Do You Overthink When You Compete?

Golf Psychology Tips: Do You Overthink When You Compete?

Overthinking or paralysis by analysis is one of the most common mental errors in golf

During your round of golf, do you often find yourself looking back thinking “why did I do that?”  Or mulling over “what if I hadn’t done…” And then you get into fix mode and try lots of different things to try and help yourself.

Golf can certainly be one frustrating sport!!

On closer inspection, having had 1000s of conversations with golfers about this topic, I believe this is a serious mental error that they make that can go on to cost golfers anywhere between one shot per round for some and over 10+ strokes for others!

Overthinking is the biggest and most common mental error golfers make

During these conversations with golfers, I find that despite golfers recognising overthinking is a mental error only a small percentage consider doing something about changing their mental game, motivated players who want to improve fall into the trap of simply blaming their golf swing or equipment.  And the less motivated golfer, is happy to accept mediocrity.

This gets me on onto one particular point now.  When you are competing in a club competition or a professional tournament when you get embroiled in the blame game – what is the first thing you look to judge?

I’d say it is nearly always your swing or technique, it’s what we’re taught on TV or from golf magazines.

We’ve all had those moments, some more than others when we’re walking up the fairway trying to workout why the ball went right or left or why we hit it heavy… 

What happens for you?

Golfers who over think when they’re competing find it really difficult to get into a nice rhythm and flow. 

With every drive, approach, pitch or putt, you’re always evaluating if it was good or bad.  Whether you did the right thing…… When you make a mistake, which all golfers do, even the best, you’re on your own case, criticising yourself and your ability to play the game. 

Is this sounding familiar?

I’d encourage you to take note – over-thinking, can lead to paralysis by analysis where you judge your own and other golfers every shot and move.  It’s a great way to wreck your card and enjoyment of the game. 

Drill Time

I’d like you to experiment with this putting exercise:  

  1. Take 5 putts on the practice green or at home from 4 foot, going through a full pre-shot routine each and every time.  Whilst giving yourself detailed instructions as you are attempting the putts.  Eg. I must stand behind the ball and check the line, now I must go to the side and behind the hole and double check the line I’ve picked is ok.  When I take my practice strokes I must rock my shoulders back and through, whilst taking the putter back 4 inches.  Now as I stand over the ball, I must align correctly by feet, my body.  My eyes must be over the ball. I will look at the target.  I must putt my left hand on the putter first….. and so on.

There’s a good chance if you do this exercise, you’ll be worn out and most definitely not putt the ball to the hole effortlessly, which let’s face it should be your objective.

When you compete the best mindset to have is the clear, decisive one where you just let things happen automatically and you don’t interfere with your skills – in other words “a trust mindset” certainly not a “training mindset.”

Many golfers will never make steps forward with their game and improve as they’d like too, simply because they cannot get out of their own way and always play in a “training mindset.”

My job as a Sports Psychologist is to help you get out of your head, keep it simple, relax and trust yourself regardless of the situation.  Allowing your body to do what it needs to, so that you can get the ball in the hole in the least amount of shots possible.

3 Tips to Help You Build a Trust Mindset

1. Look to quieten your mind and simply allow your skills to shine and come out.  

You’ll find this podcast that I recorded with Karl Morris, Performance Coach to several Major winners useful where we discuss different ways to stay present 

2. Try the don’t give a S##T approach!  I’m not talking about being sloppy and not caring when I mention those words.  I mean allow yourself to free wheel, not care about the outcome and go for it.  If and when you do go on to make mistakes see them as learning experiences rather than big problems.  

I wonder how many times when you’ve started poorly and then you almost give up but all of a sudden fall into the mode of playing without fear – this is a great approach to have.  

3. Understand what you love about the great game of golf, what you really enjoy about it.  Become almost child-like, having fun with the game, being creative, trying things.  Enjoying the banter with your playing partners.  It certainly beats spending your time in your own head between shots.   

This article may also interest you that I’ve out together.

Or you may also be interested in downloading THE FOCUSED ATHLETE CHECKLIST which highlights a range of excellent processes that athletes and golfers can follow in order to integrate mental skills training into their daily routines and habits.  By doing so, it will allow you to see where there are gaps and how and where you can improve to ensure that you get closer to reaching your goals.

Best Wishes 

David Charlton

Online Golf Performance Psychologist who supports many golfers around the world from the USA, United Kingdom, Ireland, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Australian and New Zealand, using ONLINE Video Conferencing.    

Managing Director – Inspiring Sporting Excellence, Host of Demystifying Mental Toughness Podcast and Founder of The Sports Psychology Hub.  With over a decades’ experience supporting athletes, coaches, parents and teams to achieve their goals, faster.    

T: +44 7734 697769

E: [email protected]

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