In Part I of this article, we defined mental toughness and listed several qualities shared by golfers who have it. Now, let’s get to the task of improving your mental game in each of five key areas.
Confidence/trust in your swing
Obviously, confidence can’t be manufactured on the spot or summoned at will. It must be built, in this case on the driving range, the practice green and the course itself. It’s also important to build a mental file folder, if you will, of good shots and moments when you’ve risen to the occasion. They come in mighty handy when adversity rears its head.
Build confidence by practicing purposefully. Work on a specific shot (a fade, a knock-down) or swing movement (your shoulder turn, releasing the hands), and focus on this key with every swing. If you find yourself mindlessly hitting balls into the range, stop and refocus.
Random practice is another excellent way to build confidence on the range that carries over to the course.
A willingness to accept any circumstances presented
So you arrive at the course and it’s cold and drizzling. Or windy. Or the greens are slow. Perhaps your ball hits a sprinkler head on the third fairway and bounces behind a tree. Or your opponent holes a series of long putts to put you in a bind.
What’s the common denominator in all these situations? You can’t do a darn thing to change them.
Too often, we allow less-than-ideal circumstances to be our “out,” an excuse for performing below standard. Mentally tough golfers don’t ignore adversity – they embrace it. Next time you encounter an uncontrollable element or setback, take a deep breath and say to yourself, “Awesome – this will make me focus that much harder and play even better.” And mean what you say.
Control of your emotions
“You can never tell if he’s winning the tournament or about to miss the cut.” You hear a version of this practically every time professional golf is on TV. With a few noteworthy exceptions, professionals keep an even keel whether their fortunes are up or down.
To develop a consistent temperament, you must recognize the impact of your emotional highs and lows. After draining a long putt or stringing together a couple of good holes, be wary of overstimulation. Maybe you start thinking about what you might shoot, or how you’ve finally got this game figured out. Now you’re distracted, and in danger of making an unfocused swing.
On the flip side, many golfers have difficulty reigning in anger or frustration. Golf being a game of repeated failures – off-line drives, shots into hazards, missed putts – you must accept that you’ll make a number of mistakes in every round. Treat them objectively, learn your lessons and move on.
The ability to focus only on things you can control
It’s called “process vs. outcome” thinking, and it can be the most powerful weapon in a golfer’s mental bag. Click the link to learn more.
A positive attitude in all situations
Like many aspects of mental toughness, staying ever-positive is easier said than done. But that’s the whole point: Being tough means being able to overcome obstacles that derail others. In this case, the obstacles are internal.
Negative self-talk – cursing yourself over a lousy shot, belittling your own skills – is a dead end. Yes, Tiger Woods does it and still manages OK. Tiger Woods does a lot of things that defy conventional wisdom. And you’d better believe he uses every bad shot to motivate himself, positively, for the next one.
For tips on keeping your chin up on the golf course, click here.