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Golf's Mental Game Aspect

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32 minutes ago, GolfLug said:

I think the answer is exactly in what you said at the end of the question: Face your fears, face them often. Beat them to death. 

Most other techniques are distraction based to calm nerves (visualization or think of a happy place type) and in my very humble opinion, ineffective over a longer period.    

That’s fine for the all too common “nerves” mental aspect of playing golf. But there are many other mental exercises and choices involved in playing and improving at golf, many shared in the earlier thread.

Edited by Midpack

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3 hours ago, Midpack said:

Golf could be 80:20 physical mental for me and Dustin Johnson. The fact that DJ is better than I am doesn't prove golf is only 5% mental for everyone, though it may be for pros and some others.

@Midpack, please start fresh.

Nobody has ever said golf is 5% for everybody. There are exceptions, as there are in most things in life.

3 hours ago, Midpack said:

While DJ is one of the most powerful players, there are other tour pros and long drive folks who are more physically capable than he is.

Capability or potential is not what "physical" is about. Physical is how the swing and body perform: how the club is delivered to the ball. DJ has a high physical skill level: he hits it far and accurately enough. Golf is ultimately a game of accuracy, given that everything has to end up in the same 4.25" diameter hole. DJ excels at that.

Physical is not about "potential" and it's certainly not about how you see the potential in players on the PGA Tour.

3 hours ago, Midpack said:

And if physical ability was 95% of it, wouldn't the tour rankings and wins correlate almost exactly?

Who says they don't?

Who's to say that Dustin, Jordan, Hideki, Justin, Jon, Rory, and Rickie aren't the six most "physically" dominant players of the last two years, and 1-7 in the OWGR?

You're making arguments but don't seem to understand that you're not actually proving anything. We have no real way of measuring what's "physical" versus "mental."

Why do I think that, generally, it's a small amount, like 5%? Because Dustin Johnson can be in a rage, thinking about his wife or girlfriend or whatever Paulina is cheating on him with Brooks Koepka, and totally distracted, and still hit better golf shots than almost anyone. He can still play better golf at the U.S. Open at Oakmont under severe nerves than I could even in whatever the best "mental" state I can achieve is.

The score and the shots Dustin Johnson hits are thus vastly due to his physical skills: his swing is better in every way, and the shots he hits are better in every way (on the whole, in general). And very, very little of that is due to his "mental game."

3 hours ago, Midpack said:

At least "we've" now acknowledged that game planning is mental, where it wasn't in the earlier thread.

I said, IIRC, that game planning isn't difficult. It's making a decision. If I said it wasn't "mental game" I was probably thinking that the mental game, at the time, was more about getting nervous or whatever. After all, Rotella really doesn't talk about gameplanning much. His game planning advice is basically "swing aggressively at conservative targets," IIRC.

You give a bogey golfer a brilliant gameplan and he's still not putting up a better score than Dustin Johnson with the worst (reasonable) gameplan.

3 hours ago, Midpack said:

I can't see how green reading isn't largely a mental exercise.

Because it's a learned physical skill. I don't talk about any mental anything when I teach green reading.

3 hours ago, Missouri Swede said:

Aren't these (the ones I bolded) similar or overlapping?  Or by "feeling that day" are you intending things like having a cold or headache--more somatic than emotional?

No. "Feeling that day" is "tired" or "a bit of a headache" or "really strong." Physical things. Not your mood. (People have played great golf while sad, happy, excited, etc. This is a knock against the mental game being a bigger percentage, IMO, because if you can be all of those things at the start of your round - undoubtedly your play can shift your mood as the round progresses - and play either great golf or terrible golf, then your mood itself must not be a big factor.)

2 hours ago, saevel25 said:

Generally, this might not be considered mental. I could say the willingness to practice even if you do not feel like it is a mental decision. This might be geared towards a small segment of golfers. I might define determination as mental quality.

It's not. Desire to practice is mental, sure… but practicing isn't playing golf, and the point of practice is to get better at the physical.


I'm going to be of little to no help, btw, in the "how to improve your mental game." Beyond this, anyway:

  • Have realistic expectations. If you feel bad you didn't stick your 123-yard wedge to 3' or that you didn't make the 20' putt, you'll feel bad about yourself. That's not great.
  • Realize that golf is just a game.
  • Figure out what amount of focus works for you, and go with it.
  • Develop a routine. The only thing you control is the process - everything else is fate, luck, etc.
  • Learn to gameplan properly, and then accept the results. This takes very little time.

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Speaking only for myself, the mental aspect of golf is one I struggle with quite a bit. I always have to an extent - I remember being a little kid, I basically grew up playing this par 3 course where the last two holes had water, and just thinking about the water basically guaranteed I'd hit the ball into it. (Oddly, I don't struggle with this particular issue at all anymore.)

Throughout high school and ever since (I play in a men's league through work, the occasional scramble here or there, and I was going to play in the CT State Public Links this year until work travel got in the way) I've pretty consistently played much better by myself or in a casual round with friends than in tournaments, even when I'm taking the practice round completely seriously, playing strictly by the rules, putting everything in, etc.

I get awful first tee jitters. In about a third of my league matches this season I topped my opening drive so badly it didn't even go 100 yards (relatedly, the first tee anxiety has always made me loathe any opening shot where I can't hit driver). 

If I'm just playing with friends (all of whom I'm much better at golf than) I make sure to take myself and my play extremely casually, otherwise I get too hard on myself and stop enjoying it. (I also don't want to look like an egotistical, ungrateful asshole when I'm still beating them by a few strokes every hole.)

One of my biggest frustrations the last few years has been that I just don't have the time to play and especially practice like I used to (I've also got some different priorities, admittedly). My handicap this year in my league was 3 for 9 holes, so it's not like I'm terrible, I'm just much less consistent. The struggle is that I still expect myself to be able to play nearly scratch golf, and tend to get frustrated when that doesn't happen. 

If I've got a strength it's that I don't spend too much time complaining about things I can't control - bad bounces, wind, hitting a spike mark, etc. (It's also possible that's actually a weakness because I tend to be pretty hard on myself for the things I can control.) My memory also isn't such that I only remember bad shots and not the good ones. If anything, one good shot can have a much bigger impact than one bad one - the bad one tends to just challenge me into trying to salvage a good score. 

Sometimes I think about quitting golf, if only because it would be nice to not have the anxiety and the self-flagellation in my life. But I do enjoy it on balance, and it's nice to be good at something, y'know? I actually had the lowest handicap in my division in my men's league (out of about 100 players I think), so that's something. For a while I was hesitant to join because I knew I'd be one of the better players, and I didn't want the pressure and expectations that come with that (a feeling I still get when I have a poor round). 

Anyway, I'm not even sure this post was what this thread was looking for. Felt nice to type though. 

P.S. Despite this all, I completely agree that golf is much much more physical than mental. 

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1 hour ago, iacas said:

You're making arguments but don't seem to understand that you're not actually proving anything. We have no real way of measuring what's "physical" versus "mental."

Why do I think that, generally, it's a small amount, like 5%? 

I give up, your arguments aren’t actually proving anything either, though you obviously don’t see it that way. I can give more examples but it’s pointless as I can’t prove it, just as no one else here can no matter how “self evident” they seem to think their arguments are...

We’re heated agreement somewhat anyway, I just think it’s more like 10-20% mental for most of us here and in the mainstream. If you’re 5% or less, and I have no reason to doubt that, maybe you’re an outlier?

I’ll be quiet on this subject now.

Edited by Midpack

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27 minutes ago, Midpack said:

I give up, your arguments aren’t actually proving anything either, though you obviously don’t see it that way.

I guess you don't see the difference between these two types of statements…

Mine:

1 hour ago, iacas said:

Dustin Johnson can be in a rage, thinking about his wife or girlfriend or whatever Paulina is cheating on him with Brooks Koepka, and totally distracted, and still hit better golf shots than almost anyone. He can still play better golf at the U.S. Open at Oakmont under severe nerves than I could even in whatever the best "mental" state I can achieve is.

The score and the shots Dustin Johnson hits are thus vastly due to his physical skills: his swing is better in every way, and the shots he hits are better in every way (on the whole, in general). And very, very little of that is due to his "mental game."

Yours:

5 hours ago, Midpack said:

And if physical ability was 95% of it, wouldn't the tour rankings and wins correlate almost exactly?

I think many would say my statement is quite likely very true, and one could prove it if they wanted to. It speaks directly to how DJ's physical game accounts for a lot of his scoring ability.

Your statement probably isn't true at all. In fact, the opposite - that the money rankings, wins, OWGR, etc. IS dominated by those who perform better physically - is probably more true. Even if you think the mental game is 20%, then you'd agree that the rankings should favor the physically better players. No?

27 minutes ago, Midpack said:

I can give more examples but it’s pointless as I can’t prove it, just as no one else here can no matter how “self evident” they seem to think their arguments are...

I don't think my Dustin Johnson thing is unprovable. I think it's eminently provable.

Hell, I've seen Dustin Johnson hit better 6-irons while talking on the phone and hitting the ball one-handed than a bogey golfer can hit. That's also provable, and makes pretty "evident" how supremely physical ability is in playing good golf.

27 minutes ago, Midpack said:

We’re heated agreement somewhat anyway, I just think it’s more like 10-20% mental for most of us here and in the mainstream. If you’re 5% or less, and I have no reason to doubt that, maybe you’re an outlier?

I don't think it's anywhere near 20%.

And it's fine that we disagree. I don't take it personally.

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The mental aspect for me comes into play when I mishit a shot and the same shot comes up soon after.   Whether it be a 4' putt or a short chip shot over a sand trap, if I don't achieve the desired outcome, my "fear factor" kicks in and it is hard to break.  I have to force myself to really focus at the task at hand, remember the basics and take the shot.    I have to remind myself that I've played the shot many times before, have succeeded and can do it again.  

If I make the same mistake again, that's the focus of my next practice session.   Practice until it feels comfortable and almost second nature.

 

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13 minutes ago, dennyjones said:

The mental aspect for me comes into play when I mishit a shot and the same shot comes up soon after.

So a big component of that, the root cause… is the physical. You mis-hit a shot. Thus, you're apprehensive about the next similar shot.

I'm not saying this makes it purely physical, because some players can let go of a bad shot… but at the same time, if you don't hit poor shots, you don't have to work to "let go" of them.

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I sum it up this way. Generally speaking, mental game can cost you strokes, but it can’t make you play better than your physical swing. Being “in the zone” will result in your best potential score. For a tour player, that could be 59. For me, low 80s because their swing, short game, etc. are far superior.

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Mental game is mostly dealing with pressure, in my opinion. So the mental game is only around 10 percent of the game, but at the same time people don't know how to deal with pressure, so it affects 100% of their game.

People who have high handicaps usually steer the ball, at least, that's what I've noticed, and I blame the mental game for it. It's not always the golf swing that makes a player, it's their ability to repeat that swing under pressure, which requires a shot shape.

If you can rely on your slice, you can play for it. Aim left, and let it fade. If your ball flight is everywhere, when work on your swing all you want to.

The mental game is simply not steering the ball under pressure. So it can affect all parts of your game, but technically it really is only around 10-15 percent of the game.

Just a personal opinion based on my own experience.

I know the mental game is big in my own game because I steer putts and I average over 36 putts a round with 10 greens in regulation. I also steer my chips, pitches, and especially bunker shots. So I shoot low 80's with no apparent way to improve, and it's all in my mind.

 

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For me, I’m going to say 15-20% of my poor results are due to mental lapses. Please see below for how I arrived at that.

For the general public, it’s impossible for me to even guess because I’m just not very experienced. I’d leave that up to those who teach us hacks for a living. 

My method:

Spoiler

I’ve tried to do this objectively this time going by Erik’s criteria. I also looked at a few GameGolf rounds to get a feel for what types of misses were purely physical and which involved a legitimate mental lapse. I don’t know any other way to assess the impact of mental vs physical.

Still, it’s very arbitrary and I’m willing to accept it may be flawed. 

Mental errors:

  1. Strategy - LSW stuff. Very few mental lapses. 
  2. Shot/Club Selection - Slightly different than above. I generally pull the right club (exception below).
  3. Laziness/Indifference - Believe it or not, I will occasionally use whatever club is in my hand to pull off a shot because i don’t want to walk to my cart to grab the correct one. This also includes the occasional hero shot when I’ve gotten frustrated and just given up on trying to play smart. To be fair, these will occasionally have favorable results.
  4. Poor Estimating - Usually the short game around the green. I will sometimes pull off the exact shot I wanted but realize what I wanted is wrong.
  5. Lack of focus/too many swing thoughts - this is a big issue usually brought on by the split-second conscious decision to change something up. If this included choosing to swing hard instead of remembering to swing smooth, it would account for even more strokes. But I'll consider that example a physical error.

Baseline score: 88
This is what I believe to be what the average amateur shoots - certainly the best I could ever hope for as an average score. I have to play my version of near perfect golf to score this low. To make par the baseline is unrealistic for me. 

My Average Score: 100
Of the 12 strokes lost over my baseline, I’m going to say 2 of the 12 poor results I experience are due more from mental reasons than physical ones.

My criteria doesn’t include total meltdowns (which have a substantial impact) because those rarely occur and because they’re normally initiated by several physical errors. The normal swearing-under-my-breath hissy-fits, while embarrassing, don’t always cost me strokes.

I also didn't include errors caused by unfamiliarity with a new course. That isn't really physical or mental. Nor did I consider "gamesmanship" by opponents. It has happened and does mess me up, but not often enough for consideration.

 

 

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2 hours ago, jamo said:

Sometimes I think about quitting golf, if only because it would be nice to not have the anxiety and the self-flagellation in my life. But I do enjoy it on balance, and it's nice to be good at something, y'know?

Jamieson, great post overall. 

BTW, from the perspective of a fella in his 40s to a fella in his 20s, it is not only nice, it is a lifeline. Your game is high art for somebody who has held a full time job for a while that does not involve golf. In time, perspectives change, priorities change, and things we care about like the all important first tee shot will maybe worry you less. Who knows..

Meanwhile work the levers you CAN.. i.e., keep that swing lubed..:-)

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2 hours ago, iacas said:

I've seen Dustin Johnson hit better 6-irons while talking on the phone and hitting the ball one-handed than a bogey golfer can hit. That's also provable, and makes pretty "evident" how supremely physical ability is in playing good golf.

This. And, Jason Bohn shot 72 all while being about 3 hours or a quick jog/heavy strain away from a heart attack. He felt awful and ‘just wanted to finish the round’ so he could get checked out. Pretty certain he was just riding his physical skills into the clubhouse. Doubtful he had any thoughts on golf at all.

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Good call.  Clear parameters stated at beginning of thread which is really cool.  Although I may have philosophical differences in said assumptions I will not use those as arguments.  That's nothing more than less filling tastes great (old beer commercial) and gets things nowhere fast.  I tend to read the op on a thread and then post so my apologies if my points have already been addressed.

So obviously,  starting anew we realize that the score you post is a result of the physical things you did in reality (how many shots to get little ball in hole 18 or more times.)

11 hours ago, iacas said:

Things got contested when we branched out from that original question to begin to discuss how much the mental game plays a role. I'm on record as saying it's pretty small: Dustin Johnson is going to shoot a pretty narrow range of scores if you normalize his physical performance somewhat, and a bogey golfer isn't going to break par on a PGA Tour course any time soon… his scores are also typically 85-100 owing, mostly, to variations in physical performance that day (as well as the mental game and, well, a little bit of luck good or bad).

 

I start here.  A bogey golfers scores change almost a stroke a hole from good day to worst according to above.  Why?

The physical ability is what it is.  Imo if the physical side is so influential how can the scores vary that much?  The argument was put forth before that its luck of the bounce.  Those six shots headed dead ob ALL ricocheted off trees and into the fairway and those five approaches that hit the path ALL ricocheted towards the green and those four putts ALL lipped in instead of out in 85?

I have played this game and others a long time.  I have played long enough to know true physical skill improvement is almost always incremental...So imo,  that range of scores viewed from the 'almost all physical' perspective requires changing physical abilities day to day not solely luck of the bounce.  I have problems believing it's luck of the bounce.  That's fifteen strokes a round.  Are we saying that's mostly luck?  We all know golf has a luck element there but fifteen a round?  I don't think so. 

I think the opening that I see here under these parameters is concentration.  How can we improve it and thus improve our mental 'game'?

Imo you improve it by practice and conditioning exactly like practicing to improve the physical swing.  You work on this while working on the swing or playing.  For now I will say the focal point is very important.  That's a choice.  Two aspects here,  one is the chosen focal point and two is the level of concentration.  The focal point is pretty much black and white.  IMO the interesting part is the level of concentration because that's something that continues far deeper than most people have any inkling about.  Also,  imo the focal point chosen has effects on the level you can get to,  so for a given activity choose wisely.  The level changes day to day and is not a thing you decide how deep to take it,  imo sometimes it's better and sometimes not so much.  There's things you can do...  My points here are made partially from golf and are personal but mostly from things I was far better at...Competition is huge here also.  IMO if you want to seek your limits and are not competing you CANNOT get there.  Again,  that's personal experience.

Shot selection/strategy is a psr thing and there's a mental component but that's about self knowledge and being honest with yourself.

Some people should not hit a 218 carry wind hurting period.  

Also iI think in order to espouse ones own mental game in a given sport they ought to be able to go scoreboard and say look at these results in competition.  It should be many and should show a trend in which you play at or better than your ability in competition regularly.

Competition is essential to growth in all of this.  Something must be on the line and it's best if others are depending on you.  IMO the highest level of ones self can only truly be found in the heat of competition.  I have proved that to myself just not in golf.  I play for some money or whatever but it's nothing like true competition.  In golf I am a rec golfer.  I know that I found levels I was capable of that I never would have found without competition in another sport and look at most real pro golfers on tour.  They literally NEED that stress to find out what they are really capable of.  They love the opportunity and challenge in that...

wow that's enough for now but kudos for opening the thread.:beer:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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19 minutes ago, Jack Watson said:

Good call.  Clear parameters stated at beginning of thread which is really cool.  Although I may have philosophical differences in said assumptions I will not use those as arguments.  That's nothing more than less filling tastes great (old beer commercial) and gets things nowhere fast.  I tend to read the op on a thread and then post so my apologies if my points have already been addressed.

So obviously,  starting anew we realize that the score you post is a result of the physical things you did in reality (how many shots to get little ball in hole 18 or more times.)

 

I start here.  A bogey golfers scores change almost a stroke a hole from good day to worst according to above.  Why?

The physical ability is what it is.  Imo if the physical side is so influential how can the scores vary that much?  The argument was put forth before that its luck of the bounce.  Those six shots headed dead ob ALL ricocheted off trees and into the fairway and those five approaches that hit the path ALL ricocheted towards the green and those four putts ALL lipped in instead of out in 85?

I have played this game and others a long time.  I have played long enough to know true physical skill improvement is almost always incremental...So imo,  that range of scores viewed from the 'almost all physical' perspective requires changing physical abilities day to day not solely luck of the bounce.  I have problems believing it's luck of the bounce.  That's fifteen strokes a round.  Are we saying that's mostly luck?  We all know golf has a luck element there but fifteen a round?  I don't think so. 

I think the opening that I see here under these parameters is concentration.  How can we improve it and thus improve our mental 'game'?

Imo you improve it by practice and conditioning exactly like practicing to improve the physical swing.  You work on this while working on the swing or playing.  For now I will say the focal point is very important.  That's a choice.  Two aspects here,  one is the chosen focal point and two is the level of concentration.  The focal point is pretty much black and white.  IMO the interesting part is the level of concentration because that's something that continues far deeper than most people have any inkling about.  Also,  imo the focal point chosen has effects on the level you can get to,  so for a given activity choose wisely.  The level changes day to day and is not a thing you decide how deep to take it,  imo sometimes it's better and sometimes not so much.  There's things you can do...  My points here are made partially from golf and are personal but mostly from things I was far better at...Competition is huge here also.  IMO if you want to seek your limits and are not competing you CANNOT get there.  Again,  that's personal experience.

Shot selection/strategy is a psr thing and there's a mental component but that's about self knowledge and being honest with yourself.

Some people should not hit a 218 carry wind hurting period.  

Also iI think in order to espouse ones own mental game in a given sport they ought to be able to go scoreboard and say look at these results in competition.  It should be many and should show a trend in which you play at or better than your ability in competition regularly.

Competition is essential to growth in all of this.  Something must be on the line and it's best if others are depending on you.  IMO the highest level of ones self can only truly be found in the heat of competition.  I have proved that to myself just not in golf.  I play for some money or whatever but it's nothing like true competition.  In golf I am a rec golfer.  I know that I found levels I was capable of that I never would have found without competition in another sport and look at most real pro golfers on tour.  They literally NEED that stress to find out what they are really capable of.  They love the opportunity and challenge in that...

wow that's enough for now but kudos for opening the thread.:beer:

In reading your arguments, it seems like all the people you play with never hit trees, never hit OB, never slice or hook shots, never overshoot greens, etc.

The luck of the bounce as you put it can be as many as 3 strokes on any hole. 

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Interesting question. I'm thinking back to the 1996 Masters. For the first three rounds, Greg Norman could do no wrong and was leading by 5 from his old friend Nick Faldo. Sunday afternoon though Faldo shot 67 and Norman shot 78. Norman was physically the same person on Sunday as he was on Saturday, which leaves the mental side the only thing left. That said, it's very clear that a bogey golfer would not and could not have shot 78 that day, no matter how good his mental game was. I think the difference in opinion comes down to the point of view from which you are coming.

For a guy like Dustin Johnson, his physical game is what it is. It doesn't really change day to day. There will be differences in his scoring as a result of whether putts happen to go in one day or not and whether he just happens to have a day where he hits more shots nearer the centre of his shot pattern. And a little bit of luck here and there. There will also be some variance based on where his mind is. If he's thinking well and making good decisions then his scores are likely to be better than if he's not. So *for him* on any given day, where his score happens to fall in his usual window of scores might well be 50/50 mental/physical or even 80/20 the other way. That presupposes the physical aspect of his game.

Or you could look at it as why is DJ a better golfer than I am. His physical skills so far outweigh mine that no amount of mental prowess could possibly help me beat him. That could easily be 99/1 physical/mental. But compare Spieth and Johnson. Both have substantial physical skills. They are slightly different. Spieth is a better long putter (than basically anyone). Johnson is a better driver (also than basically anyone). I think Spieth probably has a mental edge there as well. How does that split between them? Who the heck knows.

For me, personally, I have issues with my mental game. I don't play particularly often and when I do play it's most often in tournaments on courses with which I am unfamiliar. Consequently I tend to be very conservative with my shot selections early in the round and it can be so much so that I hit good shots and get myself into trouble. OB 20 yards left of the first fairway and I'm aiming it right edge, 50 yards from the OB. My poor shot is more often a miss to the right (although the left one comes up sometimes). So I hit a good shot and I'm in the semi. Hit my normal shot and I'm in the rough or the trees, but have a shot. Rarely hit the fairway and would never be in the left rough. Never OB either. I know this is stupid and I try to be braver, but it makes me feel uncomfortable and I hit more bad shots as a result. That's basically entirely mental I think. 

I also when playing matches against people play better if I feel like it's someone I "should" beat. If I "should" lose (on paper I mean), then I tend to play worse. I know that's a self fulfilling prophecy, but for my game, I think my mental POV is probably 50% of my result on any given day (again here I mean within my usual window, which is dictated by my physical skills). 

As to what to do about it, I have read a lot of mental game books. Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott (I think) have some really good stuff out there. I also recently read a book called "Golf Tough" by Dan Abrahams. I really liked a lot of his stuff. I've also been working on my pre-shot routine - making it as consistent as I can. I saw a video about Tiger Woods back in 2000 or so. From when he steps towards the ball to impact is basically 13.5 seconds +/- 0.2 seconds every single time. First tee of the tournament to the 72nd. Exactly the same. That's huge. I think. I think it's a big chunk of why he was so much better than anyone else. It helps that he was more physically gifted than anybody else too. Split there? Again, who the heck knows?

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11 hours ago, Jacktgolf said:

I know the mental game is big in my own game because I steer putts and I average over 36 putts a round with 10 greens in regulation. I also steer my chips, pitches, and especially bunker shots. So I shoot low 80's with no apparent way to improve, and it's all in my mind.

Please explain how improving your mental game exclusively will make you drop over 10 strokes per round. 

That simply isnt possible. When you say you "steer" shots, the reason that happens is 100% physical. Putting is a great example. If your alignment of your feet and putter are off compared to the line you want to start the ball on, you will have to "steer" and alter the club path to start the ball on your intended line. Yes you are mentally steering the club, but the root cause of you needing to steer the club is because you were physically out of position in the first place.

The reason you arent getting better is because your physical skills arent getting better. 

You say it is all in your mind, so I will ask a question that was asked in the other thread, would you rather have the mental game of Tiger Woods in his prime combined with your current physical game, or your current mental game with the physical game of Tiger Woods in his prime?

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7 hours ago, Jack Watson said:

The physical ability is what it is.  Imo if the physical side is so influential how can the scores vary that much?  

All of these are with in the realm of physical ability for a golfer who averages 90. Their physical playing ability is such that they have a wide range of possibilities. A PGA Tour player has a game with much smaller range of possibilities. The golfer has no time to mentally think about controlling the clubface to the level needed to be more consistent. They need to train their physical ability to be more consistent. The wide range of results are totally acceptable in the constraints of their physical ability.

7 hours ago, Jack Watson said:

I think the opening that I see here under these parameters is concentration.  How can we improve it and thus improve our mental 'game'?

I believe this depends on the golfer. I do not think people lack concentration.

19 hours ago, iacas said:

Ability to focus or "get out of your way." (i.e. some people perform best when they aren't hyper-focused, some do). This can also include visualizing shots, not having too many swing thoughts, etc.

There is a wide range of things here. Does a golfer focus on their swing, do they focus on nothing, do they focus on visualizing the shot, do they focus on placing a ball in a spot, ect..

That also leads back to physical ability as well. If you struggle with consistency it gets frustrating to know what to concentrate on because you start to think it isn't working. Staying the course and accepting expectations is an aspect of the mental game, but a lack of physical ability is just that a lack of physical ability.

 

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3 minutes ago, Ty_Webb said:

For a guy like Dustin Johnson, his physical game is what it is. It doesn't really change day to day. There will be differences in his scoring as a result of whether putts happen to go in one day or not and whether he just happens to have a day where he hits more shots nearer the centre of his shot pattern. 

Or you could look at it as why is DJ a better golfer than I am. His physical skills so far outweigh mine that no amount of mental prowess could possibly help me beat him. That could easily be 99/1 physical/mental. But compare Spieth and Johnson. Both have substantial physical skills. They are slightly different. Spieth is a better long putter (than basically anyone). Johnson is a better driver (also than basically anyone). I think Spieth probably has a mental edge there as well. How does that split between them? Who the heck knows.

For me, personally, I have issues with my mental game. I don't play particularly often and when I do play it's most often in tournaments on courses with which I am unfamiliar. Consequently I tend to be very conservative with my shot selections early in the round and it can be so much so that I hit good shots and get myself into trouble. OB 20 yards left of the first fairway and I'm aiming it right edge, 50 yards from the OB. My poor shot is more often a miss to the right (although the left one comes up sometimes). So I hit a good shot and I'm in the semi. Hit my normal shot and I'm in the rough or the trees, but have a shot. Rarely hit the fairway and would never be in the left rough. Never OB either. I know this is stupid and I try to be braver, but it makes me feel uncomfortable and I hit more bad shots as a result. That's basically entirely mental I think.

You are correct that Spieth and DJ have substantial physical skills, but they are not identical day to day like you claimed. Putts dont just "happen to go in" more for the player with the stronger mental game. The ball doesnt know the mental game of the person using the club that struck the ball. People who have a greater physical skill at putting make more putts than people who arent as good at putting. 

Spieth is not a better long putter than basically anyone. What data are you using to back that up? According to the PGA tour statistics, Spieth ranked 4th in percentage of putts made greater than 20 feet, and only 14th on putts greater than 25 feet. That is hardly close to being "A better long putter than basically anyone" Spieth isnt as good at long putts as people think.

You stated that Spieth has a mental edge on Dustin Johnson, why? What is your reasoning? Because you perceive Spieth to be the best long distance putter? (Which I clearly showed isnt true)

Dustin Johnson has the physical edge on Spieth, backed up by stats. Johnson hits it further, gains more strokes off the tee, etc. Best example of this was at the Northern Trust on the playoff hole. DJ won because he had greater physical ability than Spieth did.

For your personal example, you state that your poor shot is often a miss to the right. OB 20 yds left of the fairway, why would you aim right edge of the fairway when your most common miss is to the right? Why not aim middle of the fairway, still 30-40 yards away from the OB, then your good shot is middle of the fairway and your normal shot is in the semi. I strongly recommend you buy a copy of the book Lowest Score Wins, which was written by the owner of this site. It is heavily focused on game planning and shot zone mapping. 

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