Like Tin Cup, the part of the game I struggle with the most is the mental game.
Now I didn’t go through my entire bag and break every club except my 7-iron… it was my eight. I can’t hit my seven to save my life, but my eight, I am money. Just kidding though, I never broke a club in my life. Those suckers are too expensive! But I do struggle with the mental game. I hit a bad shot and I may as well get back in the cart and go to the next one.
So here are a few tips I found to not only help myself the next time I hit the links, but maybe you can use them if you struggle just like me.
Set a goal
Do not go into a round without setting a goal. It can be a simple goal like keeping your head still on every shot or reaching the green in regulation on four consecutive holes. Or if you are cheap like me, my goad is to not lose a ball. Some of those things are expensive! But seriously, go into a round with a goal in mind. If you are a low 90’s golfer, set the goal of breaking into the 80’s. It gives you something to play for and gives you a reason to improve every round. But be careful not to set unachievable goals; you want to feel a sense of accomplishment and pride after a round and if you set one too tough, you may leave your round feeling disappointed even if you had a decent round.
Stay in the present
Your mind can be your worse enemy. When playing your round, be sure to keep your mind focused on the execution and the target of your shot. The moment you let other thoughts enter your mind like how many holes are left or what your score will be if you par out, that is the moment you forget about the task at hand. That is when you start shanking shots or hitting the ball off target. If you start thinking of something other than the shot at hand, back off of it and regroup. Save the mind-wandering for between shots.
Hey man, what did you use?
You hear it all the time. The guy you are playing with or even yourself asks what the other person used on a shot of approximately the same distance. This is more common on Par 3 holes. Don’t worry about what other people used for that shot; use what you are comfortable with. If you hit a 7-iron 160 yards, but your partner uses an 8-iron, use your seven. The moment you start going with a club the other person uses is the moment you start losing your mental game. The whole time you are addressing the ball, you are thinking about if the club you selected is the right club because it wasn’t the one your partner used. Just commit to a club and have confidence in it. You will hit the ball better that way. Plus, asking anyone for club advice other than your partner is a penalty.
Water got you worried?
Sticking with the equipment theme, do you usually bring out an old ball for a shot over water with worry of losing a good one? You have already set yourself up for failure. The second you change your ball, you already have it in your mind that you are going to hit it into the water, and you probably will because that is your thought process. Stop giving into your doubt and just use the same ball you are used to playing, step up and hit a good shot. Confidence is essential to a good golf round so do not do anything that will deflate your confidence.
If you find yourself a few strokes over par heading into your final three holes, do not press trying to get back to even. Putting more pressure on yourself during a round of golf is a terrible idea. Golf is already hard enough with no pressure, but putting more pressure on yourself will likely not yield good results. That 3-over par round could turn into six over by the time you end and your once good round just turned into a lost opportunity. Just keep doing exactly what you have been doing the entire round. You got into that position that way, so why change anything? If you are losing to your partner, then that just means he or she is having a great round and you just need to applaud it.
Never stop learning
A lot of golfers hit a plateau and seem to get stuck on that handicap number for many, many years. They will have good rounds and bad rounds, but that average will stick around the game. The reason is they do not seek out ways to get better. They stick with the same swing and the same approach round after round. Never changing a thing means their scores are unlikely to change. Each round try to learn something different. It can either be about your swing, your equipment or the course you are playing. Learn anything that will help you take a stroke off your score the next time you head out. You can find a spot on the fifth green to stay away from or a spot to try to hit to that gives you the straightest putt. You can find something out about your driver that will help you have more control. You could find a ball that you have a lot of confidence in hitting even if it isn’t always the top-rated ball. Or you could read a cool golf tip in the Norwalk Reflector that helps you shave a few strokes. Whatever works for you.