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Notes for Juniors on Mental Game



I'm having a mental game expert address some of my juniors next Saturday, and I had some additional notes for him. Stuff I wanted him to include that may be particular to my program, the way I teach, my LSW information, etc.

And I thought some of you might benefit.

So here's that part of the email:

1. Practice is not playing. I'd like them to know that when they're working on their swing, they care what the mechanics are, they care what things "look" like somewhat, they care about making the best MECHANICS or something, to change or improve. But when they're playing, it's all about the results, not what it looks like. Better mechanics eventually lead to better scores, but sometimes you have to find a swing that works THAT DAY.

2. One or two bad shots is not a pattern. If you duck hook it off the first three tees, then yes, you might want to do something different the next time you get a driver out, but don't rush into changing your entire swing thought or game plan after one or two or even three slightly funny shots, or you'll be changing something after EVERY bad swing, which happens more often than people realize.

3. Have realistic expectations. PGA Tour players:

  • make 50% of their 8-footers and only 15% of their 20-footers. On better greens.
  • Average 2.8 shots from 100 yards out in the fairway. They hit it to about 18' on average.
  • Hit about 60% of their fairways, but almost always keep it "between the ropes."
  • Hit three to four "great shots" per round on a great day. Their standard is higher, but still… they don't love every shot they ever hit. They also hit shanks, chunk chips, etc. You only see the leaders on TV.
  • Get up and down only 2/3 times. Scrambling is tough. But they almost never take two chips or two bunker shots.

Then of course, talk about how having proper expectations for yourself will be very personal. Expectations can be for one shot or for the score for 18 holes.

4. Have proper expectations and goals for entering tournaments, but enter them BEFORE you're "ready" for them. You might have a better way of saying this, but basically, we entered Natalie in HJGT events before she was anywhere near competitive for them… so that by the time she was competitive in them (now), she'd know what they were like. It's NEVER a bad thing to play as many events where you have to put your name and a number up on a scoreboard for all to see - it can only be BAD if you have unrealistic expectations about your abilities. Go into competitive golf with the proper mindset - that you're LEARNING how to compete, LEARNING how to deal with it all, how to handle the slow pace of play, playing under the rules, playing with strangers, everything… go in with the proper mindset and it's all about growth, regardless of the outcome.

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  • Moderator

I agree. Everyone can take these tips to heart. Jacob will be reading these momentarily! Especially the tournament play piece

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1 minute ago, IowaGreg said:

At the risk of being redundant, this can apply to everyone.

That’s why I posted it. It’s not just for juniors.

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I've been having a few meetings with a sports psychologist who wants to have lessons for golfers.  One of the, not revolutionary, but different ways of thinking about performance for every time you play is to try and beat your average, instead of thinking about beating your best or your handicap (at least it is different to me, and I guess makes me relax a bit more instead of trying overly hard to perform). This way, the goal is more achievable and yet serves the same purpose of trying to get better. A lot of these lessons talk about recognizing mental states, using certain methods to control heart rate, cancelling noise (trees, hazards, etc.) when starting your routine for hitting the ball, "embracing chaos," and making sure you stick to your routines to push you through the tough situations.  Nothing in these sessions have been brand new, but the perspective from which he talks about helps put them in place.  He has one hell of a resume, working with Navy SEALs, Olympians, and plenty of professional sports teams, so to hear about these examples and how they address their performance really helps.

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Number 4 is interesting to me. I've been entering State Mid-Am qualifiers the past two years. The first year, I played well but missed qualifying. Last year, I sucked ass. I thought after last year that I would take a break and try to get a little better before trying to qualify again. But maybe I should keep entering and try to get more used to playing in these. Food for thought, for sure.

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Interesting stuff. I think the realistic expectations is one of the most important things. Handicap golfers get upset when they hit a 100 yard pitch to 20 feet, but that’s roughly a neutral shot on the PGA tour. This is one place I’ve found strokes gained to be very helpful. Looking back on shots I didn’t think were that great and seeing them gaining strokes has been very helpful. 

I try not to worry too much about tee shots though. Tough to gain strokes with a driver against pga tour numbers. 

Also hard to overstress how helpful experience is when it comes to tournament play. You’ll still be nervous, but hopefully will have learned how you react to those nerves. Probably worth a shot or two I’d say. 

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15 hours ago, Ty_Webb said:

Handicap golfers get upset when they hit a 100 yard pitch to 20 feet, but that’s roughly a neutral shot on the PGA tour.

I have never seen this specific example happen, but your intent is correct. People get upset when every chip doesn't land with in 3 FT or when they miss a green. They don't realize they hit the last 4 in a row and they were probably due for a miss.


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