Category Archives: Mental Training

Is Your Mental Game Unstable or Rock Solid?

There are 3 distinct factors that determine the strength of your mental game and your ability to play solid, consistent golf.

 

1. Attitude. Attitude is everything. Golf is a tough game. If you let your attitude get bad, it’s just a matter of time before your round unravels AND you become an unpopular playing partner because you’re bringing everyone else down. If you can keep a good attitude, good things seem to happen eventually, or at the very least you’ll be better able to cope when bad things happen.fruisen dec 17 nz golf article final2. Belief. Your belief in yourself and how you think the game should be played are also a huge factor in your ability to score consistently. Do you have belief in your skills? Do you believe in taking risks or are you more comfortable playing the safe shot? All play a huge part in how the round will play out.

 

3. Circumstances. These change constantly during the round. Example: You have to hit from under a tree, it starts raining, you go through a rough stretch, you get a bad break, your playing partner is a tool. The list of these irritants is endless. Changing circumstances can affect the decisions you make.

 

Mentally-weak golfers are controlled by the one thing they can’t control – their circumstances. Playing golf this way is a lot like being in a casino. You can never predict the outcome from day to day. You will find you will play your best golf when you don’t allow circumstances to determine your decisions, actions and attitude. This will eliminate the rollercoaster effect out of your round. The graphic shows that if circumstances are your foundation, golf is an unstable and volatile game. If your attitude or belief waver in the slightest, then everything falls apart.

A mentally-strong golfer’s foundation is based on the things that he or she can control – Attitude and Belief. Circumstances have little affect on their attitude and belief, so they make better decisions. They can cope with whatever comes knowing that, in the end, they will succeed. It’s like investing, rather than gambling. The mentally strong golfer is disciplined and has a strategy. This allows a golfer to have a high degree of self-belief and a good attitude, even if things aren’t going well.

And, when you play golf, you’re sort of signing up for some degree of misery. Also, remember it happens to everyone. So, if that is the case, why get chewed up over what is inevitable. Adapt and overcome. It’s really your only choice.

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Commandment #6: Love the Fat!

After decades of coaching I have noticed that almost all golfers, regardless of skill level, make the same silly mistakes over and over again. Many of these mistakes are not swing related. Most result from a lack of awareness of course design, or a failure to play the odds.

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Long ago when I was a university coach I began listing the most common mistakes I saw golfers make on the course. I created 11 rules—known as “The Commandments”—to help my team eliminate common mental mistakes that cost them valuable strokes. Each Commandment was our do’s and don’ts list. We knew if we did not break one of these Commandments in competition that we would be successful. Following The Commandments gave our team a definite competitive advantage and had an immediate and lasting impact on our success year after year. In future articles I’ll discuss other Commandments. This month, I give you Commandment #6: Love the fat! In other words, aim for the widest part of the green. The area where the pin usually isn’t. The rationale: If most of the time you aim for the middle of the green, you will avoid short-siding yourself in bunkers, ponds and grassy areas. You will see your scores drop– dramatically and consistently. I know that aiming for the widest part of the green seems simple, but it takes discipline. Another added benefits of adopting this philosophy is that it will increase the odds of your ending up on the green by as much as 200-400%–- odds you should like! Because you’re hitting to a much bigger area! It allows you to post a good score, even when you’re less than perfect. Your rounds will have less stress and be more fun.

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Here’s a story from when I was a collegiate coach to illustrate the impact of this Commandment. One year my team was fortunate enough to qualify for a prestigious tournament called the Gordin Classic. Only the top 13 teams from the previous year’s NCAA National Championships are invited to play. That year we had an advantage: one of my golfers, Clint Colbert was the #1 golfer in NCAA Division III.

The tournament was a 54 hole event. The first day, the field played 36 holes. In the first round, Clint fired an effortless 7 under par, 65. AND he had to assess himself a stroke penalty because his ball moved on the green after he addressed it! Between rounds he revealed to me that he forgot to pick up his pin sheet. While collecting his scorecard from round one, I asked him if he wanted the pin sheet for the second round. I’ll never forget his response. In his Oklahoma twang he said, “Nah, I’ll just keep hitting the center of the green. I figure I can’t miss everything (putts)!” We both laughed.

Clint went on to shoot 69 in the 2nd round, and had a 7-shot lead on the field after the first day. Remember, this was the best field in the nation on a tough course. He went on to win the tournament easily. His 36-hole and 54-hole score are still a record for that tournament to this day.

A version of this article also appears in the February 2018 issue of New Zealand Golf Magazine.