A Beginner’s Guide to the Mental Side of Golf

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A Beginner’s Guide to the Mental Side of Golf

For golfers, the mental side of golf cannot be overlooked. Here's how to begin training your mind as a golfer
The Mental Side of Golf

Written By:

Sara Robinson

Sara is a Mental Skills Coach specializing in work with athletes. She received her M.A. in Sports Psychology from John F. Kennedy University and did her undergraduate work at New York University. Sara also helps support busy working moms develop their mental skills and create more balance at getmombalanced.com.

Regardless of how long you’ve been a golfer, you probably understand that golf is a game of skill. You likely also realize that in addition to the physical skill you need to play well (and enjoy the sport), there is a distinct mental component to being a golfer.

When you think about the mental side of golf what comes to mind? Perhaps you think about:

  • The internal voice that nags at you when you play
  • The frustration that occurs after a poor shot
  • Your confidence level about the sport
  • The stress that you feel at certain times
  • Your ability to focus on what you want to do, as opposed to what you’re trying to avoid

All of this, and more, relates to the mental aspects of golf, and as you probably already know, these mental factors influence the way that you play. Why is that?

Simply put, the way you think affects the way you feel, which affects the way you perform. If you are thinking appropriately for a shot (e.g. that you can do well, what is your focal point, or focusing on your smooth swing), then you’re likely to feel ready, more confident, or even an increased sense of calm. When you feel this way, you’re more likely to play to the best of your abilities.

The opposite is true too- when you’re distracted, over-thinking, visualizing hitting into the bunkers, or thinking in ways that are less-than-ideal, you’ll notice a change in how you’re feeling. Under these mental circumstances, we usually don’t feel our best, and may be tense, angry, or stressed. Can you play your best when you feel this way? Probably not.

When it comes to golf, it’s important to prepare not just physically with lessons, time on the range, and the course, but also mentally. Take the time to develop your mental skills and abilities too.

How do you develop your mental golf game?

In addition to finding support on this blog, you can also check out these books:

  • Golf is Not a Game of Perfect by Dr. Bob Rotella
  • Zen Golf: Mastering the Mental Game by Dr. Joseph Parent
  • Golf is a Game of Confidence by Dr. Bob Rotella

Some golfers work individually with a Mental Skills Coach or Sport Psychologist to assist if they’re finding that the mental aspects of golf are holding them back, or if they’d like to elevate their game by training their mind in addition to training their body. You can research individuals with a degree or training in Sport Psychology; You may be able to work with someone in your area or find someone who does work remotely, via Skype or FaceTime.

When it comes to the mental side of any sport, but golf in particular, you can’t overlook such a critical piece of your game. Even if you’re playing for fun, there are times where your mental skill (or lack of it) will influence your performance.

A simple way to start is to start paying more attention to what you’re thinking as you golf. Then, notice how this impacts your feelings, and how you’re playing. If you notice that you have negative or distracting thoughts, work to change them to something more helpful or appropriate for that moment.

Remember that mental skill development takes time (much like your physical skill development), so be patient with yourself as you work on the mental side of golf.


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Hi Sara, What a great post, including mention of 3 of the best mental game books ever written. I’d add one more–the granddaddy of them all, W. Timothy Gallwey’s 1981 “The Inner Game of Golf.” Fear, doubt, frustration, and distractions. So much time to think during a round! W-a-y too much time to think! I’m a founding partner of a new mindfulness product designed to remind golfers of just one or two positive swing thoughts as they prepare to swing. It’s simple, low tech, and the USGA has ruled they’re “Permitted under the Rules of Golf” for all play. It’s… Read more »

Nethan Paul

I liked your blog. You have shared that it is a mental golf game, I also play golf for mental refreshment. I am playing golf as a solo player. I am a beginner and not have enough skill to play a match with pro. I am looking for tips to enhance my skill. For this time I have bought best driver for beginners. So that I will be an expert someday.