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 Techniques for Improving Focus and Confidence

The Mental Game of Golf: Techniques for Improving Focus and Confidence

More than two million acres of American land play host to the game of golf. Golf courses make up some of the largest playing fields of any sport, and covering all that land takes focus and drive. The mental game of golf requires endurance and a positive attitude.

How do people keep their heads in the game? Does golf psychology have an impact on the final scores of games? Does keeping your cool under pressure matter as much as more tangible skills like putting or chipping the ball?

If you feel like you need the answers to these questions to take your golf game to the next level, keep reading. We'll tell you all about how people take their mental game to new heights.

Why Is the Mental Game of Golf So Essential?

Golf attracts people of all ages and genders, and these traits correlate much less to performance than they do in other sports. Consider the case of Jack Nicklaus, a golfer who remained one of the sport's greatest well into his 40s and dominated the senior tour afterward. Focus and drive can bring an older or weaker golfer ahead of the pack.

Golf demands creativity. Every golfer has 14 clubs, but golfers contend with more potential shots than stars in the sky. Sorting out the billions of options and choosing the right shot for the moment demands a lot from a golfer.

The sport also presents a lot of opportunities for things to go wrong, and no opportunity to blame anyone but oneself. With all the resources out there on topics like how to select a golf ball or play in the rain, golfers have to see themselves as responsible for the results of their play. If you put a ball into a water hazard, you know who put it there.

All of this adds up to make golf a game that demands golfers think through every shot. It also makes it easy for golfers to get into a spiral of regret or self-blame at poor performance, which can lead to a single missed shot to dealing catastrophic damage to the final golf outcome.

Exist in the Moment

Golfers need to let each shot exist as a separate moment. Planning allows a golfer to set goals, but once a golfer tees up a shot, the golfer should focus only on execution.

Golf psychology requires you to avoid thinking about your putt during your opening drive. While you anticipate that you will putt the ball later, you need to focus only on that drive.

The putt exists in an undefined future and might never come up. Your drive could go closer to the green than anticipated and you could follow it up with a lucky chip that sinks the ball in two shots. All that thinking about putting gets wasted.

You do need to have a long-term game plan, but once you have it, each shot in that plan needs to exist as its own moment.

Accept Problems

Related to the previous concern but more difficult for many golf players to learn is accepting problems as they come. We've already talked about things going better than expected, but what about when they go worse than you imagined?

Say that drive comes up 20 yards short and puts you in a sand trap. A beginning golfer will get frustrated or start dwelling on what went wrong. Those who don't save that kind of thinking for the drive home will find each step of the game afterward harder.

Simple mindfulness techniques can help maintain confidence in golf. Tell yourself, "Okay, I'm in the bunker. I'll get out and figure out my next steps from there."

Even if you lose a stroke as a result of the initial misplay, you need the fortitude and clarity to shake it off. If you don't, you'll lose more strokes to frustration than you ever will to a sand trap.

Stop Thinking About Golf

Both of the previous suggestions work best when you think about golf as little as possible between shots. If you send yourself in an endless loop of planning or self-recrimination between shots, your golf game focus suffers when you step up to take a swing. Those long walks or golf cart drives need to put your focus anywhere but golf.

When you do reach your ball and get ready to take your next shot, your head will enter the game more completely. Segregating the time spent on your shot from the rest of the experience will make it easier to treat each shot as a separate moment and in turn tighten your focus.

Talk to Your Friends

If you golf with other golfers, you might benefit from spending the time between shots talking to them. You don't have to have deep conversations. Taking the time to put your focus on how your friends' kids are doing or where they're going on vacation can clear your mind.

Appreciate the Course

Golf courses offer natural beauty. Take the time to look at the length of the grass or the way the leaves on the trees sway. Think about the effort it takes to keep the course looking beautiful.

Just Breathe

Even if focusing on one's breathing to clear thoughts feels cliche, it earned that position by helping a lot of athletes. Manual breathing can help shift focus.

If you've had a bad shot, take a moment to close your eyes or fix your gaze on a point away from the course. Breathe in for a count of four, hold it for a count of seven, and exhale for a count of eight. Do this until you've pushed out all distractions.

This technique, sometimes called 4-7-8 breathing, helps master emotions and reduce anxiety on and off the course. Don't knock it until you've tried it.

Working the Muscles in Your Head

The mental game of golf offers a lot of rewards for those who feel like they've reached a plateau in the physical game. Developing better focus and control over emotions can make the game easier and more fun.

Nothing beats practice to improve all elements of your golf game. If you want to book a tee time at a reasonable rate on a gorgeous course, check out The Links at Spruce Creek South.