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IMGCA Article - The Mental Game of Golf


The Mental Game of Golf: Losing Your Cool Destroys Your Game

Daniel J McNally

It happens all the time, no matter if you're new to golf or you're a seasoned pro, the mental game of golf can get the best of us. When you get in your own head and play mental golf, you're adrenaline starts to pump, focus is lost, muscles tenses up and then comes the miss hit. If you can't learn to shake off a golf shot that didn't go the way we planned and you dwell in your mind playing mental golf, the snowball effect is bound to happen, causing a downward spiral for the rest of your game.

A day after my wife had purchased me a shiny new set of golf clubs for Christmas, my brother Chris and I decided to go play a round of golf at one of our favorite courses, Hawk's Landing in lake Buena Vista, FL. When my wife and I went to find this new set of irons, driver and fairway woods, I was looking to upgrade to a set of clubs that were a bit more high performance than my old set, giving me an edge on my game. That day I was sadly mistaken.

The first few holes on the front nine that day I played fair, probably around my usual, with a few rough miss hits. When we made it to the tenth hole I began to really play terribly. At the tee box on the eleventh I was so in my own head I didn't even address the ball correctly and due to the ball being too far back in my stance, I thinned the ball, driving right into the water. I then went berserk and after taking the drop I hit my next long iron shot fat. It took 6 strokes on that hole just to make it to the green, in turn letting me add a fabulous +12 to my scorecard. The fun doesn't stop there, on the 15th hole I hit my drive short(due to ANOTHER miss hit), setting me up for a nice long fairway wood shot to the green. So I take more normal setup, this time trying to do so patiently. I take my back swing and due to all the tense muscles in my upper extremities from a previous 5 holes from hell, I came down very steep, hitting fat and sending mud, soil and grass spraying through the winter air. This was finally the breaking point--I was three minuets shy of being Baker Acted and sent to my local psych ward--I launch my 3 wood through the air like a javelin. As I stared in befuddlement at my insane behavior, the golf club moved in slow motion toward the golf cart. It struck the golf cart like a cruise missile hitting its target and the club split clean in half down the middle of the shaft. I spent the next 3 holes trying to figure out how I was going to explain this to my wife. (Surprisingly the store I purchased it from let me return it and exchanged for another fairway wood).

I suppose the moral of the story is that the mental game of golf is a killer! If you can't keep your cool under pressure then you're in store for a disappointing round of golf. Although, since my crazy antics this past January, I've learned a few easy techniques to help center myself and to calm down my mind. One technique that I've been using regularly is just taking a few deep breaths during my pre-shot routine. You'd be surprised how a couple of breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth can trigger the parasympathetic nervous system causing the body to relax. Another technique I use is keeping your mouth slightly open with your tongue on the roof of your mouth. I learned this from Golf Digest, your face has 5 universal muscles and while relaxing them with an open mouth, can help trigger a relaxed upper body. The last technique that I use is actually an ancient eastern technique, I chant a mantra. Chanting a mantra keeps your mind one pointed and focused like a laser beam on the task at hand.

At the end of the day, my day of golf was just thrown off by a new set of clubs I wasn't use to. So calm down and win the game of mental golf, because it can save you a lot of heartache and strokes.

Daniel McNally, Author of Diary of a Newbie Golfer - A blog that documents the trials and tribulations of those new to golf. Visit our blog and submit your golf tales and I will publish it for the world to read.
Diary of a Newbie Golfer

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