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Opinion & Analysis

How I Mastered My Mental Game



After suffering a devastating loss on the golf course recently, I slammed the clubs in my trunk and tore out of the parking lot, mumbling under my breath. “Why do I struggle to connect the dots when the pressure is on?” I thought to myself.

When the pressure is on, there is no way around it; I am a choke artist. After 25 years experiencing the same problem, I decided to get some professional help. This is the story of how Mental Performance Coach Iain Highfield helped me learn the skills to go from mentally weak to master of my own universe!

After distancing myself from the golf course, still tearing down the road in rage, Iain serendipitously called me. He’s a good friend and colleague; we have both done consulting for junior golf academies over the past couple years. I picked up and snarled at him. Immediately, he quipped back and I laughed. We spoke about some business and then came the moment of truth, “Iain, I have a problem, and I need help!”

Iain fired back, “Ya, no kidding…”

Realizing I had left the door open for further criticism, I interrupted him: “My mental game is a joke… I am a choke artist,” I admitted. I relayed the story of the destruction that had just occurred on the course.

“I just feel like I could not feel my swing out there,” I said. “The whole time I was thinking about trying to fix it. First it was thinking about my left wrist, then it was shifting weight into my lead foot. By the 12th hole, I was completely done. I had no idea where the ball was going and my confidence was shattered. I just could not figure out a way to perform.”

“Ouch!” Iain said. “I’m not going to lie, that sucks but it happens.”

“All the time,” I added.

Laughing, Iain said, “Do you know the difference between internal and external focus?

I didn’t.

“The difference between external and internal focus is important for a player to understand,” Iain explained. “When you described your round, you were describing internal focus; directing your attention toward what your body is doing. Examples of internal focus are thinking about things like your weight being forward.”

“Guilty,” I thought.

“The best players have external focus; they spend their time building a plan and then focusing on the target,” Iain continued.

“Hmmm,” I thought. “But the best players have swing thoughts, don’t they?”

“Yes, Brendan, they have swing thoughts,” Iain said. “However, external focus is important because when we gaze at the target we are connecting our visual system to our motor control system. By allowing them to communicate, we increase the odds of you accessing your best shot.”

“OK, that makes sense,” I said. “I get the theory, but what do you want me to do about? How can I become better?”

“This is where your pre-shot routine is critical,” Iain said. “As you know, your pre-shot routine is what you do before each shot. The key elements of the routine are making sure once you commit to starting the process of hitting the shot, you are calm. Then, once you are set, you narrow your focus to only what you want to accomplish. Let me give you an example. Obviously, you know the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass. After checking all the variables and committing to the club and style of shot, you will begin your pre-shot routine. When going through this process, you need to direct your attention toward creating the shot in your mind and using your eyes to focus on the target.”

“OK, I get it,” I said, hesitantly.

Iain must of sensed the nervousness in my voice, because he immediately responded. “Next time you play, instead of focusing on the score or the result of the shot, practice focusing on the process. I want you to make your shot decision, then try and direct all your energy into creating a picture of the shot and holding that idea in your head while having a couple long looks at the target. It’s not going to be easy and will require some practice. Over your next couple rounds, practice doing this. Every time you are successful, give yourself a check. Every time you fail, put an ‘X.’ Start to evaluate what your doing by how well you can utilize these skills.”

Practicing under the watchful eye of Iain

Practicing under the watchful eye of Iain

My next test on the golf course came as I was walking up to an island-green par 3, much like hole No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass. It was the perfect opportunity to see if I had made improvements on my mental game. My laser rangefinder read 136 yards; a perfect pitching wedge. I stood behind the ball and took two deep breathes. I looked up and saw a large red box in the sky; that was my target. Meticulously, I moved into position with my attention directed at hitting a bullet right at the red box. You know that sound you hear when you absolutely flush an iron shot? Yeah, that’s what I heard. Flawless contact into a balanced finish. The ball climbed perfectly toward the red box and finally landed softly on the green, 10 feet right of the pin.

I smiled. Thanks Iain!

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Brendan is the owner of Golf Placement Services, a boutique business which aims to apply his background in golf and higher education to help educate players, their families and coaches about the process! Website - Insta - golf.placement.sevices Twitter @BMRGolf



  1. Bob Jacobs

    Sep 6, 2017 at 12:51 pm

    Why publish an article like this with a pic of Sergio just days after he breaks his own putter…is there a more clear example of someone who has NOT mastered their mental game??

  2. Bob Jacobs

    Sep 6, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    Seriously?? The big epiphany here was that your guy basically told you to visualize and focus on the target??

    Please tell me there’s deeper meaning to this article.

  3. Anders

    Sep 6, 2017 at 5:15 am

    Jeez, he mastered the mental game by paying little attention to the ball and rather hit at hit, hit through it as though it didn’t exist.

  4. Donald Trump Rules

    Sep 5, 2017 at 10:50 pm

    Mastered his mental game? He just turned his putter into a pretzel and had to putt with his driver.

  5. Matt Abramson

    Sep 5, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    This is trash, the same concept we’ve all heard a thousand times, presented to us in a poorly written fictional story. This website needs better writers asap!!!

  6. Jim

    Sep 5, 2017 at 2:52 pm

    Ironic how you use a photo of Sergio when he just smashed his putter at the DTC tournament this past weekend and has to putt with his driver the rest of the round.

  7. WolfWRX

    Sep 5, 2017 at 8:47 am

    “Iain must of sensed the nervousness in my voice…”

    It should be “Iain must HAVE sensed the nervousness in my voice…”

  8. Ryan D

    Sep 4, 2017 at 10:42 pm

    Unfortunately this is a bad article. Youre probably a better golfer than me, but I dont really care how YOU overcame mental instability on the golf course. I want to hear how Jordan overcame his collapse, or DJ leaving the game for a year. I want to hear from the best guys from them directly, sort of like the Players Tribute. Get the players to write, I will listen.

    • Ian

      Sep 5, 2017 at 8:53 am

      This article is either badly misleading or I was dumb enough to think this was going to have input from Sergio.

  9. UnclePhil

    Sep 4, 2017 at 7:31 pm

    How you mastered what? Dude, you couldn’t buy a top 10 to save your freakin’ life! Go buy some oranges you clown and throw ’em at black soccer players like the rest of your countrymen! Oh, and
    while you’re at it, buy some KFC and invite Eldrick over for dinner. Oh, and don’t forget the watermelon, you know’s how’s we’s love’s us some watermelons!!!

  10. Chipolte

    Sep 4, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    Mental stress? Try Zoloft.

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Opinion & Analysis

Don’t be THAT guy at your corporate outing



Today is the day. Your out-of-office email is up, and you’re fully prepared for an afternoon at the course. As a driving range pro, you think this day will be a gentle breeze. However, you are not prepared. You may not even realize it, but you are about to be that guy.

That guy… who is that guy? Well, I’m glad you asked.

He’s that guy at the range hours early instead of socializing at the breakfast. He’s that guy arranging the scramble lineup when he finally makes it to that breakfast. He’s the guy who finds himself reading a golf blog about a corporate scramble.

Hi, guy!

Now, let’s start this early in the morning. You’re in your closet carefully crafting your outfit for the day. Wait, wait, wait… let’s not start there. Therein lies the problem, guy. You aren’t composing an outfit, not today! An outfit is for Day 2 of your member-guest. An outfit is for that golf trip with your buddies. An outfit is for Bill Murray at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am (who, with those bell bottoms, is becoming dangerously close to that guy). 

I digress.

A corporate outing is for the muted colors sitting in the back of your closet. There’s no need to get flashy with your attire on this day. If your game is as good as your rangefinder magnet says you are, your game will be enough of the conversation; there’s no need to make your belt buckle one of them. White shorts are fine, but please, don’t be the guy wrapped in pants in 80-degree heat. I get it, you’re “more comfortable in pants” and “this new fabric is actually cooler than shorts.” Come on now, let’s save the pants for guys who aren’t playing for pro shop credit.

Obviously club-tossing, swear-wording and teammate-bashing are huge no-nos, but you already know that. Be encouraging on the course and give your teammates credit when they hit one down the middle, even if you drive it past them. It was still their shot that freed you up.

Most importantly, gauge the competitiveness of the team. Some people are there to win; some people are there for gin. If it’s clear that your team isn’t firing 14-under, kick back, relax and help your teammates improve. You’ll have your own chance. You can still get excited for the long drive, guy.

Speaking of the long drive, why is the prize for winning said competition so often a new driver? “You proved today how well you smash that driver, so here is a new one!” Sir, he likes his just fine. I think it’s safe to venture he’d rather stop the three-putt pars. Which also goes for the longest-putt prize. A brand new Odyssey White Hot! Just stop it. Pro shop credit… problem solved.

Speaking of problems, there’s a good chance someone in your group will have a massive one with their swing. As a guy, you’ll probably want to tell them they are “casting” and to try this “towel-under-the-arm drill.” Yes, it is completely fine to provide a tip, but only when warranted (or preferably, called upon). You can go from “guy who helped my short game” to “guy who destroyed my swing” with just a few too many hints.

One more thing. Don’t let any guy pull this move.

Let me paint a story. Your team approaches the green, you have two decent looks at birdie. Good for you! However, your team can’t decide. One is 15-feet straight up the hill. The other is an eight-foot slider. The team agrees the shorter putt is still the play.

“I’ll smack this 15-footer, just for fun,” your cheating teammate says. Followed shortly by, “unless it goes in, ha.”

Other than actually cheating, this is the most common and lame shenanigan I’ve seen in a corporate scramble. I’ve never forgotten the people that did it with me, and they won’t forget you.

Man, that got dark in a hurry.

Back to the fun stuff. You’ve mastered the clothing and seamlessly blended casual and competitive like Tom Brady in Uggs. All that is left now is to select your winning item in the pro shop. And this is where I leave my final tip. Go with something practical: gloves, golf balls. The last thing your wardrobe needs is another lime green shirt that you’ll want to wear in next month’s scramble.

Related: Pick three golfers to build your ultimate scramble team for $8 or less!

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The 19th Hole: Host Michael Williams plays Shinnecock Hills and reports back



Host Michael Williams reports on his visit to Media Day at Shinnecock Hills, the site the 2018 U.S. Open, where he played the course. How are the current conditions? He weighs in on the Unlimited Mulligan Challenge made by Dave Portnoy of Barstool Sports that day, as well. Also, famed Architect David Kidd talks about how he created Bandon Dunes at the age of 25, and Steve Skinner of KemperLesnik gives his views on the health of the golf business.

Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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TG2: What’s it like to caddie for Rory? GolfWRX Forum Member shares his experience



Marine and GolfWRX forum member “djfalcone” explains the story of how he got to caddie for Rory McIlroy and Johnny Vegas through the Birdies for the Brave program, and how knowledgable Rory is about his equipment. Make sure to check out his full forum thread here.

Listen to our full podcast below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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19th Hole