Mind Over Putter: The Mental Golf Game
Golfers: Your mental game may be as important as your equipment and training.
The mind is the most formidable opponent a golfer confronts, so mastering
the game of mental golf is essential.
The mind can be a golfer's best friend, helping to develop the mechanics of
a smooth, reliable swing and devising clever strategies for moving the ball
efficiently from the tee to the cup.
But the mind also produces anxiety and tension, which can tighten the
muscles and destroy concentration. Suddenly the technically proficient golfer
is slicing the ball deep into the woods and choking on a short putt. Trying
harder only seems to make matters worse.
At that point, the mind is the enemy, and the only way to overcome its
powers of self-sabotage is through applying the principles of mental golf -
principles that yield benefits off the course as well as on.
"They say every golfer is just two shots away from crazy," said Joseph
Parent, PhD, author of Zen Golf: Mastering the Mental Game. "One bad
shot you can deal with. Two in a row and you go nuts. I try to stop that cycle
How to Reap the Benefits of Mental Golf
The best way to break this cycle, Parent says, is to change the messages you
send yourself as you assess your performance. Instead of focusing on the
negative - the way a shot went wrong - he suggests emphasizing what went
"When golfers hit a poor shot, they're going to tell you all the bad things
they did regarding their swing," says Parent. "The message they've given
themselves is, 'I'm a poor performer.' I have golfers say something good first.
They may have hit the ball in a direction that wasn't quite right, but maybe
they hit it very solidly. So instead of the shot being 90 percent bad, they see
that 90 percent of it was good, and 10 percent of it needs correcting."
Practicing deep breathing in times of stress can dissolve the excess tension
that develops during the game, Parent says.
"The only tension you want is what is needed to maintain your posture and
hold on to your club," he said. "Anything beyond that interferes with your
performance. The most important part of the mental game is awareness, and you
achieve that through mindful attention to your body, your breathing, and your