My Golf Instructor

Mental Game Tips

Video Tips on Mental Game

What do you think is more important to having a good round - getting a feel for the speed of the greens or studying the course layout?
I've often heard it said that players should have a go-to shot for off the tee. If this the case and if so, how would you go about developing one?
I always do so much better on my front 9 than my back 9. How can I prevent myself from gaining so many strokes as my round continues?
I am distracted by my own shadow and these shots have been my worst. Is there any trick to avoid this?
Here's my question: I have what feels like a good practice swing, but when I step up to the ball I feel all tense and I can't get comfortable and when I swing it feels so unnatural. What can I do so that when I setup and make a full swing at the ball it feels as easy as the practice swing? This only happens on full swings... chips and pitches work fine.

Premium Tips

(Click on Title or Image to View Larger Photos)

  • Your Mental Routine Should Outrank Your Physical Routine

    Your mental pre shot routine is as important if not more so than your physical routine. Practice your mental routine on every shot whether you are at the practice tee or out on the course. Be sure to keep it consistent throughout your game. In other words, use your routine for driving, fairway shots, chipping and putting. Steps to include in your pre shot routine include calculating (figuring yardage, choosing club, target, etc), visualizing the shot, trying to feel the shot in your practice swing and committing to the shot.

  • Visualize Before You Swing

    Before you approach the ball visualize the trajectory and curvature of your shot. See where you want the ball to start and where you want it to end up and then connect the dots in your mind. Be sure to do this on the practice range as well as part of developing your mental pre shot routine. This is a great mental rehearsal and will keep your mind off of technical thoughts. You need to be in a relatively calm state of mind to visualize, so be sure to slow down, check your breathing and relax.

  • Don't Wait; Pull the Trigger

    Limit time over the ball. Not only does no one like slow players, but taking too much time over the ball allows your mind to become active again. This will flood your brain with too many distracting thoughts and allow doubt to creep in. After going through your mental and physical pre shot routines, set up, take a couple looks at the target and pull the trigger. Don't set your club behind the ball and just stand there. Pull the trigger.

  • Commit & Trust

    Once you are ready to pull the trigger, commit to the shot. At this point you have done everything you can and the only thing left to do is trust. If you have made your calculations for yardage, selected the appropriate club, selected the type of shot you want to hit and rehearsed it visually in your pre shot routine, you have covered all of your bases. Now it's time to let go and trust. If you start to have second thoughts or are second guessing yourself back off and start the whole process over.

  • Stay in the Present

    Always, and I mean always stay in the present. The ONLY thing that matters is the shot right in front of you. You cannot change what already happened. That is the past. You cannot control what will happen in the future right now. You can only control it when you are there. Don't drain all your energy living in the past or present. Every second you waste thinking about it you take energy and focus away from the present. This means that you are not giving the shot in front of you 100%.

  • Tension Breeds an Active Mind

    When you are tense, not only will your swing be jerky and get offline, but your thoughts will become more active. This of course causes you to have too many thoughts, causes your focus to get too wide allowing distractions and allows you to get in your own way. To combat this try slowing down. Make sure that you take long, slow deep breaths to keep your heart rate down and your breathing rate slow. Clear your mind by focusing on nothing but the shot in front of you with positive visualizations.

  • Use a Feel Thought

    When making your rehearsal swings try to get a feel thought going rather than a technical thought. Technical thoughts can get jumbled, become too many and interrupt your swing making it jerky. Having a tempo count in your head or thoughts like "oily smooth" or "heavy club" can keep technical thoughts at bay. Depending what you are working on in your swing or trying to accomplish you should be able to come up with a feel thought that applies.

  • Protect Your Mental Bubble

    A great trick for controlling your thoughts is to control what you allow into your mental bubble. Just as we all have a physical bubble where we only allow certain individuals to get that close to us, we can also have a mental bubble where we only allow certain thoughts to cross inside. Decide which thoughts are beneficial and which ones are toxic. When you are playing if a bad thought starts to creep in, mentally shove it out of your bubble, hit the delete button or even visualize yourself crumpling it up and throwing it away.

  • Set Your Mental Goals Before Your Round

    Before you play each round take a few minutes to set mental goals. We all have physical goals, such as making swing improvements, hitting more fairways, making more putts and lowering scores. It is more important however to set and make your mental goals. This could be something as easy as remembering to do your mental pre shot routine before each shot. Another example would be to visualize every shot before you hit it. Whether its visualizing, sticking with your routine, controlling your breathing, maintaining focus or staying positive, be sure to set a goal for each round and then evaluate your mental game after the round is completed.

  • Tension is the Enemy

    Tension is your enemy. Signs of tension are quick tempo, fast heartbeat, wide focus (being easily distracted) and jerky moves. It is important to be aware of the fact that swing flaws are not always necessarily flaws in your swing technique, but can come from poor mental thoughts. Check your tension level first before you go messing and experimenting with your swing. Be sure to slow your breathing and take a nice decompressing breath before you pull the club back.

Mental Game Tips from the Ask Maria Archive

Who is Maria Palozola?
- Top 50 LPGA Instructors in the World
- A Golf Digest Top 10 Teacher in Illinois
- A Golf Magazine Top Teacher in the Midwest
- More about Maria
- Golf Questions
Golf instruction made simple
Golf Overview
Overall Game
- Getting Started
- Equipment
- Golf Fitness
- Junior Golf
- Mental Game
- Practice
- Rules of Golf
Short Game
- Bunkers
- Chipping
- Pitching
- Putting
Full Swing
- Pre-Swing Fundamentals
- Shot Making
- Diagnosing Problems
- Driving
- Hybrids and Woods
- Irons
Playing Golf
Ball Striking
- Fitness (78)
- Course Management (82)
- Getting Started in Golf (75)
- Practice (66)
Course Management
- Club Selection (66)
- Equipment (107)
- Driving (68)
- Putting (127)
- Golf Rules (69)
Short Game
- Bump and Run (72)
- Chipping (82)
Ball Striking
- Chunking (79)
- Distance Control (86)
- Fat Shots (92)
- Flipping (48)
- Poor Accuracy (118)
- Slicing (48)
- Thin Shots (85)
- Topped Shots (52)
- Lack of Distance (108)
- Putting Accuracy (72)
Swing Plane
- Blocking (50)
- Inside Out (56)
- Outside In (59)
- Over the Top (49)
- Pulling (54)
- Pushing (66)
- Releasing Early (47)
The Swing
- Grip (65)
- Alignment (55)
- Balance (50)
- Ball Position (80)
- Posture (77)
- Setup (117)
Swing Plane
- Backswing (84)
- Controlling Trajectory (47)
- Divot (48)
- Downswing (67)
- Impact (103)
- On Plane (85)
- Path (84)
- Power (71)
- Shaft Plane (63)
- Swing Plane (112)
- Weight Shift (79)