Mental Tips for Young Golfers
The takeaway. The backswing. The transition. The downswing. The contact. The follow through.
These are the mechanics of golf that are taught the first day someone picks up a club. Notice anything missing? The list above is comprised of physical components, but the mental piece fails to be mentioned. Recently, I traveled down to Florida to work with a junior professional golfer on exactly this.
The parents reached out to me because their son is committed to play Division I golf at a university the following year. He is a physically talented golfer, but he and his parents knew the one component that was missing. The mental skills. Before we walked the 18 holes on TPC Sawgrass, I asked one question.
“Do you believe that in order to perform at your best, your mind and body have to work together?” He answered, “Yes,” and I knew we were ready to begin.
These are three points that I emphasized:
Process over outcome. You have to be willing to make mistakes while changing your process. You have to be open to the risk that it won’t go the way you want to immediately. Just like a physical technique, it may take some time to feel comfortable, but we did not focus on the outcome, we focused on the process.
External focus. Focus on an external factor, such as a ball dimple or the club head, because this will improve your performance during competition (Partridge, Porter, & Wu, 2017). Practice is the time for internal focus, such as your technique, but competition is time for “flow” to occur, flow cannot occur if we are wrapped up in an internal focus. During tournament play you have done everything you can to be prepared for that swing. Focus on an external point and let your instincts take control.
Add a deep breath before you swing. In order to perform at your best, your mind and your body have to work together. Since our body is always in the present moment, we need to get our mind there too. Doing correct diaphragmatic breathing, also known as “belly breathing”, forces an athletes to be in the present moment not just physically, but mentally. When you are focused on the breathing, you are automatically putting yourself in the present moment, not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
Remember: To perform at your optimal level, your body and mind have to work together.