Playing Poorly: Is It Mental, or Physical?
When I was playing full time tournament golf, I was quite organised in my approach to improving and addressing the areas of my game which I believed were holding me back.
I separated my golf game into specific areas, and then worked on the area which I felt needed attention.
Broadly speaking, those areas were
My golf swing
My short game
My fitness and physical conditioning
My mental or inner game (golf psychology)
Almost every serious golfer I know does a version of this. The breakdown might be slightly different but the concept is the same.
Put all the different areas of the game into little compartments and then take each of them out on a regular basis and give them a bit of a polish.
Unfortunately, this approach didn’t work particularly well for me, and perhaps it isn’t working that well for you either.
How often have you sat down with your playing partners after the game and had the ‘if only’ conversation?
‘If only my putting hadn’t let me down’.
‘If only I had driven the ball as well as I did last week’.
‘If only I hadn’t stubbed that chip then thinned the next one’.
‘If only I hadn’t made those silly mistakes’.
The problem is this:
One area of the areas I mentioned in the first section underpins all of the other areas.
It isn’t really part of the game at all. It’s part of what we are as human beings.
There’s actually no such thing as ‘golf psychology’.
There is human psychology, and there are golfers, most of whom are human beings.
Fortunately, our minds all work in a very similar way.
The content of our experience might be very different. We all have our own beliefs, thoughts, feelings and perceptions.
But the way our experience is created is universal.
The thoughts and feelings we have from moment to moment are mainly a result of the beliefs and assumptions we have about ourselves, our lives and the meanings we attribute to the situations and circumstances we find ourselves in.
For example, if you believe your well-being and happiness can be affected by the outcome of a three foot putt, you will probably feel nervous about it.
If you assume that your grip, posture and alignment are good, when in fact they aren’t, you will be frustrated and confused when you struggle to swing the club as well as you can and to play your best golf regularly.
So, when things go wrong, where is the best place to start in trying to work out why?
If you are hitting the ball well in practice, but are struggling to take it to the golf course, this short series of articles will help you understand more about the mental side of your game.
If you suspect that the problem might be with your golf swing, I recommend having a thorough check on the basic fundamentals – your grip, posture, alignment and ball position.
I’m not suggesting a swing change, or fixing your technique.
If you get set up the the ball properly, and swing the club freely, you will play to the best of your current ability more often than not.
You could book in to see your golf professional for a check up.
Alternatively, you can have a look at my free online learning program ‘Prepare Like a Golf Professional’.
It’s a detailed guide to gripping the golf club and setting up for a consistent, reliable golf swing.
Playing golf with less on your mind is a subtractive process. By eliminating worries about what might be going wrong, you play with more freedom.
Ideally, your should understand the process of getting a good grip and setup well enough that you can do it instinctively.
Then you can just step up to the ball and swing with good rhythm and timing and play close to your potential.
If you’d like to get my in depth guide to setting up with great grip and posture, please hit the button below.
Once you get the basics correct, playing your best golf becomes a lot more simple and straightforward.