Case Study – Supporting a Professional Golfer Go Really Low

Sports Psychology Tips: Case Study – Supporting a Professional Golfer Go Really Low

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Many golfers can become uncomfortable when they look set for a good finish or score

The Client:

A 24 year old talented professional golfer based in Northern England who had played golf since he was 9 years old. 

The Challenge:

The client had a disrupted season due to an injured wrist caused by over-practicing as he had a love for hitting balls on the range.  He’d been back playing for 2 months when I received a call.  He was a little frustrated with his form when he had performed in PGA events and on different professional tours.  He felt that he was practicing very well and was performing in his words “okay” in events however he was struggling to turn 71’s into 69’s or 68’s into 64’s.   

The Objectives:

  • To support the golfer so that he didn’t get too far ahead of himself.
  • Help him understand how to reflect and learn from his mistakes.
  • Change the story in his head about going very low.
  • Help him build on fast starts and continue the positive momentum.  
  • Help him trust his skills and play fearlessly no matter what shot or situation he faced. 

The Process:

We met 5 times over a 2-month period, in total for 10 hours.  The sessions included face to face on course and short game work, zoom strategy sessions, zoom sessions whilst he was on the range, short game area and putting green.   

The sessions included:

  • A detailed needs analysis where we discussed his golf and sporting background, what his week looked like, his golfing goals, his lifestyle, his support system and mental game challenges.  
  • A discussion with his coach and caddy.
  • Pre-shot routine drilling in practice.
  • On course analysis of his pre-shot routine and decision making process. 
  • Visualisation and golf hypnosis exercises to help him overcome his fears.
  • Mindfulness and grounding exercises to help him stay present in the moment.
  • Analysis and refinement of the narrative he was telling himself.
  • We also used process goals during his practice and for 8 rounds that he played in different tournaments.  The process goals changed during the course of the sessions as you’ll see in these diagrams. 

On Course Process Goals

Process Goal 

Round 1

Round 2

Round 3

Round 4

Remaining present by practicing mindfulness and grounding exercises

 

 

 

 

Hole 1

Y

Y

Y

Y

Hole 2

Y

Y

N

Y

Hole 3

Y

Y

Y

Y

Hole 4

Y

Y

N

Y

Hole 5

N

Y

Y

Y

Hole 6

Y

Y

Y

N

Hole 7

N

Y

Y

Y

Hole 8

Y

Y

Y

Y

Hole 9

Y

N

Y

Y

Hole 10

Y

N

Y

Y

Hole 11

N

N

Y

N

Hole 12

Y

Y

N

Y

Hole 13

N

Y

Y

Y

Hole 14

N

N

Y

Y

Hole 15

Y

Y

Y

Y

Hole 16

Y

Y

Y

Y

Hole 17

N

Y

N

Y

Hole 18

N

Y

Y

Y

Total

11

14

14

16

++ Note on some occasions he was unable to practice the grounding or mindfulness exercises because the opportunity didn’t present itself.  He distracted himself by talking to his caddy or playing partners.

Process Goal 

Round 5

Round 6

Round 7

Round 8

Trusted process / preshot routine on all shots on the hole (Y/N)

 

 

 

 

Hole 1

N

Y

Y

Y

Hole 2

N

Y

Y

Y

Hole 3

Y

Y

N

Y

Hole 4

N

Y

Y

Y

Hole 5

Y

N

Y

Y

Hole 6

Y

N

Y

Y

Hole 7

N

Y

N

Y

Hole 8

N

N

Y

Y

Hole 9

Y

Y

Y

N

Hole 10

Y

Y

Y

Y

Hole 11

N

Y

N

Y

Hole 12

N

Y

N

Y

Hole 13

N

N

Y

Y

Hole 14

Y

Y

Y

Y

Hole 15

N

Y

Y

Y

Hole 16

N

N

Y

Y

Hole 17

Y

Y

Y

Y

Hole 18

Y

Y

Y

Y

Total

8

13

14

17

Example of process goals and how he used them in practice.

Process Goal 

Short Putt Test

Short Putt Test

Short Putt Test

Distance Putting Test

Trusted process / preshot routine on putts during skills challenge (Y/N)

 

 

 

 

Putt 1

Y

Y

Y

Y

Putt 2

Y

Y

Y

Y

Putt 3

Y

Y

Y

Y

Putt 4

N

Y

Y

Y

Putt 5

Y

Y

Y

Y

Putt 6

Y

Y

Y

Y

Putt 7

Y

N

Y

Y

Putt 8

N

Y

Y

Y

Putt 9

Y

Y

Y

Y

Total

7

8

9

9

  

The Outcomes:

  • Gradually over time the client got more comfortable being mindful.  Taking in the surroundings, placing his attention in his body and performing the grounding exercises / mini stretches.  
  • He was very clear now what his performance routines should look like before events so that he was more relaxed.
  • He found the visualisation exercises that we developed very helpful and they became a fixture in how he practiced given his injury and concerns over practicing too much.  
  • His pre shot routine was simplified, faster yet more precise.

The Conclusion

  • The professional golfer went on to shoot 63 and a 64 during the time we worked together which meant he won 2 tournaments. 
  • His bad rounds were also improved.  
  • He felt that his rounds had become easier mentally, he was no longer drained after longer events.
  • He was able to concentrate better for longer periods.
  • He was enjoying his golf more.
  • He was a better person to live with off the golf course. 

If you enjoyed reading this case study and would like to learn more about how I could help you and your golf career why not get in touch or sign up to the Mental Edge for regular tips and advice.

Or if you found this article helpful, please share it with your friends, team-mates, parents or coaches.  You can also join our online community – THE SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY HUB – for regular Sports Psychology tips, podcasts, motivation and support.

Best Wishes 

David Charlton

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

E: [email protected]

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