While any sport has a mental aspect, golf, as a truly solo endeavor, has a powerful psychological element. Even the best golfers in the world will experience a huge shift in their performance if they allow frustration to take over their game. It's extremely important to master your emotions on the golf course. While it's not an easy thing to do, taking control of your mental game will have a dramatic effect on every aspect of your game.
You'll run into plenty of opportunities on the golf course to try for a Hail Mary shot. A reckless, aggressive shot could earn you an Eagle. It's more likely, however, to earn you a walk through the woods. If the low score is your priority, conservative play is always the smart way to go. You may get lucky once or twice taking wild shots, but playing recklessly will cost you strokes in the long run. More importantly, conservative play will improve both your mental and physical game more than taking chances will. Taking the conservative shot improves your fundamentals and keeps your mood centered — right where you want it to be.
Learn to Forget
Even the best golfers in the world screw up. They wind up in the water, in the sand, and even in the woods. One of the things that makes them the best in the world is their ability to forgive their own mistakes, rather than carrying frustration to the next hole. For the frustrated golfer, one bad swing can cost much more than a few strokes — it can ruin the rest of their game and even the rest of their day. Learning to just let go of frustration is a huge part of improving your game. Every great golfer has their own way of just letting go of a bad shot and focusing on the shot ahead. Whether you count to ten, take a deep breath, or distract yourself by chatting with a fellow golfer, it's crucial to let go of that frustration so you can get on with your game.
Focus on the Process
There's no question that pressure plays a huge role in golf. Many golfers like to add pressure during practice in an effort to teach themselves to deal with pressure on the course. They do this by setting difficult goals for themselves and practicing hard on the course during the day and a golf simulator at night until they achieve the goal. Once accomplished, they add to the difficulty of the goal. In order to reduce stress on the course, they do just the opposite. They take themselves out of the moment by not paying attention to the score and simply focusing on the shot. This focus on the process, rather than looking at the game as a whole, reduces stress and makes the goal — to make this one shot a good one — much easier to achieve.
As with just about any sport, it's important to believe in your own abilities. Picture the shot in your mind. Imagine yourself swinging the club perfectly and placing the ball exactly where you want it. Stepping up to the tee with confidence and believing in yourself, as corny as it may sound, will have a huge, positive effect on your game.
Golf is a very mental sport. Overcoming this aspect of the game will take your game to the next level. It will also make the game much more enjoyable. Just like perfecting your swing, overcoming golf's mental hurdles takes hard work and practice. In the end, however, all that hard work will pay off in every aspect of your game.
Matt is an avid golf enthusiast and part of the TruGolf.com team. When he’s not working on his fairway shot, you will find Matt writing about his passion for the process of the game.