Full-Time Mental Toughness on the Golf Course
One of the marks of a mentally tough golfer is the ability to ignore previous shots/holes and focus fully on the shot at hand. Why? Because the most important shot in golf is the one you are currently facing. Unfortunately, for many, that’s easier said than done. But not anymore! Here’s a proven system to keep you mentally tough as you play. For more insights on building mental toughness for better golf, see my new book Golf on Auto Focus: Training Your Brain to Better Your Game
When referring to the important role the mind plays in golf performance, we often hear elite golfers, golf gurus and television announcers say, “You have to play the game one shot at a time!” What this really means is that golfers should stay in the moment and not focus on their last shot/hole or on their upcoming potential score.
But, watch any competitive round at any level and you will quickly recognize the following highly detrimental mental behaviors that players universally engage in. They are definitely not in the moment!
- losing mental focus after a bad shot/hole;
- following a bad shot or decision with an equally bad shot or decision;
- following a great hole with a poorly executed shot or hole;
- adding up their score and “giving up” when their preferred score is out of reach;
- making poor shots or decisions on the closing holes that kill a great score; and/or
- focusing on bad shots/holes during and after a round.
When golfers chat after golf, their conversations are usually about scores. Sure, their stories include side references to some great shots and eagles/birdies, but mostly golfers talk about opportunities missed, errors compounded and woeful outcomes. Unfortunately, when all golfers talk about is scores, the only happy person in the gang is Old Man Par, and he’s not saying much! Wouldn’t it be nice to have a more positive set of results to talk about?!
As the coach of a very successful varsity women’s team, my coaching staff and I saw these behaviors all the time during competition, sometimes even in our own players. Knowing the value of staying in the moment and focusing on each individual shot, Gail, my Assistant Coach and Lindsey, one of my mentally tougher players, came up with a mental scoring system that always puts the mental focus on a player’s very next shot.
Positive Thoughts & Shots is a unique scoring system that changes how players mentally approach each and every golf shot. This system rewards players for positive behaviors and for overcoming or avoiding the mental lapses mentioned above. Players record their own points. We found that this system generated supportive and positive conversations about golf instead of the negative vibe that is often prevalent.
The goal of the system is to earn as many points as possible per hole and per round. You can also kick it up a notch by comparing personal bests throughout the season. I use this system to help my clients monitor how well they are developing their mental toughness abilities. As one client stated, “If it prevents me from engaging in only one negative thought/action in a round, I have won the battle. If I can play with this mindset for an entire round, I have won the war!”
Here’s the Positive Thoughts & Shots scoring sheet. The point descriptions all follow the same format. For example; a) hit your tee shot in the fairway, earn one point (FR), b) make par from the bunker, earn 3 points (BUD), c) make birdie, earn 5 points (B), etc… It also rewards players for making good mental decisions/choices, something that your score never recognizes.
This points system is designed for low handicap players. To make it suit your personal game, simply adjust your desired scores up or down from par. For example, if you play bogey golf, substitute par for birdie, bogey for par, double for bogey, etc… so that your mental score will accurately reflect your game.
Positive Thoughts & Shots brings a new focus to playing golf. It’s a system for continuously reinforcing positive golf behaviors. Suddenly, a bad shot sets up a mental challenge to recover and make par. This system forces golfers to get focused on making good mental decisions to make the best of all golf situations. When you make birdie or better, your focus is to maintain your good play for the next hole instead of easing off.
The added bonus is that your after-round conversations now centre on your accomplishments and the positive ways you earned points rather than simply talking about your score. My clients find that while their apres-golf stories remain pretty much the same, most are described in a far more positive light.
For more information on how to become a mentally tougher athlete/golfer, check out my website at http://mentaltoughnesscoaching.com/