Competing One Shot at a Time: Mastering Golf Mental Performance

by Brian Cain, MPM

When you’re first learning golf, the physical skills like foot placement, swing management, and course management are important to learn.

But once you start competing at higher levels, everyone already knows all the physical stuff well. Which means that you are probably not physically or mechanically better than the person standing next to you.

Talent isn’t enough.

The greatest players and teams in college golf are aware of something that everyone else might not realize: If you want to be the best of the best, doing the physical training is simply not enough.

So, what’s an aspiring golfer to do?

Strengthen your mental game.

Golf is as much a mental game than a physical one. Maybe more so. Mastering your mental performance is what’s going to give you the psychological edge over your greatest competitors.

When it’s time to compete in the tournament, trusting your physical preparation and moving your body in the optimal way necessary only occurs when you’re in an optimal mental state and your body and mind are working together.

But you know this. After all, when has the negative self-talk that creeps in as you walk to the next hole ever helped you?

I’m guessing never.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know how to manage your internal dialogue!

You must be in control of yourself before you can control your performance on the course. Gaining self-control in the challenging, precise, pressure packed competitive sport of golf is essential to your success.

Golfers who have developed the mental focus, self-awareness, and discipline to control their mental game are better able to control their behaviors on the course.

“I always tell my players that the opponent is not the golfer you are playing against, and it’s not the golf course. It’s like that in all athletics and life. Your opponent is yourself. The challenge is to find out how good you can be.”

Mike Holder

Former Oklahoma State Men’s Golf Coach 8x NCAA National Champion

Driving the ball with distance is a skillset.

Reading the course, taking in all the information you can and deciding which club to use is a skillset.

Putting with just the right amount of speed is a skillset.

Your mental game is also a skillset.

I have worked with top college golf programs and everything I teach is centered about two critical principles of success:

  1. You have to be in control of yourself before you can control your performance.
  2. Every shot has a life and history of it’s own and your process is the pathway to the performance you want
Essentially you have to learn how to compete one shot at a time

Did you shoot an Eagle on Hole 4? Great. That won’t mean anything if you Triple Bogey on the next next 14 holes.

Did you Bogey on hole 7? That’s okay. It happens.

The trick with mental performance is to stop yourself from thinking about that Eagle or that Bogey. What you did on Hole 2 doesn’t matter anymore.

The shot that matters the most is the one you’re lining up right now. This sounds like a simple concept. But, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Don’t confuse simple for easy.

The hardest 6 inches to conquer on the course are the 6 inches between your ears. Your mindset must be elite.

So, to be able to focus on that one shot at a time principle, you need to put in the mental reps.

You can call it taking PRIDE in everything you do:

The PRIDE acronym I teach stands for Personal Responsibility in Daily Excellence and serves as a foundation of mental performance training in golf.

Making excellence your daily pursuit is the goal.

My objective here is to show you how to become an elite performer and maximize your potential on the course and in life. Before you can become an elite performer, you must first understand and commit to the mindset that excellence is a lifestyle, not an event.

My free 45minute golf masterclass is a good first step into your lifestyle of elite performance on the course.