Like many sports, golf isn’t just about the physical aspect. There’s the mental aspect too, when you have to think about strategies and tactics to win. And then there’s also the psychological and emotional aspect, as well.
Most people will tell you to keep calm and to focus on what you’re doing. It’s not always easy. It’s hard to keep calm when you’re mucking your shots. It’s hard to focus on what you’re doing when you obsess about your bad decisions, or when you’re worried about your next shot.
But it’s doable. You can develop your Iceman persona that’s ideal for golf. To help you out, check out some of the psych tips that various professional golfers have doled out through the years.
Focus on the Shot You’re Taking
Remember Yoda’s words when talking to Luke about Anakin?
- “All his life has he looked away. To the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was, hmm? What he was doing!”
So, don’t think about some problematic hole you’ll encounter later on. Forget about your past mistakes when hitting shots.
And obviously, don’t even think about what’s going on with the outside world. Forget about what’s happening at work, at home, or on the news. You’re on a golf course, which basically means you’re on a world on your own.
Have a Pre-Shot Routine
If you’ve ever seen a basketball player take a free throw, you might notice that they have a routine they go through before taking the free throw. Perhaps they might dribble the ball a certain number of times. They may take a few deep breaths, before they shoot.
You may want to develop your own routine before taking a shot. Maybe you always check your grip first. Perhaps you take a practice swing or two. Maintaining a routine is relaxing, which is why it works.
It’s also great to include some type of breathing exercise into your routine. One basic SOP is to breathe deeply through your nose to fill your lungs. Then exhale through your mouth. Do this maybe 2 or 3 times before you take a shot. It really helps in calming down jittery nerves.
Take It Seriously
Just because golf is just a game doesn’t mean you can goof off every time. Golf, like any sport, is only worth your time and effort (and money) if you actually take it seriously.
That means when you’re actually playing, you should take each shot seriously. It doesn’t matter if it’s a “friendly” round of golf. It doesn’t matter if your allowed mulligans.
In fact, you need this mindset even if you’re practicing on the driving range or on the greens. You need the accountability, so that you can learn from your mistakes.
Keep Realistic Expectations
Some people watch professionals play on TV and think that this is an easy game to play. There are even some people who excelled at golf video games, and somehow think they’d be able to birdie each hole as well when they play in real life.
For most of us, the reality hits us very quickly once we actually start playing the game. But as we improve and get better, it’s sometimes difficult to differentiate between wishful thinking and hard reality.
When you make plans with your shots with a particular club, you need to factor in your average distance with that club. You don’t make plans with your best ever distance in mind. So, if you average about 170 yards with your 3-wood, then don’t plan on getting a distance of 220 yards with it, just because you did once before.
Take Note of How You Talk to Yourself
Do you actually notice that you berate yourself too hard whenever you miss a shot? That doesn’t really help. What helps is that you give yourself a break. Try to encourage yourself and not be too hard on yourself.
The trick to talking to yourself is that you talk as if you’re talking to a friend. When your friend mishits a shot, do you call him a “freakin’ idiot”? Of course not. Even you know that’s not helpful at all!
In the end, golf is still just a game. It’s not quite emergency surgery or patrolling in some sandy country as part of the Marine Corp. Golf (in general) don’t have lives on the line.
Don’t worry so much. Take a deep breath, and enjoy the golf course. Your local golf course may not be as picture perfect as Augusta National or Cypress Point, but it must be a prettier place than much of the city or town you’re from. Keep these tips in mind, keep practicing, and things will invariably get better.