Sports Psychology Tips: 10 Mental Game Tips from Leading Experts to Improve Your Golf
Golf can test your technical, physical and mental skills to the limit.
We’re approaching the back end of the golf season now, where many golfers are tearing their hair out and are frustrated at not being able to perform to the standards that they feel they should be attaining. Some golfers are even considering forgetting about golf for the rest of the season and putting their clubs in the garage. Is that you? Or maybe you’re simply a little annoyed at yourself for leaving shots out on the course?
If these statements resonate with you and you’re in need of a boost why not take heed of these 10 bits of advice from our expert guests and features from the Demystifying Mental Toughness Podcast to date.
Make your practice tough – European Tour winner, Chris Paisley
“My game in practice was brilliant but I just wasn’t the same player in tournaments. I think a lot of it was to do with, when you’re in practice, and on the range, it’s easier to focus on whatever it is you’re trying to focus on. But when you get into tournaments, all of a sudden, you’ve got a scorecard. And there’s crowds, and there’s tough holes with water and your attention starts to wander without you realising. So we came up with a plan where my practice was going to be as close as possible to tournament play. We figured out what would get me nervous during practice. So came up with the idea of doing for example, on a trackman test if I didn’t score above 90 points then I had to do punishment. So it’d be stuff like doing 20 Press ups on the range. And the thought of like me, doing press ups on the range with people around me made me pass the test. I just didn’t want to have to do that just because of the embarrassment factor.”
Ask for help to beat the yips – Sports and Clinical Psychologist, Alessia Bruno
“The yips has a serious effect on performance when golfers can’t control them, it’s a type of performance anxiety. It’s about feeling worried about your performance, and as we know anxiety can have different levels of intensity and this one can be very intense and can turn into a panic attack. Physical symptoms can occur like shortness of breath, twitches and golfers lose sight of the performance and what they need to do. They’re like a spasm, and the more I try to control it, the more rigidity it can create in the body. It can become a vicious cycle, the more you try to control it, the more your task feels difficult. It is really debilitating and a serious problem, and definitely needs to be addressed and the good news is, with patience it can be resolved.”
Build your self-awareness – Performance coach to Major Champions, Karl Morris
“This sounds like a paradox really don’t try and change anything, but just play a round of golf and merely observe your reactions, just go out there and kind of imagine that you’ve got a camera following you, and the camera is actually just going to watch the way you react all the shots and that camera is taking some footage. The very act of observing it potentially creates the mechanics for change. So it’s a really interesting one to do, years ago what I used to do is, is go out on the golf course and I’d film people playing, playing golf and I’d film the reactions and then I’d show them on a screen afterwards, this is this you know this is what you’re behaving like on the golf course. And they’d look at it and stroke the chin and so yeah, I’m not normally like that, you know, because it’s, it’s kind of like the reactions that we have on the course become so embedded and so natural and normal that they become habitual patterns so that we don’t even know that we’re doing it. You know, and if you said to me. Well, why do you get angry? My response would be that they get angry because they get angry. They get good at getting angry that they are triggered to respond to in a certain way to what a golf ball does, and you just get very good at the anger response, but that is first port of call and as I say it sounds a bit of a paradox or a strange one but just promise yourself that you’re going to go, and you’re going to note for 18 holes. Your, your reactions, how do you react to the chaos that the game throws at you.”
Practice efficiently – European Tour coach, Andy Paisley
“Your practice should promote good technique yes but it’s should also promote confidence resilience and optimism that you can go out and play well. That I know my golf swing or my putting stroke technique won’t let me down. I think 10-20 years ago, if you worked hard enough and you hit enough balls, you would have a swing that could do the right things all the time but now things have changed.”
Gaining a vision is powerful – Sports Psychologist to many PGA tour and major winners, Gio Valiante
“After I meet with the individual I stand alone, I close my eyes and I try to get a very clear picture in my mind of what it could look like if we get this person tuned up the way they need to be tuned up and what that looks like.As somebody who’s in the business of behavioural change how you define a person, really matters you know what you think you’re looking at and so whenever someone calls me or reaches out to me, I always get a clear picture in my mind how good this guy can be. I then set about trying to create that or co create that with them, the best version of themselves, you know with an accurate self view that was aspirational free from baggage psychologically. They’re free having let go of the past so they’re, they’re not carrying the weight of the past around with them. They’re fearless, right, making sure that they’re being fearless without being reckless and you start stacking these mental habits one on top of another. And you start seeing a physical transformation and then a transformation in their game – that’s my process that I use.”
A thought is just a thought – Sports Psychologist to many highly motivated and talented golfers, David Charlton
“If you’ve got a growth mindset, you’re going to be thinking about what you can control what you’re good at or what you can do. You’re going to be feeling positive images and positive thoughts. One other thing though, it’s really important to be aware, the best athletes in the world do sometimes fall into traps too, as Karl Morris alluded to when he talked about Graeme McDowell in Episode 13 of Demystifying Mental Toughness. When Graham was playing in the Scottish Open, which he went on to win. It went through his head that he might top the ball, though Graham was very quick to recognise it for what it was, recognise that it was just a thought, that his Billy (inner self talk) had taken over, it was just a thought so brushed it off, and he moved on. So to re-emphasise go for the growth mindset. Look to master the task. If you notice you’re worrying about what other people think, tell your Billy to shut up and move on. If you notice, you’ve been criticised you’ve been triggered. And you didn’t like what someone had to say. Again, notice what your Billy is trying to tell you, make sense of that and go on to learn from that experience.”
Commit yourself to working hard – European Tour Coach, Andrew Nicholson
There are always exceptions to this rule. I’m gonna call this a snowman, but it’s actually like a snowman that’s sits on top of another snowman. So in essence, it’s like it’s a head and then it goes narrow and then it comes out very wide. and becomes narrow and comes out wide again. I think that the wide bits in essence are time spent. And, you know we need to log a lot of hours. But then I think that when the pupil is logging those 1000s of hours we start to teach them how to structure their time and energy. As it gets narrower, time is probably the most valuable commodity. I like to call it efficient training. When my pupils walk through the door you want there mentality to build the big fat bit of the snowman, build first and you know just go out and love building it. Then you basically just want to keep adding to it and then streamline their understanding. Take a 13 year old moving into being a 14 year old, they get some idea of how to structure themselves. But then you want them then to take that structure and then stretch it again. Then you want them to add to it and you want them to then start the next bit of the snowman again on top of it again and put loads of hours into it. With a stricter, better process. So it then starts again, and again.
Learn to challenge yourself in practice – Sports Psychologist to many tour professional golfers, David Charlton
“Let’s think about the goal of training, it could be argued that training is there to challenge you. It’s there so that you really push yourself so that when you compete, the pressure is something that you’re used to, because when you challenge yourself, it can really prepare you to be at your very best. When you are competing, top athletes, they tend to push themselves, so much that when they do compete it actually feels easier physically and mentally. For argument’s sake, take the marathon runner, a marathon is 26 miles right, they might do training at a much higher intensity at times, as well as actually running 30 miles or an excess of 30 miles, so that they’re really strong towards the finish. How do you challenge yourself when you practice your golf?
Perfection doesn’t exist, be willing to grind – JJ Vallely, England Golf Regional Coach
“On the golf course, mental toughness would be somebody who is in control of their thoughts, who never gives in and can keep their composure when things aren’t going to plan. Tiger would be the epitome of somebody who’s very mentally tough, I don’t know if he’s ever walk off a golf course and not given it 100%, which is something that not many people can say, he will grind it out. And then off the golf course, it’s somebody who doesn’t beat themselves up too badly after a tough day and can get perspective quite quickly on things. Jordan Speith would be the epitome of that in this day and age, you know, I find him phenomenal he’s got a brilliant brain. You walk off the golf course after a tough day. Emotions are running high and the guy comes out with just unbelievable things, in perspective, which I think, wow, where do you develop that from, it’s talent in itself. The toughest competitors no doubt are the ones who don’t beat themselves up too badly and they’re always going to get the most out og whatever game they’ve got on a given day. The problem id you’re not going to have your A game that often, so you’ve got to be willing to accept, and then be willing to grind it out and put a score together.”
Trust yourself to be instinctive – Leading putting coach, Andy Gorman
“I think the important thing to understand is that when putting, we need to use the body, the way it’s designed to move, if we’re going to be efficient. We then need to try and become instinctive. This is to recognise what are the natural requirements of your body, and we will find that putter. Putters need to be longer rather than shorter, you need to stand up more into a position where you feel like you’re more athletic. And that actually can cure putting ailments, challenges, and severity of the yips in a fairly straightforward way.
If you’ve enjoyed reading these tips, why not read some of our golfing blogs set up to help you too.
Or if you’d like to chat with me about support for your mental game so that you finish the season strongly I’m offering many sessions currently across the globe via video conferencing software (zoom, facetime, whatsapp) to a host of talented golfers.
“I first started working with David Charlton a few months ago. I have been playing golf for 30 years, although really enjoying it for the last 10 years, to a stage where I didn’t really play a lot anymore.
I did have some limited experience of sports psychology and decided I wanted to use this for my golf.
I contacted David and immediately he seemed to ‘get me’. I am quite a driven person with high expectations of myself, David’s calmness and analytical, considered approach were exactly what I needed. David has given me some simple tips during our sessions which have massively helped my golf this year. In fact I have achieved more in 2019 in terms of success than I have done combined in the last 10 years! I see the sessions with David as very much a work in progress I am keen to learn more and progress further.
Personally as a golfer I think if you can have a better control of your emotions and also manage expectations then it must make you a better player/competitor. The most important thing David has helped me with alongside the technical coaching I have been receiving is that I am now enjoying my golf again.” – Dave Lee, 6 Handicap
“David has been a big help to me as a professional golfer from offering his expertise in sports performance and psychology or just his advice in day to day situations. I’ve enjoyed the work we’ve done in building different techniques to help me in my practice and tournaments such as visualisation and learning to stay in the moment. From working with David I’ve learnt more about myself as a person and how I work, I’ve also built more of a focus in my practice and day to day training from the tests we’ve created and data we’ve gathered over the last year that has led to more confidence and better performances.” Thomas Rowland – Professional Golfer
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Global Sports Psychologist located near Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK and willing to travel Internationally.
Managing Director – Inspiring Sporting Excellence and Founder of The Sports Psychology Hub. With over 10 years experience supporting athletes, coaches, parents and teams to achieve their goals, quickly.
T: +44 7734 697769
Life Lessons from a World Champion Boxer Billy Schwer is a former British, Commonwealth, European and World Professional Boxing Champion who is now a personal performance coach and professional speaker. He has acquired 10 years experience in the study of Ontology, the study of the art and science of being as well as over 20
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