Golf Mental Game: Focus on your Process, not on your Score
Most people come to the golf course with certain goals in mind. Typically, this takes the form of an expectation for a specific score.
- “I want to shoot below 80 today.” – While this is positive in nature, it can distract the golfer from what he should be focused on during his round.
- “I’ve never shot below 90.” – This is a negative expectation because the golfer may actually prevent himself from shooting in the 80s if this is his thought process.
If you are focused on a particular golf score, then you waste a lot of mental energy thinking about what each shot means to your eventual outcome. At best this is distracting throughout the course of your golf round. At worst, this can actually cause you to make poor decisions and sabotage your score.
Why does focusing on a specific score hurt your chances of success? Focusing on a score can limit the upside you have in a golf round. If you want to shoot a 74 and you’re playing well, sometimes you get uncomfortable if you are playing better than that score. Somewhere inside, you think to yourself “wow, I’m 3-under par. I’ve never been 3-under before.” You get uncomfortable and nervous mainly because your body is reacting to this uncommon situation and what it might mean to tell everyone you shot a 69. Typically the tension in your body produced by this mental thought process, even subconsciously, can mess with your swing tempo or putting stroke. The result is that you will usually give those shots back thanks to poor thinking.
Instead, you should focus on making good decisions and executing good golf shots. Do not worry about the outcome (score) you shoot on every hole. Each shot is an opportunity to get the ball as close to your target as possible. Don’t think about what will happen if you miss your putt or how many over par you will be if you three putt. Instead, focus on the process. Just like Nick Saban wants his Alabama football players to focus on the process, you too should focus on doing the things that will make you successful on the golf course. Trust that if you execute your process to the best of your ability, you will end up shooting the best score you can on that given day. Plus, you have the added bonus of not letting all those negative thoughts into your brain. Four and a half hours is a long time to let poor thoughts to creep into your head, especially in a tournament where you can sometimes catch your mind racing to all sorts of worries, doubts, and fears. The more you focus on score, the less you will be able to make the best decisions during a golf round. Nervous and tentative golf typically results from a poor mental game.
Conclusion: Focus on your Process! You may be asking, what does a good process look like? We’ll address that in future posts. Please stay tuned. Until then, keep this in mind while you prepare for a round with friends or an upcoming tournament. Focusing on your process will help you engage more in practice – honing that process so that it works under pressure. It will also ease the tension you have on the golf course, as the process is meant to put your body on autopilot, avoiding the tension that comes from too much thought about what the muscles need to do or about things like your score, that are not helpful.