“Ninety percent of the game is half mental.”- Yogi Berra
Yes, the above quote is about baseball, not golf, and like much of what the late great New York Yankees’ catcher said doesn’t make sense, at least not mathematically.
Truth be told, there are so many serious quotes that convey similar points about golf psychology that we at SwingTrainer.com just wanted to start with a fun one.
Now let’s look at some serious quotes. There are so many that Golf Digest magazine compiled a list:
- Arnold Palmer: "The whole secret to mastering the game of golf -- and this applies to the beginner as well as the pro -- is to cultivate a mental approach to the game that will enable you to shrug off the bad days, keep patient and know in your heart that sooner or later you will be back on top."
- Gary Player: "A strong mind is one of the key components that separates the great from the good."
- Sam Snead: "Of all the hazards, fear is the worst."
- Payne Stewart: "A bad attitude is worse than a bad swing."
You can argue that other sports are also dependent on the right mental approach and patience, but the golf mental game has always been a cut above the rest. For one thing, golfers cannot use their athleticism and physical skills to force opponents to play poorly like, for example, defensive ends can to quarterbacks or pitchers can to batters and vice-versa. In addition, patience is more of a virtue in golf. A bad shot has little impact compared to a bad pass or pitch. Football and baseball teams MUST be aggressive when they’re behind. Golfers CAN be aggressive but should NOT try to make up for a mistake they just made because they often have many chances to hit a great shot and lower their golf score while playing at a normal level of aggressiveness.
Maximizing your physical ability in golf requires being better at making smart decisions and exhibiting patience as compared to athletes in other sports. Here are nine golf mental game tips for accomplishing those goals so you can lower your score:
Golf Mental Game Tips
- Prepare For Adversity:
At the office, you’re more likely to overreact to criticism if you haven’t thought about how to respond to criticism beforehand. Similarly, thinking about how to react to a bad shot can reduce the chance that your reaction will be a tantrum, or lead to a bad mood that will just cause more bad golf swings.
- Visualize Making Good Shots:
Think of it as mental golf training. Michael Jordan supposedly said he made more basketball shots in his mind than on the court. We’re not sure if he did that in golf, but we are sure that thinking about how to play in many situations, such as when you have a bad lie, can help you play better in those situations and lower your golf score.
- Use Clubs That Are Fit To Your Game:
The golf swing is hard enough, don’t make matters worse by using golf clubs that are not matched to your size and ability. Many golfers have a favorite club in their set that they like to hit. These favorite clubs are usually ones that are best fit to your game. Imagine how much more confidence you might have if all the clubs in your set felt and worked like that favorite club.
- Maintain Pre-Swing Routine:
“I will execute my pre-shot routine on every shot,” is one of the recommendations in the Golf Digest article “Inside the Golfer’s Mind.” Changing your routine because you’re angry about your last shot can lead to another bad golf swing and bad shot. Be patient instead of rushing. Don’t take too much time because you can’t get that last shot out of your head.
- Use Swings You Trust:
This is essentially a warning to NOT swing your club more aggressively than usual unless you know that you golf well when you do that. Stick to your routine or practice different swings regularly before altering your golf swing during a round. “Avoid trying to hit a hero shot” after a previous bad shot, counsels the Golf Channel article “Play smart and patient like (Justin) Rose for your best results.”
- Take A Deep Breath:
Or do whatever you do off the course to make sure you don’t lose your temper or become depressed. The mental game of golf requires a relaxed demeanor. In the office, talking to a colleague might prevent you from yelling, on the course you can talk to a playing partner or phone a friend to lift your mood. Maybe try thinking about your next meal.
- Focus On Next Shot:
Did thinking about your low grade on a test ever help you? No, the test was history as soon as you took it, so you focused on what you needed to learn for the next test. If your second shot on the 10th hole went into a bunker, think about the bunker shot, not the pre-bunker shot. “The past is past,” is how the Golf Monthly magazine article “5 Golf Psychology Tips” puts it.
- Focus On Golf:
Unless distractions help you play better, get rid of them before you tee off. That might mean making sure you do every item on your to-do list earlier in the day or the day before. It also might mean turning off your cellphone, so a business or personal call doesn’t disrupt your game. If you’re not as relaxed and focused as possible, perhaps you should golf tomorrow instead.
- Look At The Big Picture:
If you love golf, you will keep playing for years so don’t worry about a bad round. The golf mental game is all about patience, especially after a bad round. Don’t get discouraged. Keep practicing your golf swing. Consider a golf swing training aid like the one Swing Align invented. Practice does NOT make perfect, but it helps. Practicing how to improve your mental approach to golf doesn’t mean your mental approach to golf will be perfect, but it will help.
We’ve given you nine golf mental game tips to think about before your next front nine. If you read the articles we linked to this article, you’ll have even more golf mental game tips to think about on the back nine.
And in the spirit of Yogi Berra, we will leave you with this quote by Chi Chi Rodriguez, now 83, who might have the most positive frame of mind of any golfer past or present. “Golf is the most fun you can have without taking your clothes off”.