How to Overcome Overthinking on the Golf Course 

How to Overcome Overthinking on the Golf Course 

Are you an “over-thinker” on the golf course? Do you constantly second-guess your shot strategy?

Are you usually preoccupied with your score throughout a competitive round?

Thinking and performing have a complicated relationship in golf. For each shot, you need to consider the circumstances to create an optimal strategy for that shot.

However, some golfers have difficulty switching from thought mode to performance mode.

When you excessively think or analyze your shot, the score, the last hole, or the tournament, you interfere with your body’s ability to perform fluidly and efficiently.

The more you overthink and over-analyze your situation, the more you become overwhelmed, leading to a phenomenon called “paralysis by analysis.”

“Paralysis by analysis.” is where overthinking or excessive analysis leads to indecision and anxiety. When you constantly replay scenarios, consider multiple possibilities, and worry about potential outcomes, your ability to focus on the task at hand becomes increasingly difficult. 

To make matters worse, your increased anxiety leads to muscle tension, which can throw off your swing mechanics.

Imagine you are playing in the final round of a tournament. You are currently seventh on the leaderboard, heading into the back-9.

On the 10th hole, your tee shot landed in the bunker. As you stand over the ball, you start debating how to get out of the bunker.

The more you debate your strategy, the more anxious you become. Not only are you analyzing how to play the shot but you are crunching the numbers, “If I bogey this hole, I will drop out of the Top-10. To make it into the Top-5, I will need to make up 3-strokes.”

As you can see, and have probably experienced in the past, this is a recipe for disaster.

Peak golf performance requires several mental skills:

* Decisiveness – Playing your best golf requires consistent execution across a variety of situations. Indecision disrupts your rhythm and mechanics resulting in inconsistent performance.

Decisiveness fosters a commitment to your current shot. When you are confident in your decision, you are more likely to execute the shot with conviction and focus.

* Focus – Focusing is the bridge that takes you from thinking to performing. Once you have decided on a strategy, you want to immerse yourself into “doing” or implementing the strategy.

* Calmness – The ability to calm your mind and relax your body is crucial for golfers. Maintaining your poise helps you avoid the overthinking trap.

* Trust – Trust in your decision-making, skills, and ability to successfully hit challenging shots enables you to play confidently across various difficult circumstances.

PGA golfer Wyndham Clark set a course record at the 2024 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am by shooting a 12-under 60 despite playing on a cold, soggy course. Clark’s approach to each shot was relatively simplistic.

CLARK: “I was just, ‘See ball, hit ball, try to hit it where I wanted to.’ I really had a good feel on the greens. So in my mind I was like, ‘All right, let’s just get us to where we’re putting,’ because the hole seemed like a bucket today.”

Golf is a challenging sport. Keeping the game as simple as possible is the key to success.

Playing at your peak requires finding a balance between analyzing information and taking decisive action.

One way to keep yourself on track is to ask yourself, “What’s my strategy for this shot?”

And be sure to only focus on one swing thought or image over the ball before you pull the club back–such as tempo or target. 

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“My confidence level has never been higher! I can’t tell you how clearly I was able to think during all four rounds of tour-school. The simple game plan you gave me really focused me. My confidence level has never been higher during a tournament. No matter how much pressure was on, I was able to control my thoughts and execute. Thank you, Dr. Cohn!”
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