It's the same for every big game in any sport: Before the kickoff, tipoff or first pitch, analysts tell us that Team A appears intense and focused, while Team B is loose and relaxed. Afterward, the winning team is credited with being appropriately focused/relaxed while the losers are faulted for being too intense/loose.

In other words, the right attitude is whichever one works.

Some teams – and individuals – perform best when they approach a task with keen intensity, while others thrive by sidestepping the pressure and keeping things lighthearted.

You'll play your best golf when your mindset is balanced between focus and relaxation – “in the zone,” as they say. You may not even realize you're in it, and if you do recognize it, you may have no idea how it materialized.

So how do you find your ideal on-course frame of mind? Tricky question. For starters, think about the everyday situations in which you thrive, and those in which you struggle. For example, when facing a deadline, do you perform above and beyond your normal capabilities, or do you get nervous and have trouble focusing? Do you work best on simple tasks with little or no pressure, or do you require higher stakes to get the juices flowing?

It's likely that your on-course performance will mirror your non-golf efforts.

After a round, assess your performance. Was it exceptional, above-average, just average or awful? Next, consider your mood before the round. Were you relaxed? Excited about playing? Distracted by personal matters, like work or family issues?

What about during the round: Did your mood change while you were playing? Did you get angry or agitated by a bad shot? Elated by a birdie? Maybe you started feeling pressure near day's end. Analyze how you played after these changes occurred.

Eventually, you'll begin to recognize a pattern. Your best rounds – and even your best stretches within rounds -- will happen under certain conditions; same for your off days. Once you've picked up on a theme, try to create the proper circumstances before you play next.

For instance, let's say you tend to score well when you're amped up about playing. Maybe you visualize every shot beforehand, or get in a full practice session ahead of your tee time. Make those things a habit in the future.

If you play poorly when you get too psyched up, try a more laid-back approach. Play by feel rather than over-analyzing every shot.

The better you become at golf's technical side – the swing, the putting stroke, club selection – the more important the mental side becomes. Learning your own tendencies is key to achieving optimal performance.

Mental Side of Golf – Find On-Course Mood That Works Best for You

Mental Side of Golf – Find On-Course Mood That Works Best for You

If you do any reading at all on the topic of golf instruction, you already know that the mental game is a huge part of the challenge you face on the links. Golf is a challenging game physically, of course, but it might be even tougher between the ears. You have to think clearly on the course, making one good decision after the next. Not only do you have to make good choices, but you have to remain confident even while playing such a difficult game. Most amateur golfers think they are held back by swing flaws, but it is usually mental mistakes that are the bigger hurdle.

In this article, we are going to talk about the mental side of golf. More specifically, we are going to talk about how you can find an on-course mood that allows you to perform at the highest possible level. This is an important topic in the game of golf, and yet it is one which you may not have considered previously. When you think about the mental game, you probably think only about course management tactics, like when you should hit your driver, and which targets you should pick for approach shots. Those are key items, of course, but your overall mood and attitude on the links is going to play a role in your performance as well.

It is necessary to find the right mood for your golf game because you are going to be on the course for a significant amount of time. When playing an 18-hole round, you'll usually be on the course for more than four hours. That is a long time under any circumstances, but it can feel particularly long if you aren't in the right frame of mind. By finding yourself in a mindset that is comfortable and natural, you should be better able to focus on the task at hand.

We need to make it clear right from the start of this article that there is no one 'right' mood to use while playing golf. That's why we are talking about finding the mood that 'works best for you'. Each golfer is a unique individual, with his or her own way of thinking about the game, and the world in general. You need to tailor your mindset to your own personality if you are going to have the kind of success you are capable of achieving on the course. Without further delay, let's get started!

Benefits of a Strong Mental Game

Benefits of a Strong Mental Game

Before talking about options for your on-course mood, let's take a moment to discuss what you should be trying to achieve with your mental game. How can you improve your chances of shooting low scores through being in the right frame of mind? The list of points below should help you understand just how important your mood is to your overall performance.

  • Allowing you to focus on the task at hand. Distraction is a major problem in the game of golf. If you aren't focused while trying to play a shot, that shot has very little chance of success. Unfortunately, many amateur golfers struggle mightily to remain focused for the duration of an 18-hole round of golf. When you aren't in the right frame of mind, it will be almost impossible to keep your mind on the things that are going to lead to positive results. Instead, you will be easily distracted by things going on around you, or even other thoughts in your own head. You are simply never going to reach your potential as a golfer under you are able to focus on each and every shot. Professional golfers know just how important it is to focus on each shot, and you should take this lesson to heart, as well.
  • Controlling your temper all day long. Golf is a frustrating game – that isn't exactly breaking news. However, if you allow the normal frustrations of the game to cause you to lose your temper, you will be fighting an uphill battle in terms of shooting a good score. Ideally, you will be able to keep yourself on an even keel all day long, letting go of your frustrations and simply focusing on the next shot. You are sure to hit bad shots from time to time – that is just part of this difficult game. The players who can stay calm and think positively are those who will come out on top at the end of the day.
  • Making patient decisions. This point goes along with the previous point on controlling your temper. When you have a positive mindset on the course, you will be much more likely to make patient, rather than rash, decisions. Let's walk through an example to highlight this point. Imagine that you have just finished making a triple bogey on a relatively easy hole. You hit your tee shot out of bounds, managed to make it up onto the green with a bogey putt, but then three-putted for a triple. Needless to say, you are annoyed with yourself, and frustrated that you made a mess out of such an easy hole. When you walk to the next tee, what do you do? If you have lost your temper, you'll likely take out your driver and swing as hard as possible. This might feel good in the moment, but it is only going to further your problems. Instead of taking out your frustrations on your driver, set your anger to the side and make a patient decision. That means hitting a controlled tee shot with the right club for the circumstances. It takes maturity and a great mindset to make these kinds of solid decisions shortly after making a mistake.
  • Having more fun. Plain and simple, you are going to have more fun in this game if you are able to put yourself in the right mood for each round. Your mood generally determines how much fun you have in life in general, so it only makes sense that this concept applies on the golf course, as well. And, since this is a game, there is no sense in playing golf unless you are going to have fun with it. Many golfers think that you have to be very serious if you are going to play well, but that simply isn't the case. Dedicate yourself to having fun first and foremost on the links – you'll probably find that you play better, and you will enjoy each round to the fullest.

You will be surprised to find how much your golf game can improve when you learn how to control your mood. The game is going to seem easier when you are thinking clearly, and as mentioned above, it will be more enjoyable as well. Any way you look at it, finding the right on-course mood for your golf game is an important step to take.

Some Options

Some Options

In the introduction, we mentioned that there is no one 'right' mood for a golfer to use. You are your own individual, and the mood that works best for you is going to be different than what works for another player. With that said, there are some common profiles we can use to help get you on the right track. Listed below are a few mood 'options' to consider when trying to find the right state of mind on the golf course. Most likely, your ideal mental state will be a blend of two or more of these options.

  • All business. The first mood we are going to discuss is a business-like approach to the game of golf. The golfer who thinks this way is one who is dedicated to playing well above all else. Rather than seeing a round of golf as a social activity, this player wants to post a low score every time out – the other parts of the game are secondary. During a round, this kind of golfer keeps conversation to a minimum, preferring to focus on the details of each shot, one shot at a time. Most of the time, the golfer who benefits from this kind of thinking is an accomplished player who knows his or her way around the course. If you are a beginner, it is not a good idea to force yourself into this kind of on-course mood. Instead, take a more casual approach to the game, and work your way toward this mindset as your game improves.
  • Keep it light. This type of mood is the complete opposite of our first idea. Here, we find a golfer who is all about having fun on the course. This golfer might care about their score, but it certainly doesn't show in their actions. There will be plenty of jokes, lots of conversation which has nothing to do with golf, and probably a few good-natured jabs at the other players in the group. It is debatable whether or not this type of on-course attitude will lead to good results on the scorecard, but this is a person who is usually popular at the course. Everyone wants to play with this golfer, as a good time is nearly assured. When you get started in golf, it is a good idea to take your mood in this general direction. You'll have a lot of fun when you keep things light, and fun should be the name of the game – especially at first.
  • In and out. Of the three types of moods described in our list, this is likely the one to lead to the best possible results. In this frame of mind, you are going to come in and out of focus on your game, depending on what is happening on the course. For instance, you will do your best to focus deeply when getting ready to hit a shot, while socializing when waiting for the group in front to get out of the way. One of the main benefits of going with this mindset is the fact that it may help to keep your brain sharp all round long. It is hard to focus on any one task for more than four hours, but that is exactly what you'll need to do if you play golf in a serious mood. By coming in and out of focus, you can rest your mind for periods of time, keeping it fresh when you need it most. It does take some experience to learn how to golf this way, but you'll likely find that this option leads to your best performances in the long run.

It might go without saying, but the best mood for you on the course is the one that leads to low scores. Some players naturally perform better when they take the game seriously, while others thrive while focusing on having fun above all else. Feel free to experiment by approaching the game in different ways until you find something that fits.