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The Mental Game in Two Words


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39 minutes ago, saevel25 said:

I think it's more expectations. They have a good range session and don't realize that doesn't translate to a consistent score. What ever your swing is, it still produces high number of results. Also, there isn't much out of your control. Maybe you get a bad bounce. For the most part, you have all the variables needed to hit a shot. The issue is, golf is HARD.

Let's say you miss a 150 yard shot 15 yards right of where your intended end point is. That is 5.7 degrees offline. With start line and curvature, that could be a few degrees of face angle control. You have a fraction of a second to get the clubface to line up with swing path to hit an accurate shot. It becomes very hard to do when the swing path is extreme.

Yes, I should have clarified that with the current consistency of my shot shape and spin that I can’t depend upon my shot sticking a particular portion of the greens even on the greens. If it does, I’m more surprised and delighted. Off line a few degrees isn’t going to get me upset either, I know my shot zones and play for the potential 10-15 degrees I might be off. I’m not angry that I hit a shot a little outside my norm, just when I do something that I am able to practice and execute reasonably well.

A bad shot as a result of not choking up the club on an uphill lie or not taking a reasonable practice swing or something like that is more in my control because I was in a hurry or something like that. If I mishit by a lot I can get angry with myself, but if I hit 20 yards short in a 200 yard shot? No big deal. Just within my norm.

Nothing is really in your control, but I agree that setting realistic expectations for your outcome can mitigate some mental anguish many of us seem to experience?

 

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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, visuali

Enjoying competition/pressure may have a genetic component, but I feel it is mostly learned/nurtured. Success breeds success. Surround yourself with quality, successful, competitive people and you h

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12 minutes ago, Lihu said:

 I’m not angry that I hit a shot a little outside my norm, just when I do something that I am able to practice and execute reasonably well.

Again, wrong expectations. You go to the range, hit shot after shot. You are able to string together good shots because you get immediate feedback from the previous shot. You do not have this on the course. You will not hit another full swing iron shot for maybe 15 minutes. You only have 18 of these shots a round. You can hit 70 of these shots in an hour on the range.

If you want to practice course like situations. Hit a driver, wait 2 minutes then a mid iron, wait 2 minutes then a pitch/chip. Wait 5-10 minutes and do it again. Switch up the tee shot club, and the approach shot club. I bet you would see a higher variation in your results than going through a standard practice session.

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1 hour ago, saevel25 said:

Again, wrong expectations. You go to the range, hit shot after shot. You are able to string together good shots because you get immediate feedback from the previous shot. You do not have this on the course. You will not hit another full swing iron shot for maybe 15 minutes. You only have 18 of these shots a round. You can hit 70 of these shots in an hour on the range.

If you want to practice course like situations. Hit a driver, wait 2 minutes then a mid iron, wait 2 minutes then a pitch/chip. Wait 5-10 minutes and do it again. Switch up the tee shot club, and the approach shot club. I bet you would see a higher variation in your results than going through a standard practice session.

Depends upon what your definition of “reasonably” is I suppose?

At this point, I almost exclusively switch clubs on the driving range. There’s no point hitting ball after ball except when warming up.

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To me pressure is facing a 3 and half footer to save a match. In essence, it's the 'easy' shots that instill fear the most when something is online as the expectation is to not screw up. 

I can live with screwing up a 7 iron from 155 out as that is within my normal shot dispersion. But it's just freaking embarrassing to miss must-make 3 footers. 

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Historically I get nervous in pressure spots but generally I perform pretty well in them and get comfortable quick and settle in.  That said, when it comes to golf, more often than not in self imposed pressure spots (because I don't play in a league or in competition) I don't succeed because I'm terrible at golf and don't succeed in what I'm trying to do in golf normally.  That said, I still have that competitor fire and dislike sucking at things I have a passion so when I do something well in a pressure spot in golf, I love the feeling and rush I get and it definitely pumps me up.

One thing I will say is that because I know I'm not good at golf, doubt creeps into my head a lot, especially on putts I feel I should make, like a 3 footer, and I should learn to step away and clear my head of the doubt and not just take the stroke in the interest of "getting it over" and trying to will myself to make it rather than being in the right mindset if that makes any sense.

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15 hours ago, mvmac said:

I feel we're talking about different things here. I can't say one way or another whether someone cares more than they should. The game means something different to different people. If someone places too much importance on golf or playing well, to me that's a different issue than dealing with first tee jitters or making a 4ft putt to win a match.

What I was getting at with my post was when you're feeling the nerves/pressure, don't lie to yourself that it's a pressure situation. Acknowledge it and try to rise to the occasion. Enjoy the opportunity to overcome the obstacle. 

Ok, I get you. Sorry.

Since I don't compete often, the closest thing I can relate to with what you're talking about is when faced with a question of either playing it safe or getting closer to the pin, especially when I have a good round going and there's at least something on the line. For the last month or so, I've chosen the latter. Mentally, it's kind of a "make the decision, execute the shot and live with the results" kind of thing. I know it's not the same thing as what you're describing, but there is some pressure.

I don't know, maybe putting that little bit of pressure on myself will help should I ever compete.

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11 hours ago, GolfLug said:

To me pressure is facing a 3 and half footer to save a match. In essence, it's the 'easy' shots that instill fear the most when something is online as the expectation is to not screw up. 

Yes I'm similar, I tend to feel more "pressure" on the shots I "should" pull off. 

6 hours ago, JonMA1 said:

Mentally, it's kind of a "make the decision, execute the shot and live with the results" kind of thing. I know it's not the same thing as what you're describing, but there is some pressure.

For me that's the fun of the game (along with the camaraderie of the group I play with), being able to execute on the course. Sometimes that's hitting solid shots, sometimes it's managing my misses and finding a way to still shoot a decent score. That's why I spend time practicing and working hard towards getting better, it's very satisfying to me to hit good shots, especially in tournaments. 

Others may just have fun walking around a nice green field getting some exercise, or hanging out with their buddies, that's the beauty of the game, you can make it whatever you want it to be.

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  • 3 months later...

I don't know how I've missed this thread for all this time, but I love the premise! 

I once heard a football coach say, "Pressure is a privilege!" What you are trying to do means something to you. I played in a local tourney last year with nothing on the line but my entry fee, there's no prize money, and I was nervous as hell on the first tee! 

And it doesn't even have to be a tournament situation. My favorite local course draws a huge crowd on weekend mornings. Back in the day before computerized starter's lists, when you'd drop your ball in the top of the metal tube and the starter would pull balls from the bottom to determine who was next on the tee, there would always be a big gang of guys around the first tee. When our group was up there must have been 50-60 guys around the tee. I was cat nervous, and to hear the group grow quiet as I addressed the ball made me more so! 

Somehow, I made the swing and the shot. A nice gentle draw that was well out there. There was even a smattering of applause and some calls of "nice drive". They knew what I was feeling! 

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On 9/24/2011 at 9:03 PM, iacas said:

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.

Erik, in the end it's just a game....if folks keep that in mind they're far ahead of the game.

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Played with my buddy last weekend, winning by 2 strokes. The problem is that I carry a HCP index of 6.3 and he a 10, yet generally when we play raw/gross score I only beat him by 1-2 strokes and occasionally I’ll lose to him. I play worse with him than anyone. He is my kryptonite. For fun, I figured out my HCP when I play with him and it’s a 15.9. 

I was reading back thru previous pages here and found where I’ve mentioned this before a few years back. 
 

Clearly I’ve not made much progress, but will make a note and conscious effect to embrace the challenge, enjoy pressure. 

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  • 4 months later...

I find my mental game gets better the more time I spend golfing -playing + practice over a period of time ... Vs my job being at sea on a Fishing boat with ZERO Golf (outside watching some on TV, or Golf Mag) sometimes for upto two weeks then with day or two being home I usual have a club day and mentally just rubbish--back swing to fast-- rush my PSR-- lose my cool etc(As I feel I'm making a fool of myself in front of many times golfers I've never played with)...had one just the other day after a very hard Fishing trip .. I dream of not long having to spend weeks away from the game so I can continue to fine tune my game as I really believe I could be a low single cap in time.... 

 

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  • 4 months later...

These are my opinions and not scientific facts. 
 

Andy Beal owned a bank and played no limit poker for VERY stakes against the best players in Vegas. He came very close to breaking them for tens of millions. He noticed that as stakes increased, players were unable to cope and often folded better hands. I mean just crawled away. 

The reason I share this is there is a difference between golf and tournament golf. 

Individually, when I play ... I enjoy it. Whether that’s a personal best, a skins game, or a club tournament ... I don’t get rattled.

A tournament? That’s a whole other thing. Bobby Jones used to throw up between rounds. Friends who have played the Tour talk about weed usage to relax. One of my friends left the Tour due to pressure.

I think those at the highest levels of the game, it probably doesn’t matter much.They have their millions. Others .. I’ll bet if you polled them would say, hell yes it’s mental. 

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13 minutes ago, Vespidae said:

Others .. I’ll bet if you polled them would say, hell yes it’s mental. 

That's not what anyone's ever really said about this.

Dustin Johnson isn't a good golfer because he's mentally better than you or me or your friends who quit the Tour.

He's better, mostly, because he's physically more capable of hitting the ball better than most anyone else on the planet right now.


Nobody's denying that there's a mental aspect to the game, or tournament golf.

Just that it's consistently over-rated. Over-stated how important it is. At the end of the day, the game is mostly still a physical deal.

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29 minutes ago, iacas said:

Just that it's consistently over-rated. Over-stated how important it is. At the end of the day, the game is mostly still a physical deal.

Does anyone know? Here is what we do know ...

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year. So it is highly likely 20% of the Tour suffers from some sort of anxiety. 

Stress is a response to situational factors. Anxiety is a response to the stress. The physical response is tension, a rise in blood pressure, and breathing difficulties.

I’m not an expert on the swing. But I am aware that removing tension is an important part of swinging freely. So those with anxiety are likely to be in a less than ideal condition and removing or managing stress becomes important. 

Dustin Johnson may be one of those 82% who don’t suffer from anxiety. But there are likely many golfers who need to manage the stress. [Yet, he was suspected of substance and doing a fellow Tour player’s wife. Not normal behavior, but lets set that aside.]

I would add that at lower levels, D1 and below, it may not matter. The stakes just aren’t high enough to create anxiety but, I don’t have any facts to support it one way or another. 

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9 minutes ago, Vespidae said:

Does anyone know? Here is what we do know ...

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year. So it is highly likely 20% of the Tour suffers from some sort of anxiety.

What does that have to do with the topic? A PGA Tour player might have anxiety about his wife or family, and it may have a limited effect on his ability to hit a golf ball.

And, if what you're saying is accurate, and those players have anxiety about their golf game, they're probably less likely to be the "high performers." They're unlikely to be playing well on the PGA Tour.

So again… what are you saying, and what's that got to do with the topic?

Dustin Johnson isn't better than a mini-tour player mostly because of his mental game. To say anything otherwise is laughable.

9 minutes ago, Vespidae said:

Dustin Johnson may be one of those 82% who don’t suffer from anxiety. But there are likely many golfers who need to manage the stress.

Oy.

9 minutes ago, Vespidae said:

I would add that at lower levels, D1 and below, it may not matter. The stakes just aren’t high enough to create anxiety but, I don’t have any facts to support it one way or another. 

I feel like you're arguing just to argue at this point. What have you got to contribute here?

My D3 college players will have anxiety about some of their rounds. We've played in national championships, or conference championships. Or they'll be three under through five holes.

You know what? Some handle it better than others.

But you know what else? The better players are better physically. The margin created by the "mental game" is tiny. The vast majority of the difference between players? The physical game - how well they can hit a golf ball.

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10 minutes ago, Vespidae said:

Does anyone know? Here is what we do know ...

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year. So it is highly likely 20% of the Tour suffers from some sort of anxiety. 

Stress is a response to situational factors. Anxiety is a response to the stress. The physical response is tension, a rise in blood pressure, and breathing difficulties.

I’m not an expert on the swing. But I am aware that removing tension is an important part of swinging freely. So those with anxiety are likely to be in a less than ideal condition and removing or managing stress becomes important. 

Dustin Johnson may be one of those 82% who don’t suffer from anxiety. But there are likely many golfers who need to manage the stress. 
I would add that at lower levels, D1 and below, it may not matter. The stakes just aren’t high enough to create anxiety but, I don’t have any facts to support it one way or another. 

The best players are better because they are better athletes, period. Usain Bolt is the fastest human because he is faster than anyone. There is no mental game aspect at all. Last year at the Super Bowl, he ran a 40 yard dash in sweats and Chuckie Ts and was faster than any NFL player at the combine ever. He ran something like a 4.2 second 40, in basically street clothes. So I disagree with your emphasis on the mental game. 

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1 minute ago, iacas said:

And, if what you're saying is accurate, and those players have anxiety about their golf game, they're probably less likely to be the "high performers." They're unlikely to be playing well on the PGA Tour.

Bubba Watson has spoken about the mental issues he faces during a round. 
 

You say it’s overrated. I’m saying it’s probably affecting some, but not all players. And just mentioning DJ is like saying there’s no poverty in America ... look there’s a millionaire.

2 minutes ago, boogielicious said:

The best players are better because they are better athletes, period

Perhaps the better players are better because they are better players AND they don’t succumb to the physical issues from anxiety. 

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1 minute ago, Vespidae said:

Bubba Watson has spoken about the mental issues he faces during a round. 
 

You say it’s overrated. I’m saying it’s probably affecting some, but not all players. And just mentioning DJ is like saying there’s no poverty in America ... look there’s a millionaire.

What is your point? Bubba has won the Masters twice because he’s a great golfer. His physical skills are next level. He has anxiety, but he wins because he is physically better.

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