I'm sure we've all heard someone say “sports are 80% mental, 20% physical” at some point in our lives. This is particularly true in the game of golf – a sport where it's easy to overthink things to the point where we create new and bad habits, ultimately leading worse scores and lots of frustration.
Anything in life is as complex or simple as we make it out to be. If something is complex and we break it down into simpler parts, we often will have much greater success – but we also don’t want to overanalyze something. In the game of golf, there are so many factors that can impact what we do on every single shot we take. Here are some examples:
On The Greens:
Putting can be a real mental exercise for even the best golfers. We often overanalyze the greens and question our initial read by looking at every nook and cranny of the green. When we question ourselves like this, it often leads to simple mistakes and overcompensation. Trust what you are seeing and keep things simple, overthinking will result in a break that is most likely not there.
Simplify Your Approach:
Approach shots often present a difficult decision: which club do I hit? Maybe you're stuck in between a 7-iron and an 8-iron, and you just aren't sure whether a 7 is too much club or exactly what you need to clear the green side bunkers and land it safely on the green. Stick with what you're comfortable with – if you love to club up and swing softer when you're in between two clubs, go with that! Giving yourself too many options will often lead to inconsistencies and overthinking, and we know what comes along with that. Focus on the club you know you can hit and go from there.
Don't Freak Out About Your Score:
Nothing creates more frustration in the game of golf than overanalyzing scores. It's easy to get sucked into the trap of constantly thinking about your scores and how far over par you are, but remember that this kind of thinking will only lead to a lack of focus when it matters most. Keep your mind centered on each shot as you go, and try to focus the rest of your attention on a few parts of your game that are working for you – this will help you maintain a positive mindset as the round goes on.
Trust Your Alignment:
We've all been in a situation where we set up for an approach shot, backed away, set up, back away, repeat and repeat – just trust your first and second read and swing away! You can work yourself up and create even more stress by stepping off repeatedly to realign yourself, so trust your instincts and relax. This will lead to less overthinking and anxiety and will help improve your mental game.
Take a Lesson:
We all know the golfer who films every one of their swings, owns every swing aide tool ever made, and is constantly retooling their swing, yet still never seems to get over the hump. Don't be that person! Instead opt for a lesson – a teaching pro will oftentimes pick 1-2 smaller things to work on, so master those before jumping ahead to focus on 10 different cues and exercises.
You have to really trust yourself and your instincts out on the course. Stick to a brief routine and make sure you breathe, as this will help you keep things simple and reduce the risk of paralysis by analysis. Always remember how important the mental side of golf is – I like to think of what golf legend Bobby Jones once said: "competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course, the space between your ears”. Keep your mind sharp out there and your game will follow suit!