By imaging where the ball is going, your brain actually subconsciously works through the steps required to make it happen. 

  • Establish Routines

Finally, there’s power in routine. Doing the same thing before a shot helps you send a signal to the brain that you’re ready for action. It doesn’t have to be anything extreme, but it should be predictable. For some people, they approach the ball, close their eyes, imagine their shot, take a deep breath, and go. For others, they have a particular approach to practice swings. It’s less important what you do and more important that you consistently do something.

Get Your Mind Right

Is the right mental approach enough to help you break 100, 90, or 80? Absolutely not. You still need the hard, technical skills and athleticism required to put the ball where you want it. But if you already have decent golfing technique and are simply looking for a way to improve your rounds, tiny mindset shifts like these can lead to much better scores. 

Put one or two of them into action the next time you play a round and see what happens!

Author: Anna Johansson

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