There is an old adage about health that is equally applicable to golf. The adage is: ìListen to your body because it is listening to you.î A golfer canít hide from himself or herself on the course. A golfer brings to the course the pressures they place on themselves to achieve, their reactions to failure, as well as lifeís unresolved problems. This emotional load gets revealed in the course of a round of golf. As every golfer knows, every swing or putt is vulnerable to the impact of emotions. Doubt and fear create muscular tension, causing even the most well practiced swing to change. One good shot can be followed by a series of hooks or slices. Hips and hands in unison can fall out of sync. Smooth can give way to jumping at the ball. Heavy hands can cause a putt to be hit harder than desired. This susceptibility to interference is what makes golf so great. Not only do you have to compete against the course and your opponent, you also have to battle yourself.

There are mental training methods that can help the golfer control their emotions and their thoughts. Practice on the range does help. A well-developed motor memory can lead to trusting one’s swing. There are several mental strategies that can help. The first one is to recognize that thinking follows feeling. Contrary to what most golfers might think, the mental side of golf is based on feeling more than thinking. If you feel tense, you will have doubt. If you feel fear, you will have thoughts of failure. If you are unaware of your emotions, your thoughts will not be focused. If you manage your emotions, you will control your thoughts.

Emotions are like muscles. They have the same three dimensions of strength, endurance, and flexibility. Emotional strength is based on the love of the game. If you love the sport, practice will not feel like work. If you play because you love the game, hitting shot after shot will not be boring. You will practice because you can’t get enough of the game. Emotional endurance is based on patience. If you have the patience to drill and train, you will handle the patience needed to stay focused throughout 18 holes. Flexibility is based on the reaction to failure. Every round of golf is filled with mistakes. Recovering from those mistakes is based on how well you manage failure. If it leads to pressing, then the mistake is being taken too personally. It means too much and leads to increased fear of repeating the mistake. Flexibility requires that failure be expected and to give the game of golf it’s due as an impossible sport to conquer.

Each of these three elements can be enhanced. Reading about the history of golf and watching the best players enhances the appreciation and love of the game. Patience can be improved by analysis. Breaking your score down into component parts is necessary to know what to practice to improve. Flexibility is improved through a patterned recovery after a mistake. Mental imagery can help to recover your swing pattern. Recalling the advice of your swing coach and mentally rehearsing your swing before the next shot can aid in the recall of muscle memory.


Maintain a consistent sequence to hitting the ball. Use that sequence with each shot that you hit on the range or on the course.

Mentally rehearse your swing sequence, especially your release at the top of your swing. Know the difference mentally between leading with the hips or hands, and keeping the two parts in harmony.

List your score by component parts including the number of fairways hit, greens hit in regulation, and total number of putts. Practice the area that needs the most work. Set your goals for improvement based on that data.

Trust your swing when you play. After a bad shot, restore trust through mental rehearsal prior to your approach to the ball. Once you start your patterned sequence, trust what you have practiced. If you continue to miss hit, remember that fatigue and stress may be playing a role on that day. Do the best you can under the circumstances and come back to play another day.

For more information, contact Dr.Van Schoyck.