Understand How Your Mind Works –
Before You Start Fixing Your Golf Swing
“Is it mental, or a technical issue“?
Is probably the first question you should ask yourself when your golf has slipped below your normal standards.
Unfortunately, most golfers automatically assume it’s a swing issue, and set off down the path of trying to fix something that is actually working OK, often making it worse!
This article will hopefully stop you making that common mistake, save you time and frustration and get you back on track more quickly.
It’s possible – although unusual – that the problem is mainly mental. Go through the following checklist.
Do you have a good golf swing that has worked well previously?
Do you hit the ball consistently well in practice?
Do you struggle to play your best golf when you really want to?
Do you feel anxious and tense in competitions and matches?
(This is sometimes the case with professionals or low handicap golfers who have lost confidence for some reason.)
If some or all of these things are true, you might well benefit from a better understanding how your mind works, allowing you to deliver your physical and technical skills when the pressure is on.
There might well be other symptoms pointing towards a misunderstanding, rather than a physical problem with your swing.
If you find yourself feeling or uneasy before you play, or fed up and frustrated afterwards, those feelings are telling you something.
If you believe that those feelings are coming from your golf, then we should talk. You can use the link at the bottom of the page to book a discovery call.
We can explore why that belief about why you are feeling what you are feeling might not be true. Letting go of it will get you back on track quickly and easily.
When Does a Golf Swing Problem Become Mental?
If you don’t always hit the ball well on the range and you are inconsistent on the course, it’s likely that physical or technical factors are having a detrimental impact on your performance.
At some point the issue will almost certainly affect your thoughts and feelings when you play, because you will start thinking about the poor shots you are hitting and try to work out why they keep happening.
Once you’re thinking about it, it’s mental.
(I know there are a few golfers who don’t play well very often but don’t think or worry about it. Golf just isn’t something they stress about. They are very happy playing the game in their own way, for their own reasons. If this is you, please just keep doing it!)
Golf Lessons Haven’t Helped?
Most golfers want to play their best golf as often as possible. They embrace the challenge of the game and want to improve their scores and handicaps.
But sometimes working on your swing gets in the way of you playing your best golf. It can be the top of a slippery slope leading to disillusionment and falling out of love with the game.
Avoiding this problem is surprisingly simple. If you know why it arises in the first place.
That might not be the case if you go to a golf instructor or coach who doesn’t understand how the human mind works. If so, the solution you get offered will almost certainly be a purely technical one.
A swing fix or remodel.
Not because the instructor doesn’t want to help. It’s just that they probably won’t understand the real reason why you are feeling the way you do.
They might well give you some great information about how to change your golf swing. It’s just that you won’t be able to make best use of it because you have too much thinking going on already.
If you’ve ever had a golf lesson which didn’t really work out the way you hoped, that might well be the reason why.
Likewise, if you assume that the problem is mainly mental, you might go to a sports psychologist who probably doesn’t understand the golf swing very well.
There might be a technical issue affecting your swing which the psychologist doesn’t pick up on, because that isn’t his area of expertise.
So unless you are a Tour player who can have both your instructor and your psychologist talking to each other regularly, or preferably watching you at the same time, you are constantly going to have gone all round the houses, only to be left asking the question at the start of the article.
Mental Before Physical
So, where do you go from here?
My first piece of advice is simple. It would be the same whether you were working with me in person, or remotely.
(Either are very possible. Please get in touch for details.)
The priority should be to establish how whether you really understand how your mind works.
Mainly because it’s simple to find out, and simple to put right if it turns out you have a misunderstanding.
It’s binary. You either understand or you don’t. And the correct course of action becomes clear.
If you do, great.
You can go ahead and look for an instructor to help you start improving the physical and technical side of your game.
If you don’t, you know where you stand.
I can help you learn about your psychology reasonably quickly, then you can go and work on the other aspects of your game.
If you try to do things the other way around, you can end up like I did.
Embarking on a 20-year quest to find the perfect golf swing, playing nowhere near your best golf when you really want to and making yourself miserable in the process.
Shades of Grey
With the technical and physical side of your golf swing, you are always dealing with a moving target. Your body changes from day to day, as does the feel of your swing. How often have you thought ‘that’s it, I’ve got it! Only to be disappointed next time you play.
There are lots of different ways of swinging the golf club and hitting a golf ball successfully.
You only need to see how many swing theories, models and systems are on offer on the internet and in golf magazines.
If you do decide to change your swing, you might go to one instructor who says do one thing, while another one tells you to do something else.
You could spend a lifetime chasing your tail in terms of fixing or improving your golf swing, when the reason you are playing poorly could simply be down to the fact that you are getting in your own way mentally.
Like I said, I did this for 20 years.
If you don’t want to do the same thing, the answer is simple.
Understand Your Thoughts and Feelings First!
Get clear on why you feel the way you do, then you can stop worrying and just play golf. You stop getting in your own way.
So how do you find out how well you understand how your mind works?
There are two ways.
The most efficient is use the link at the bottom of the page to book a discovery call where we can have a chat about how you see yourself and your golf.
The other option is to read some more articles, (or one of my books if you haven’t done so already.) I’ll suggest some good ones in the Action Steps at the bottom of the page
When you understand your thoughts and feelings, you will start to feel more confident when you play. If your scores don’t improve, you know the reasons for your poor golf probably lie on the technical side of things.
You can go and get some golf lessons, either with myself or another competent golf instructor (I recommend Bradley Hughes or Dan Grieve) safe in the knowledge that once you have made the changes, you will be able to take your skills to the golf course and deliver them regularly.
Thinking Comes Before Behaviour
If you can hit the ball reasonably well in practice, but still feel tight, insecure and insecure when you play, you would be much better getting to the bottom of why before you go messing about with your golf swing.
The mental comes before the physical.
You think before you move.
Your behaviour (golf swing) comes from how you feel, and your feelings come from thought.
Trying to fix the behaviour without understanding the thinking behind that behaviour rarely works.
When you understand how your mind works, you learn faster.
When your mind is clear you take in information and process it more easily.
Having golf lessons without understanding this can be a very hit or miss exercise.
Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t, depending on how busy your thinking was during the lesson.
When you understand how your mind works, and time and effort you put into improving your game is more beneficial, which is why it makes sense to learn about that first.
Isn’t that logical?
Feel the Benefits On and Off the Golf Course
When you take any swing improvements to the course, if you understand how your mind works, you can deliver them without getting in your own way.
Trying to improve by working on your golf swing first is getting the cart before the horse, and can lead to years of frustration, as I know from personal experience.
Learning about how your mind really works isn’t complicated or difficult.
It doesn’t take a long time, or any work or effort.
It will have lasting benefits for your golf, and other areas of your life too.
1. Diagnose the main problem correctly. If you are hitting the ball well in practice, your golf swing is functional. If you feel nervous or anxious when you play, tension is likely to be a big factor in playing poorly.
2. Learning about the mental side of the game is much simpler than rebuilding your golf swing! Once you understand how your mind works, you any technical changes you make are likely to be easier and more efficient. Book a discovery call to learn more.
3. If you’d prefer to keep reading, check out this article to learn more about why trying to perfect your swing can be a wild goose chase.