Simple Tips For Mental Toughness In Golf
Guest Post by Mental Coach Wade Pearse
What is mental toughness to you? Is it picturing Tiger Woods demolishing his opponents on Sunday of a tournament? There may be an overall mental toughness in golf yet there are many instances where you relate to this term differntly. It can be when a tournament or bet is on the line and you’re able to stay focused and grind out a win. That, of course, is mentally tough.
It might be there are numerous distractions in your group, which could cause you to lose focus but you control your attention and this is definitely a form of mental toughness. Perhaps you are a fast player, generally, and the group you’re in is painfully slow. Being able to maintain your inner state and commit to your game displays mental toughness as well.
There are many situiations in the game where mental toughness is an obvious asset. Take a look at Julie Inkster on the LPGA. Now there’s a lady who is mentally tough. I terms of age she is, by all typical measuring sticks, past her prime. Yet she has the tenacity of a pit bull. She is able to get the best of herself at the times when it matters most.
What areas of the game do you feel you could use more mental toughness? Think of one now. We all have some areas that can use some attention. I consider myself mentally tough in many areas yet there is one area I am currently working on improving: auditory distractions. Simply put, noises sure seem to cause my attention to wander. Steady noises are easy to deal with yet the sudden ones have caused a loss of focus for me.
Just because I’m a coach of the inner game doesn’t mean I’ve mastered all areas. I am human and very honest in my self appraisal. I suggest you do the same. By identifying key areas where you tend to lose focus, or get lost in negative self talk, you can use mental imagery to design new behaviors. New attitudes which empower you instead of get making you feel defeated inside.
I define mental toughness as the inner resolve and commitment to doing your absolute best on each shot, regardless of what is happening around you or how well you’re playing. You might be leading in a match, bet or tournament and you stay in each shot and in the moment. Not getting too far ahead of yourself. Staying present and in your game and each shot.
One of my favourite stats (I keep personal stats on multiple areas of my game and teach players to do the same) is the bounce back. This means after you have a poor hole, like a bogie, you follow that up with a birdie. This is excellent mental toughness in my opinion. When you learn certain inner skills like managing your state this becomes effortless.
You need to look at situations when you play that cause poor performance. Make a mental note of this. Then the next time you play make a clear effort after a similar experience to make your very next shot the most important one all day. So if you just hit a ball O.B. and you have to re-tee, step up to your shot with a renewed focus and do your absolute best to birdie that ball. Hey, making a bogie on a hole that you blasted a ball O.B. on feels like a birdie, doesn’t it?
If you play match play at all you’ll know there are many times this will actually get you a halve on the hole or even win it if your opponent gets a little too relaxed after you hit a ball O.B.! In tournament play or even a $5 dollar bet, never give in until the last putt is in
on the last hole. You never know what can happen.
Stay Mentally Tough and Your Good Shots Will Come
I do one on one coaching on the golf course with players and as we make our way around the course we’ll talk about their game. Many players have the tendency to let the game get away from them when they aren’t hitting the ball well. Or when they aren’t scoring as they had hoped. To me this is a critical moment in a round of golf.
Let’s say you’re a 12 handicap and as of the 13 hole you’re already 12 over. Ok, you’re at your cap already. So mentally you surrender to the course and feel a bit beaten. You give up. This habit is toxic to your game. If you stay in your game, regardless of your score, you’ll build a killer instinct, which will appear in your game when you really need it. Like when you’re on pace to shoot your personal low score.
I was with a client recently and noticed him giving up. His physiology was changing and I could see his routine was speeding up. I said casually, “You never know when a hole in one will come. Hey, you might hole a 2nd shot on a par 4 or drain a forty foot birdie on the next hole.”
We continued and when finished the round I reminded him he went 2 under over the last 5 holes for an 83. He played the last 5 holes like a scratch golfer! Imagine when he learns to start his golf rounds this way…
It is a fact that you truly DO NOT know when your miracle shot will come or which round will be your personal best. I’m currently playing to a 4 handicap (gets a stroke worse at season’s end here in Canada) and the first time I ever broke par over 18 holes was when I was 3 over par for the first 5 holes. I was basically at my handicap already.
It would have been easy to say, “today isn’t my day. Gee, I’m 3 over already and only allowed one more bogie for the next 13 holes in order to play to my handicap.” I went 4 under for the rest of that day to shoot 71. My first sub-par round.
The point should be clear: stay in the game no matter what is happening. If you end up shooting well over your cap, so what. What is important is the habit you’re dveloping. Mental toughness is a habit that pays you over and over again and will win more matches and bets for you than almost any other mental discipline.
Make the simple effort of building this new habit into your game. Your overall satisfaction will rise and your scores will go down. Guaranteed.
If you’re looking for a mental program to improve your golf game, I strongly recommend Wade Pearse’s Mental Golf Program.