6 Simple Strategies to Help You Master the Mental Game of Golf

Brandt Snedeker shot an impressive 67 on a very difficult course to win the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (2015) for the second time in three years. There’s little doubt his victory came in large part because of his confidence and positive attitude.

6 Simple Strategies to Help You Master the Mental Game of GolfSnedeker’s performance was nearly flawless during the final round that enabled him to successfully negotiate the three-stroke victory and set a 72‑hole scoring record of 20 under. He put together what he called “probably the best thinking week I’ve had on the PGA Tour”.

So what brought about this remarkable victory? How was he able to hold up under tremendous pressure to achieve this victory?

Although Snedeker spent months reworking his swing under Butch Harmon’s coaching, it’s pretty clear that the real work came in strengthening his mental game, which in my opinion, is equally, if not more important than any other aspect of the game.

Your mental state can make or break you out on the course. When the game gets tough and you’re frustrated because you feel like you’re not making the shots you want, you’ve got to be able to do something as simple as staying focused on your strengths to help you relax and achieve the success you want.

One exercise that can create a positive mental image during play is to focus on a time when you were playing well. What specifically were you doing? This kind of positive thinking is like pumping you with pure confidence to help you perform at your best — and enjoy the game.

Recalling successful experiences is central to mastering your emotions and developing a strong mental game. Golfers who can replay key successful moments in vivid detail have an enormous advantage over those who lack this skill. Think about numerous situations that have happened on the golf course when you performed brilliantly.

Here are 6 SIMPLE strategies to train your mind to stay positive… 

  1. Set some goals. In setting goals, you need to be honest with yourself about your game. Does your ball-striking need improvement? Maybe your chipping… pitching… or sand play isn’t what it could be. Possibly your attitude or mental game needs work. You might need a better attitude toward putting, or you maybe you need to be better at staying in the present. This exercise will help you set goals that are right for you.
  2. Maintain a good state of mind. When you get frustrated, irritated or mad on the golf course because of a bad shot or some other mistake, you’re not staying in the present. Instead, your mind is focused on the shot you’ve already played, which is in the past. These negative emotions produce tension into your body which impedes rhythm, and it hinders your effort to keep your mind and body in a state where you play your best golf. You need to learn to accept whatever happens and move on. Acceptance is not weakness. It’s how you develop strength and mental toughness — it’s how you become more resilient and learn to recover from errors to finish with a good score.
  3. Collect photos. Technology can help build your mental game. You probably have a mobile phone, so use it to take a photo of the course where you had that amazing round. Even better, have a friend take a picture of you standing proudly on the 18th green with your scorecard. Keep this photo handy, and refer back to it before you go play.
  4. Enjoy the challenge. Golf is a game of mistakes. You sometimes miss fairways, greens and putts. The wind blows, there are divots and imperfections to deal with, tall grass, hazards and ever changing conditions. You can either fight the game every time you go out, or you can accept the challenges and learn how to react to the inevitable misfortunes you’ll face. You’ll never have total control of the golf ball, but you do have control of your attitude.
  5. Play to win. Don’t get too concerned about not being bad — just play to win. Every golfer has the potential to be better, and using your mind is one essential way to improve. You have free will and the choices you make with it will determine the quality of your golf game, as well as the quality of your life. Having control of your mind and using it properly is key. You will never know if you have the ability to be a better player, or the best player at your course, unless you commit to improving your physical and mental skills.
  6. Create a victory log. Memories can easily fade and details of a great round misremembered, so don’t rely on your memory alone. Keep the details in a victory log. Write down what happened when you have a great day on the course… and don’t forget to say how you felt. Also, be sure to record the time and date. Then, every so often, refer back to your victory log to keep your greatness fresh in your mind.

Golf is a game of confidence and competence. If your physical skills are lacking, you’re not going to be able to transform your game simply through positive thinking, although it will definitely help.

Unless your mind is functioning well when you play golf, your body is going to falter and you won’t play well. If your head is filled with bad thoughts, your scorecard is going to be full of bad strokes.

Confident golfers think about what they want to happen on the course. Golfers who lack confidence think about the things they don’t want to happen. That’s all confidence is. It’s not arrogance. It’s not experience. It’s simply thinking about the things you want to happen on the golf course.

So, like Brandt Snedeker, it pays to work on the mechanics of your game AND devote equal or greater time to working on your mental game.

Mastering your insecurities and controlling your mental state will make you rich in mental and emotional toughness, and turn your game into one where you score well and enjoy yourself like never before.