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How to improve your mental and emotional strength on the golf course

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About 6 months ago, a young, aspiring golfer was referred to me. He was just turning pro and having a difficult time making the transition from amateur to professional golf. The primary problem was he didn’t have some of the key fundamentals and skills to move forward and develop as a player. He was struggling with the transition and the day-to-day responsibilities of a professional golfer, and he did not have the tools to maximize his capabilities: the achievement factor. So, no fun and no results.

With the pressures of professional golf, financial burdens and expectations, he was considering quitting and starting something new… or being proactive and doing something about it. Fast forward 6 months. A mental/emotional development process helped him develop the critical skills he needed to both achieve his targets, put him on the right path, bring a great attitude to the game, and enjoy his golf.

From the Player’s Dad: “This has been the difference. Adding some structure in his mental game was the key to bring it together and put things on the right track. He is confident, has a real plan, and he’s excited to continue the journey with new skills.”

Why Mental/Emotional High Performance Should Be Important to You

Working in high-performance sports everyday, I see the emerging trend to put more emphasis on the mental and emotional game as the golf industry approaches limits in technical, physical, and equipment advancement. The next frontiers are in proactive mental/emotional development and the fuel factor, maximizing the value of nutrition.

Forward-thinking modern players like Jordan Spieth understand the importance of mental/emotional performance development. Listen to any of his interviews and you’ll hear consistent references to all key areas of mental/emotional performance. The Champion Golfer of the Year said it well after winning The Open in July:

“You have to conquer the golf course first and foremost,” Spieth said. “You also have to conquer yourself, your own emotions, you have to win the mental battle with yourself.”

As the physical gap between players continually closes, golfers will need a stronger mental and emotional framework. “The edge” will be found in the mental/emotional component and other key areas like nutrition.

There are many benefits to developing your mental/emotional game. Here are a just a few benefits that you might not have considered:

1. Build self-awareness. Working with the world’s leading athletes everyday, one of the critical keys to sustainable high performance is the competency of self-awareness. When we assess athletes at all levels, results show that eight out of 10 performers do not have an adequate level of self-awareness to be a high performer. It therefore must be developed for a golfer to maximize his or her abilities. Development of self-awareness through golf will also enable high performance in other areas of your life.

2. Build confidence. What is confidence? How do you build it? How do you keep it? A great mental/emotional development plan will ensure you understand confidence and you bring it with you every time you step on the course.

3. Develop a clear path forward. A detailed, concise player plan is required, including a vision for your golf career and a plan in place to reach your targets. Most players have no plan, no fundamental structure, no defined path to reach targets. For that reason, most get lost along the way and don’t reach targets.

4. Become aware of your emotion. Human beings are emotional. Often your emotions direct you and pull you in a variety of directions. Awareness and regulation of emotions is a key element in mental/emotional high performance development. With development, emotions can be channeled in the right direction and used to maximize enjoyment and achievement.

5. Build focus. We live in a world of distraction: phones, social media, big events, expectations. In order to maximize abilities, a level of mindfulness must be developed to center the focus on what’s important. Mental/emotional high performance development builds a new level of focus.

6. Enjoy the game! The ultimate result of the time you spend in golf is you enjoy yourself and have fun. Many players lose perspective of the primary reasons for playing and get caught up in traps that don’t allow them to fully enjoy the sport they love.

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So what are you waiting for?

There are golfers all over the world who have technical and physical talent, but they never reach their targets or gain full enjoyment from the sport. Be like proactive players on the PGA Tour who embrace the value of mental and emotional development, building their mental and emotional muscles to both have more fun and achieve more.

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John Haime is the President of New Edge Performance. He's a Human Performance Coach who prepares performers to be the their best by helping them tap into the elusive 10 percent of their abilities that will get them to the top. This is something that anyone with a goal craves, and John Haime knows how to get performers there. John closes the gap for performers in sports and business by taking them from where they currently are to where they want to go.  The best in the world trust John. They choose him because he doesn’t just talk about the world of high performance – he has lived it and lives in it everyday. He is a former Tournament Professional Golfer with professional wins. He has a best-selling book, “You are a Contender,” which is widely read by world-class athletes, coaches and business performers.  He has worked around the globe for some of the world’s leading companies. Athlete clients include performers who regularly rank in the Top-50 in their respective sports. John has the rare ability to work as seamlessly in the world of professional sports as he does in the world of corporate performance. His primary ambition writing for GolfWRX is to help you become the golfer you'd like to be. See www.johnhaime.com for more. Email: john@newedgeperformance.org

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Vegas Bullet Dodger

    Oct 5, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    Got to say SteveK is on to something….
    Look at the nba

    • Demar

      Oct 5, 2017 at 7:35 pm

      Very low IQ multi-millionaires…. laughing at the tribal honking cracker fans paying to watch and fantasize about jumping and scoring and big donging.

  2. Vegas Bullet Dodger

    Oct 5, 2017 at 5:31 pm

    Bring something to eat and stay hydrated

  3. Dude

    Oct 4, 2017 at 9:21 pm

    This was covered in the movie, Happy Gilmore. Spoiler Alert:

    Chubby takes Happy to the miniature golf course so that he can find his “happy” place. As a result, Happy was able to overcome the untimely passing of Chubbs, the fact that his Grandma’s house was being taken away, and win the tour championship.

  4. John Haime

    Oct 4, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    Hi Jake – “how” is a process and individual for everyone. For example – to acquire self-awareness – many pieces need to be looked at – strengths, limitations, triggers, values, purpose etc. This article is a first step to create awareness – you have options to get customized “hows”. Thanks for the great comment!

    • SteveK

      Oct 5, 2017 at 12:52 am

      How about my cogent comment? Why do top amateur and pro golfers have an emotional/mental deficiency after playing golf starting from the tender ages of 4-6 y.o.? Is it a parental problem that haunts these emotionally/mentally challenged athletes? Surely you must determine the root causes before you can prescribe a remedy.

      • John Haime

        Oct 5, 2017 at 8:06 am

        Hi Steve,

        Re – you first comment. When I see “people who play golf for a living have a low IQ” – I stop reading and won’t take time for statements with no basis of fact and are insulting to professional golfers.

        In your second question – you are pointing out the entire problem. Almost everyone is reactive – waiting for things to break before “fixing” it. The solution is a proactive approach to develop the mental/emotional skills in the first place – just like you might develop the basic fundamentals of the golf swing. And yes, if the athlete does not have these fundamentals, then they are open to issues and getting in their own way – and the root cause is the starting point. Thanks!

        • Steve K

          Oct 5, 2017 at 11:13 am

          IQ tests are a test of broad intellectual capacity and most professional athletes do not have a high IQ because the game of golf and most other sports does not require such intellect.
          Athletes are specialized people who function athletically and intellectually in their particular sport. They don’t require a high IQ and the point I was making that their mental and emotional development is stunted by a lower intellectual level.
          Nothing wrong with that observation…. and you have taken my statement out of context where I say “… it’s a masochistic endeavor requiring an obsessive-compulsive mentality and a huge commitment to solo practice.”
          Golfers are no great minds as with most top athletes. They only live for their sport. Of course there are some exceptions that I am not aware of. In general they are fine people with a specialized brain power that may not include mental and emotional strength. “IQ” and “EQ” (Emotional Quotient). That’s a likely ‘root cause’ of the problem.
          Don’t let political correctness blind you to the ‘root’ causes of psychological problems in top immature athletes.

  5. SteveK

    Oct 4, 2017 at 11:21 am

    Improving mental and emotional strength is in essence a maturation process. Children have low mental strength and emotional control because they are creatures of instinct and feeelings. They grow out of their childish mentality by the age of 40!
    People who play golf for a living are probably low IQ (85-90) people because golf is not intellectually challenging…. it’s a masochistic endeavor requiring an obsessive-compulsive mentality and a huge commitment to solo practice.
    Sure, golf is a specialization and pro golfers have reached the top of the specialization physically. Was it Bobby Jones who said that golf is played within the 5 1/2 inches between the ears? Some pro golfers do mature and they play with great mental and emotional strength. Most don’t.
    As for recreational golfers, they are simply children seeking fun on the golf course with their incompetence and equally incompetent buddies. Geerheads are an example of the immaturity of golfers who revel in the artistic shapes and subjective feel of new model golf clubs. The OEMs know how to market their toys to customers with weak mental and emotional conditions.
    There is a child within every adult male… and I believe somebody wrote a pop-psychology book on that topic.

    • SteveKisadummy

      Oct 4, 2017 at 3:45 pm

      Congratulations on writing the dumbest comment of the year. 10 months into the rear and we have a runaway winner. I had though I had seen it all but you have shot as low as possible and hit a bulls eye. You are a true meatball.

      • SteveK

        Oct 5, 2017 at 12:46 am

        And you fall into the category of 85 – 90 IQ and it’s obvious my comments cause you much personal anguish … and I am a much smarter ‘meatball’.

      • Steve K

        Oct 5, 2017 at 11:06 am

        No, my comments are cogent and valid, and they explain the cause of low mental and emotional strength in top athletes … people who don’t need a high IQ to function at a high athletic level.
        Not only is their IQ generally low, their “EQ” Emotional Quotient is low. Athletes live for their sport and themselves as performers. This is well known in psychological circles.
        Stop with your political correctness that protects the feelings of those on this ‘safe space’ WITB forum.

  6. Jake

    Oct 4, 2017 at 10:47 am

    Where is the how? This is what you need to do. How to do those things is missing.

    • Think or Thwim

      Oct 5, 2017 at 12:00 pm

      If you recognize your mental and emotional problems playing golf visit a professional sports psychologist, not somebody who claims to be competent to diagnose problems that may have their roots in a medical condition. e.g. hormonal imbalance.

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Unlocking Your Golfing Potential: Why golf lessons with instructors don’t work

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On the first episode of our new “Unlocking Your Golfing Potential” podcast series, Coach Will Robins and Cordie Walker talk about what a golf coach is, and why getting one might be just what you need to to actually achieve your golfing goals. The current model of golf instruction is scheduling a one hour lesson and letting that instructor know what you want to work on… but Coach Will explains why that just doesn’t work if you want lower scores.

Learn more about Coach Will Robins and understand the 3 Scoring Killers here. Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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WATCH: Two drills to help you stop hitting it fat

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Here’s a response to a question on my Instagram page from Neil Riley. He asked if he should steepen the angle of attack in the downswing in order to stop hitting fat shots. In this video, I share two of the reasons why golfers might be hitting fat shots, as well as two drills to practice that will help them stop hitting it fat.

 

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Changing your golf swing? Consider this before you do

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Golfers I have taught over the years have an almost uncanny ability to put the golf club on the ball (to varying degrees, of course). I have seen well-hit shots from an incredibly wide variety of positions. I’ve seen closed faces, open faces, steep swings, flat swings, outside-in paths, inside-out paths, slow and fast swings, strong grips and weak grips ALL hit the golf ball solidly at times. How? Well, thinking about this may very well help your swing, especially before you decide to change something in it. Let’s take a look at a few examples to explain.

Strong Grips/Closed Clubfaces

We’ll start with the example of a strong grip that tends to get the clubface quite closed to the arc in the swing and at the top of the swing. If that is left alone in the downswing, the shots are very predictable: low and left (for a right-hander), sometimes barely getting off the ground. But many golfers hit the ball in the air and straight with a strong grip; in fact, many hit high blocks to the right. How? Well, they open the face on the way down and usually “hold on” through impact. They adapt to the closed clubface to make it work, and that’s the point here.

Now, if they reach good impact consistently like a Dustin Johnson, Graham McDowell and several others do with a closed clubface, we have no problem. But often club golfers do not; in fact, many slice and top the ball from a shut face at the top.  They do so because opening a closed face is a very shallowing move and prevents one from releasing the club properly (it’s a power outage as well).  Functionally, however, opening a shut is far better than releasing it from there, for obvious reasons. If the trail hand pronates, the face goes from closed to really closed. So golfers simply learn to open it.

So along comes some well-meaning friend who says your clubface is really closed at the top. You look at many great players, and sure enough, your face is clearly shut. So you correct it. What happens next is also very predictable: high and very right, and very thin with many topped shots. Why? Because you only corrected part of the problem. You fixed the shut face, but now you’ve taken a square clubface and massively opened it as a force of habit. You have ingrained that move into your swing because you had to open your old, shut clubface in the downswing. Correcting only ONE thing made your swing worse. Your swing is now dysfunctional.

That’s why if you commit to one change for the sake of improvement or consistency, you have to commit to both changes. If you don’t, you’ll get worse… not better.

Steep Swings

Here’s another: many amateur players start the downswing with the golf club far too steep. Maybe it’s over the top, maybe not (you can be just as steep from inside the ball). But when the golf club is too vertical in transition, it can result in any one of a number of impact mistakes: namely fat, slices and toe hits. So the idea of “flattening the transition” (good idea) becomes your priority, but there’s always a catch. Most experienced golfers correct steep through one of a few different ways listed below:

  • Raising the hands (standing the club up) to avoid fat shots
  • Tilting the torso back or away from the target to avoid opening the face
  • Sending the hands away from the body to avoid toes hits
  • Raising the swing center

You get the picture here. You learn to get the club on a better plane (flatter with the butt of the grip pointed more at the golf ball), but you’ll likely still have one of the “fit-in” moves left into impact. So a flatter club, which is by far a better way to square the face, might result in a shank if you’re used to sending your hands away from your body to avoid a toe hit. Raising the hands might top. Tilting the torso back away might hit shallow fats or tops. So you fixed the steep transition, but your impact is worse! Again, you’re dysfunctional.

Remember, if you commit to one change, you MUST commit to both.

Weak Grips/Over-The-Top

One more: Golfers who start out with a weak grip (as most do) slice. So as a reaction, they come over the top and swing outside-in. So they fix the grip, and of course, the result is predictable. They pull the ball, generally low and left (for right-handers). You get the pattern here. They need to learn a new swing direction, and on and on.

The lesson is clear; a single correction of a swing issue can be sufficient, but in my experience, two corrections must be tackled for long-term improvement. What to correct first? Well, you’d have to consult with your teacher or coach. As a rule, I try to get better impact first if I can get someone there from where their swing is now. Some other teachers may prefer a different sequence, but I think they’d all agree that a two-part correction is ultimately in the works.

I’ve always believed that teachers can disagree widely on the prescription, but they should be pretty much in unison regarding the diagnosis. Learn the swing flaw AND your reaction to it before you decide to make a swing change.

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