Golf Psychology Tips: Can You Be Guilty Of Being Too Judgemental On The Golf Course?

Golf Psychology Tips Can you be guilty of being too judgemental on the golf course

Golf Psychology Tips: Can You Be Guilty Of Being Too Judgemental On The Golf Course?

Many golfers get caught up playing the blame game when competing

A high percentage of golfers get caught up in judging themselves, their golf swing, their performances, their score, other people or situations.  And does this help them shoot the lowest score possible on the day – NO!

When considering how and when we form judgements some golfers do this more than others and often without realising, it becomes habitual.

Here are 5 examples of common judgements golfers make

  1. Judging other people – “did you see what Jack did on the 13th hole, he decided to try and hit a 5 iron around the trees and ended up with a 7.  It was a crazy decision, will he ever learn?”
  2. Judging ourselves, “I can’t believe I made that stupid mistake, knocking a 6 footer 3 foot past and missing the return, it was stupid, I’m rubbish.”
  3. Judging a situation, “Not this shot again, last week I hit it left out of bounds.  It’s such a tough shot with that wind coming off the right.” 
  4. Judging another situation, “I always seem to start a round slowly, I’ve got to make sure I don’t make a silly mistake and drop shots early next week at Wentworth.”
  5. Judging your golf swing, the golf swing takes a huge beating from many golfers, often unfairly!  After hitting a duck hook off the tee. “My swing is crap, I took it back inside, I should have turned my shoulders more, I need to go to the range later and fix the problem.”

These are perfectly natural things to do as a human being, it is the way our brains are wired however by forming these types of judgements and following them up with critical labelling, it can be detrimental to our performances and our mental health.

How do I stop forming judgements that interfere with my golf performance?

You can learn from meditation. When meditating, it is recommended that you go in with the judgement from the outset that your mind is fundamentally healthy and balanced; innately, that your mind has strength, that it can be flexible, it can offer love, it can be empathetic, kind and caring. 

For those who do meditate or have meditated in the past, you’ll know that when you are new to the practice, you are distracted, stressed or tired that your mind can wander more frequently.  You’ll also be aware that it is easy to then make judgements that I cannot meditate, I am hopeless at meditating.  People who are skilled at meditation however are very good at recognising these thoughts or judgements and are aware that any thoughts that they have are not permanent, that they change frequently.   A helpful way to view such thoughts or any thoughts for that matter when you meditate, is like watching clouds in the sky drift and move, get bigger and small, break up and disappear.

Approaching meditation and golf with confidence, throwing away past experiences or future expectations and going with the attitude that your mind, body and technique is in a good place is the way forward for successful performances and optimal mental health.

Let’s consider you are in a pressurised situation on the golf course, say you are taking a crucial 5 foot putt to win a tournament.  However, you missed a short putt on the previous hole.  It would be very easy to approach this situation, from a place of dread saying things like, “I need to calm down”, “let’s get this over with quickly”, “I hope I don’t do what I did on the 17th” or “I’m rubbish putting under pressure.” A mind that is used to meditation would look at this very differently, with a clear perspective, forming no judgements about whether  you are a good or bad putter under pressure, whether you feel nervous or worried.  It would go with a healthy mindset, with an openness to experience whatever is thrown at it.

When playing golf, by thinking that your mind is normal and healthy you are unlikely to get sucked into a negative state of mind, and allow your thoughts to create tension, doubt and uncertainty which can then result in a negative momentum shift, and missed putts or  bogey’s on your card!

Focus on NOW

Right now, if you were reading this article standing on the 10th tee box it is a fact that RIGHT NOW you cannot play the next 9 holes.  You can only go on to approach the next shot.  So whether you are 3 under or 3 over on the 10th tee, avoid the overly negative or confident approach.  Take it for what it is.  A moment in time when you can go with the “healthy mind” approach.  That you can be ready when you take that next shot, much like young birds getting ready to fly for the first time.  Genetically, the bird is predisposed to flying, you could take that approach to your next shot.  That your body is designed to move the golf ball.

Meditators have known for centuries that our minds are pliable and can be neutral.  It has 2 basic modes that it operates in and receives experiences which go on to impact on how we feel.  

1.The external world

This is our outside environment, which we can take in through our senses.  Through what we see, what we touch, what we taste, what we smell and what we hear.   Those feelings then get absorbed into the mind.

2. Our internal world

This is our view of what we think is happening to us, this can come from the outside world however the important part is “what we think is happening”, this is mental consciousness.

As our body does, without any direction, our mind absorbs things that occur in the environment.  For example, if when playing a match against a cocky and mouthy  opponent, whatever was communicated is absorbed.  If they are personal and the golfer experiences them as painful, he or she is likely to respond aggressively.  Yet, if your mind is flexible, it is possible to feel sorry for the other person, to ignore them or respond back in a kind manner.  Perhaps telling them that they are welcome with a wink! 😉

On the other side if your opponent tries to get into your head and tells you how great you are or how impressed they are at your technique.  This information too is absorbed.  If you like what they say you may smile and say “thank you”.  On the other hand, you may feel a sense of paranoia or feel scared because you know they are up to mind games and dirty tricks.  These would be elements coming from outside. 

Examples, of our internal world and habits that we absorb include when we are playing well.  I’ll go with the golfer who plays a remarkable first 8 holes with birdies galore however is so caught up that they don’t mark their card.  He or she may be striding down the fairways oblivious to their score simply waiting for the next opportunity to get the ball close to the pin.  

Why? They may have been so immersed in the task in hand and in a flow state, absorbed by what they are trying to do.  Perhaps excited to get the opportunity to get another birdie.  Or the opposite, can happen, when marking their card after the 9th hole, their awareness is brought to the score and they may experience a sense of dread and worry that the only way is downhill on the back nine.  In these cases, the external environment had little to do with how you felt, your experience was dictated by the thoughts generated by your mind.

I hope you can now see the power of your thoughts, the power of specific thoughts and how powerful it is to be non-judgmental and reduce the number of your thoughts. 

In a nutshell, meditation is about being clearly aware of the power of your mind.  Being aware of what your mind experiences and how you go on to feel.  Additionally, the power of your thoughts and being able to observe how engaged and disengaged your mind can get is a part of meditation. 

Why would you meditate?

Almost every golfer has to negotiate the challenge of walking between shots wondering what he or she is capable of producing, and how he or she will execute the shot.  We’re often too quick or too distracted or we worry about the OB on the left or right!  When the end result falls short of our potential, it often starts from somewhere between our ears.

In contrast think about the time you mindlessly hit shot after shot on the range and they disappear into the distance with a lovely strike off the clubface; or when you hole, a conceded putt from a distance without even trying.  It’s because you “weren’t thinking” that it may or may not work out well.

Meditation can make a big difference when you think about golf in this way. 

So I’d encourage you to be open to trying meditation the benefits are huge where you can:

  1. Improve your focus.
  2. Get better at staying in the moment.
  3. Reduce negative emotions.
  4. Improve your imagination and creativity.
  5. Increase your patience and tolerance in different situations.
  6. See things from different perspectives.
  7. Manage pressure better.

If you’d like some support to add meditation into your daily routines and integrate into your golf game please do get in touch, it’s an area we are very familiar with and find fascinating.

If you enjoyed this video and want to see more of David’s golf specific video’s, podcasts and blogs click here:

To help you express yourself or create space feel free to join our online community – THE SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY HUB – for regular Sports Psychology tips, podcasts, motivation and support.

David Charlton Sports Psychologist

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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