How to Develop Mental Toughness for Golf and Life

How to Develop Mental Toughness for Golf and Life

The following article is a guest post.

Whenever we hear things like ‘Be strong’ and ‘Face your fears’, we register the anecdotes, we admire the emotion and then we move on. How often is our mental strength tested? And when we arrive at the threshold of truly testing situations, all the advice flies out of the window. 

What prepares you for the unrelenting pressure, the confusion at the moment of weakness, the chill in your spine and the tremble of your hands? Golf does.

It’s a harmless way of building your mental endurance.

A golf tournament with put you in dicey situations with its challenges and throw you the fight-or-flight challenge ever so often. It can help you build your confidence and resolve, brick by brick. In no time, you will be able to apply the lessons to your everyday life successfully. 

But how does one achieve the right mindset on the course? How does one find the same invincible look on their faces that Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have? How do golfers maintain mental toughness in front of a crowd every time? Let’s find out!

Play the game, don’t let the game play you.

When you’re feeling blue the next time for no reason, bring up a happy song. Play it and sing along. Tell yourself that there’s nothing wrong, that you are happy. The good mood will slowly creep up on you. We often underestimate our minds. Our mind can coax both our hearts and bodies in a positive way.

So start telling yourself to be bold on the course. Tell yourself that the stares, the smirks, the unsolicited advice from onlookers do not matter. There’s only you and you game and you will play it well.

Focusing on the game helps you quell all other thoughts that will mean nothing when you win. Talk yourself into a positive mindset. It will steady your nerves and hence your hands too. Shaky hands can ruin your play. Confidence in your game is like a self-fulfilling prophesy. You feel good, your physical prowess complies and you walk to the victory you were confident of.

Planning and preparing.

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A plan usually helps dispel any doubts in your game or abilities. Doubt is the root of confusion and eventual failure. Having a plan for the next round and the next shot in golf focuses your mind on performing. A small pre-shot routine keeps your mental strength on point. Having a go-to shot helps when you aren’t sure what shot will bring you out of the woods.

Before you start a round of golf, know the course. Find out what hazards lay where. You cannot simply tee and hit long shots to reach the greens faster. What if you dunk the golf ball in a water hazard? Golf GPS devices usually have all the landmarks of the golf courses panned out. Check out the reviews of Golf GPS units for a solid game strategy.

Practice is another source of lasting mental strength on the golf course. Practice makes you believe in your capabilities even when others doubt them. Don’t just practice hard, vary the scenarios. The more type of shots you have practised, the more prepared you will be for any eventuality. Facing and failing at the troubles at the practice ground teaches us to how to be prepared for anything in life. And golf could be that practice ground for real life.

Separate yourself from the game.

We attach too much importance to our achievements. So much so, we identify ourselves with these achievements alone. The golfer who identifies him/herself by that US Open trophy alone will feel the pressure to defend the title every time. This pressure is a negative reinforcement for mental strength. It fosters doubt and keeps you from realizing your full potential.

All great golfers learn to separate themselves from their ‘identity’ on the golf course. They get into player mode where their past achievements and future reputation are no longer associated to the person on the course. They are just players in that moment, thinking only about the next shot. Even with thousands of spectators and cameras aimed at them, they concentrate on the game not their ‘personality’ as the world views it.

Pace the Game

You might have a normal pace of the game which works best for you during practice or other smaller events. During the bigger, more critical golf tournaments you tend to over-analyze your natural pace and alter it. You hit a bogie and you start swinging wildly to make up. Idle speculation only leads to mistakes.

There’s a game we often play to discourage such speculation. We count how many times our mind wandered to these disastrous thoughts during the course of a golf round. With every round and every golf tournament, we try to bring down this number.  Our mental strength thrives in the vacuum left by the self-doubt and untoward conjecture of tragedies that might never happen.

Act like a winner.

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Body language has been shown to make a marked difference in your mental strength. Act strong and you can convince your mind that you are strong enough to deal with the pressure. Acting strong is not the same as being a bully or being unapproachable on the golf course. It means:

1. Straighten your back.

A fine posture reduces the release of cortisol. It automatically helps you shrug off stress and progress like a champion. Walking the tour talk only means straightening your back, squaring your shoulders and smiling often.

2. It’s okay to be afraid.

Bravery isn’t lack of fear. It’s overcoming fear. Take that churning gut, understand it and use it to your advantage. Knowing what you fear helps you prepare against it.

Make it a habit.

Mental toughness is not developed overnight unless you find it the hard way. On the golf course, you have to toil everyday to build this mindset. Once you develop the mental strength for golf course, you will be able to summon it even in life. So go on, break the wheel of doubt and feel liberated on the golf course as in life.

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