Golfers, in general, are under performing even with the technical advancements of today, and many get very frustrated playing the game. What’s missing to get golfers to play better and enjoy it more? In our opinion, golf has two sets of fundamentals: technical fundamentals and human fundamentals.

Technical Skills x Human Skills = How Well You Play 

You are not a robot playing golf; you are a human being. As a human being, you are variable from day to day and even during the day. Your body, mind, and emotions are dynamic, and the state of each influences your technique to a great extent. For example:

  • If your body is tight and sore, it might make your rotation limited.
  • If your mind worries about the future, it might make your tempo too quick.
  • If you are getting frustrated because the pace of play is slow, it might make your grip pressure too tight.

A deficiency of trained and practiced human skills shows up as a golfer with a solid-looking technique, or even a great ball striker, but one that can’t score. We often call the human skills of the game the “hidden fundamentals.” They are hidden because they are within one’s mental, emotional, and physical state. They are the interior of the human experience, so they can’t be seen as clearly and as obviously as one’s technique. For example, you can’t see a golfer’s self talk on a screen, but there’s no question that it will most definitely influence and manifest a change in their technique.

Rory McIlroy spoke specifically of that change in the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. He opened the tournament with a 5-over par 39 and then proceeded to play 10-under over the final 63 holes, finishing T4. The shift was his caddie’s reminder of his prodigious talent and accomplishments. 

“It was a rough start,” McIlroy said. “I was just indecisive out there. Mentally I was not engaged, and I was half caught between playing the golf shot I needed to and my golf swing.”

Jordan Spieth was the premier display of developed human skills in action after a disastrous drive on No. 13 on Sunday at The Open. All of us could watch his body language, the focus in his eyes, and his commitment to the shots ahead. We also heard some of the affirmative self talk between himself and his caddie. He played the final five holes in 5-under to win by three shots, a stretch that many have called the best golf performance in major championship history.

Human skills always play a huge role on performance, but we don’t hear much about them in the golf world. They get wrapped up in words that are general and elusive, like “trust” or “process.” For this reason, golf instruction doesn’t pay much attention to them. More than 90 percent of articles on how to improve at golf are about technical skills. They’re good and necessary, of course, but they’re not the whole story. It’s time for human skills to get their due, and that’s what the rest of this article is about.

At VISION54, we complement a golfer’s technique with the human skills. It’s about learning to manage yourself before a shot (Think Box), during a shot (Play Box), after a shot (Memory Box), and in between shots. We’ve found that any golfer at any level will improve when human skills are developed along with the technical skills.

Practice Time


The only way to learn the human skills is to explore options on the golf course. Below is one exploration for the Play Box, Think Box and Memory Box. In our new book, “Be A Player,” there are nine holes of explorations after each chapter. You are unique as a golfer, and it’s important to discover what makes you play better.

Play Box: BE Focused!

Every shot requires you to be focused/present/athletic until the end of the motion. No more thinking. The shorter time you need, the easier it is under pressure.

Do: Play 3 holes and hold your finish for 3 seconds to make sure you are staying present until the end of the swing or stroke.

Think Box: BE Decisive!

Every shot requires you to make a decision in a confident way and to trust your decision about the club, shot and your Play Box. Also, it allows you to get present and engaged before stepping into the shot.

Do: Play 3 holes and say your decision about the shot in a confident manner before stepping into the shot or putt to make sure you have made a clear decision.

Memory Box: BE Confident!

For every shot, you want to manage what your brain stores as a memory. Be neutral/ objective to shots and processes you did not like. Be positive/happy to shots and processes that are great/good/good enough. Emotions make memories stick in the brain.

Do: Play 3 holes and feel emotionally happy for every shot that is good or good enough. Have no commentary on shots you don’t like. 

For more exercises like this, you can visit our website:

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Lynn Marriott and Pia Nilsson are co-founders of VISION54, bestselling authors of four VISION54 books, and Golf Digest top 50 teachers. They have coached eight different major winners and three world No. 1 LPGA players. Their golf schools and coach trainings gets the highest rankings possible.


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