I'm not talking about your pre-shot routine. I'm not name-dropping and telling you to shoot "aggressively" at "conservative" targets. I'm not going to tell you about deep breathing techniques, visualizing the shot, or any mumbo jumbo like that.
I'm also not talking about course management.
I'm talking about the mental game - the six inches between your ears that lets you play good golf - as good or better golf than when you're relaxed, having fun, etc.
And here it is in two words: enjoy pressure.
That's all there is to it. If you can learn to enjoy the pressure that accompanies whatever hurdles you want to overcome in your game - making a putt on the last hole to win your $2 nassau or competing in local amateur events or the pressure you face when you're standing on the 18th tee needing a score to shoot your lowest score ever - the game becomes easier.
There are a lot of ways to learn to enjoy pressure. I seem to take an "I'll show YOU!" type of approach. I love the feeling you get when you stick it close on the last hole. And if you don't stick it close, well, then I love the possibility of holing out from the bunker, fringe, rough, etc.
Others make it a little more personal - they want to prove to themselves that they can do something, just for their own sake.
Players who do not enjoy being in the limelight (again, even if it's just to win a $2 nassau) simply avoid it or attempt to get out of it quickly
But that's all there is to it, and it's one of the reasons why we play the game. Enjoy pressure.