The Golfer's Mind: The process and your control

Man Hitting Golf Ball out of Bunker

There is but one absolute truth about sports psychology—it is not a quick fix that will instantly transform your performance, and no single training technique, method or practice-activity works for every person. They are unique tools which you have identified as helpful to some aspect of your performance. Always remember that YOU must decide what works for YOU and commit to YOUR skills. 

Buying in and making a commitment to your approach are as important as the approach itself. It takes time. Getting your body into a healthy physical condition is not done without effort and struggle, so why would doing the same with your mental abilities be any different?

We care about the process, not the outcome, when it comes to our mental approach. Part of the process of playing golf often overlooked is what happens between your shots. Think about the amount of time you spend actually hitting a shot during a round. The majority of your time on the course is spent between shots, but rarely do golfers consider the importance of that time. When is the last time you thought about improving your ability to manage the time in between each shot? 

While you are playing, you make mental notes about how you hit every shot or rolled each putt which have an impact on your overall temperament throughout the round. Your ability to manage your temperament between shots is a huge asset. Instead of focusing on where your ball ends up, try to evaluate the performance of your shot based on how you feel you executed the process of making it. 

Did you take your time and choose an aim-point? Did you choose the best club and shot type for the given shot? Did you stand over the ball and think, This lie doesn’t look great, I don’t know about this one? Hopefully not. 

Let your assessment of how you performed the process of the shot dictate your temperament between shots. The goal is to keep your head down, stay positive and know it is all part of the process of the round. If you do hit a bad shot, be honest with yourself. It is ok to be critical, but being critical of your process is unlike being critical of where your shot ends. One major difference between these two ways of thinking is simple:What can you control, and therefore have the direct ability to change?

A vital part of embracing the process of golf is an understanding and acceptance of what you truly can and cannot control. You can’t control a gust of wind that blows your ball out of the air 15 yards short of the green or move the sprinkler head that sent your drive flying into the rough. How is it helpful to your performance if you lose your cool because the wind switched directions during your ball flight? Think about how silly it is to become mad when a gust of wind blows your ball off course after a perfect strike, then have that negative temperament affect your next shot. There is nothing short of divine intervention that could have saved that shot, so why allow it to change how you feel about what you did to make a good shot?

Managing your between-shot temperament will give you a leg up on the rest of your playing partners. If you become frustrated with these random, uncontrollable factors while playing, consider the advice of one of the most respected sport psychology professionals: “Control the controlables, ignore the rest.” 

Embracing that credo is easy, but truly taking that perspective—that you did everything within your control to have a good outcome regardless of the final result—is the hard part.

But hey, it’s all part of the process.
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