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IMGCA Article - The Mental Game of Golf


Golf Is All In Your Mind

Martin Shea

Anybody who plays golf will tell you it's mind over matter more than any other sport.

Although just about all sports carry a psychologist on board these days, it is golf with 90% of its pros using head doctors that make it the #1 mental game. Arnie's Army use this often repeated Palmerism: "The toughest 6 inches in the game of golf is between a player's ears."

Having said that, learning to concentrate is one of the easiest and fastest ways to lower your golf score.

Concentration is something that most golfers take for granted. They think it comes with practice. Well, it is just the opposite. Practice and confidence take away from your concentration. Many overlook this important part of the mental game. To compensate they buy the latest gadgets, take golf lessons, or practice more to be more successful. But it is no substitute.

Picture the result that you want and you can achieve it! If you can visualize it, you can do it. That is the same as saying, if your concentration is on the shot, you will make the shot. Contrariwise, if you make shots without concentrating, then your ball most likely goes where you don't want it to go!

That is why is it so important to take your time to focus when you swing. If you are distracted or tired, then forget it, take a break. It is very hard to focus when you feel tired. There is an old sports aphorism that holds true probably for the same reason. When you get tired, that's when the mistakes come. So take a break, and regain your focus and figure out what you need to concentrate on.

Practice focusing by visualizing on items around you. Try with a chair or a lamp next to you. Look at the lamp, now shut your eyes and try to visualize the lamp in your mind. If your mind starts to wander, bring it back to the lamp. This will help you to learn how to focus more efficiently.

It's not as easy as it sounds. It may take some practice to become efficient at focusing. As you improve try to hold the item you are focusing, for instance the lamp, for longer periods of time. If you can visualize it for 5 minutes or longer, you are on your way to greatly increasing your concentration.

Anticipate your next shot when you are playing. Between holes, allow yourself and your mind to relax and visualize yourself making the shot effortlessly. The reason for this is if you are relaxed your subconscious more readily accepts information and an added bonus is that you conserve energy and not so prone to fatigue.

Don't go crazy when you make a bad shot. First of all, you know that mistakes are part of the game; your job is to cut down on them. Secondly, if you do, then it will be hard to rein your emotions back and they might cause a blow out. Try to stay relaxed and focused on your game, rather than riding the roller coaster of emotions.

One last trick to use when you feel yourself getting angry, breath deeply and think of the visual picture of the shot in your mind but this time visualize yourself making it. If you need a break to regain your emotions, that's understandable, take it. If that doesn't work, minimize the situation to get a proper perspective. Say to yourself, that's only one mistake in a series of several fine shots.

And then what? Of course, concentrate on the next shot. If you learn to focus, then you will have a big percentage of golf mastered along with yourself.

Marty Shea is a freelance writer and avid golfer who lives in San Jose, CA. For more information contact

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