Its Mind over Matter in Golf
A game more mental than golf? Ha! I don't think so. I would venture to guess I'm not going to get an argument there from anyone who has played the game or attempted it even if just for a day. The mental challenge the game of golf poses is what really gives it it's mystique. As you look back in history tale after tale has been told of the lone hero who held it all together under pressure for 4-5 hours to come out on top...the sole champion of the field. The pressure can come from competitors, the gallery, extreme weather or even a physical injury, but the pressure that's unsurpassed by all in golf comes from within.
The most difficult player I had to compete against was myself - Jack Nicklaus
Many people considered Jack to be the best mind in the game. He often said his ability to control his mind, compartmentalize and turn things on and off focusing on what was most important was his strength.
It's Just You and Your Ball
Develop a Solid Mental Game
Sure there are other individual sports that some would argue are as intense as golf. Sports like tennis where you are playing as an individual are largely dependant on what your opponent does. In other words, you are reacting to the action that they put on the ball. Other individual sports like running, cycling and swimming are intense action sports where you don't stop moving long enough and are under such intense exertion that you don't really have time to stop and think. Not so in golf however. It's just you and your ball and you have way too much time to think. It would be wise to follow the words of Crash Davis in Bull Durham "Don't think. It only hurts the ball club!"
While thinking about course strategy, club selection and your game plan is a good thing, thinking about technique, end results, your score or what you did wrong on the previous shot is detrimental. Just like in life, worrying about what happened in the past or what may happen in the future, only drains your energy and prevents you from putting 100% into the shot at hand. Learning to control your mind means learning to control your game and in a much more peaceful way than the grinding that the typical golfer puts themself through.
"Golf is a game that is played on a 5-inch course... the distance between your ears." - Bobby Jones
Most golfers are surprised to learn that improving their mental game takes as much practice and time as improving their physical game. You simply cannot just change your way of thinking and mental game habits overnight. Just like changing your swing technique, it is a matter of getting into new routines and catching yourself before you slip back into your old ways. Awareness is the first key in my opinion. Once you are aware of your bad mental habits you can start to change them. If you don't realize that it is your mind that is causing the problem, you will continue with your poor thinking habits and probably put undue pressure on your physical game. A good solid mental game assessment should be your first step.
Maria Palozola is a member of the LPGA and has participated in multiple LPGA Tour events. She has provided instruction to thousands of students in the past 20+ years and has won multiple teaching awards from the LPGA, Golf Digest, and Golf Magazine including being ranked as one of the top 50 female instructors in the world.