How to Overcome Negative Thoughts
Many athletes wouldn’t associate mental toughness with playing golf.
There is a misconception by some that mental toughness is an attribute solely for athletes in contact sports or physically grueling competition.
No doubt that there is a large degree of physical toughness needed for contact sports.
But in terms of the mental challenges, golf is one of the most mentally grueling sports.
Why does golf require such mental toughness?
In fast moving sports, your body is reacting to the flow of the game. There is not much time to think–or over think.
Of course, you might carry the weight of a mistake that just happened but you are still in the midst of action.
Golf is a different story. You hit a small ball hundreds of yards towards a tiny hole with varied obstacles in your way; weather, wind, bunkers, hazards, etc.
With all these challenges in your way, there is even a greater challenge and that is the length of time between shots.
To emphasize this point, let’s take a look at the PGA Tour…
An average round of golf on the Tour takes approximately four hours. From the moment a golfer reaches the ball until the shot is played takes less than two minutes.
If a golfer scores a 70 for a round of golf, the player is actively engaged for two hours and 20 minutes. That means you have one hour and 40 minutes to be alone with your thoughts.
If you send a tee shot into the trees, double-bogey a hole or 4-putt when initially faced with a 10-footer, your mind can be filled with many negative thoughts that you have to deal with.
If you are not mentally tough as a golfer, those negative thoughts will dominate your mind and adversely affect your game.
For example, Rickie Fowler displayed a high level of mental toughness to win the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Fowler had a four-shot lead, then triple-bogeyed the 11th hole, that included a penalty stroke, and followed up that with a bogey on the 12th.
Fowler went from having the lead to being down a shot.
FOWLER: “It would have been really easy at that point to say, ‘This just isn’t my day.’”
It would have been easy for Fowler to allow negativity to dominate his thoughts. Despite those bad breaks, Fowler was able to focus on what he needed to do and came back to birdie the 15th and 17th holes and win by two strokes.
FOWLER: “You kind of just have to put the first 67 holes behind you and go play five holes.”
Fowler’s mental toughness, or his ability to not allow a bad hole to dominate his mind, is the reason he was able to play his best golf when it mattered most.
Develop Mental Toughness for Golf:
When you have a bad shot or big number, you still have the play out the hole or the remaining holes in the round. Don’t let the mishap lead to more mistakes.
First, you can’t get it back by trying to force it on the remaining holes.
Focus on the remaining holes you have ahead of you, not the what ifs. “What if I didn’t triple-bogey the 11th?”
Set a simple goal to play out the round, such as to have a couple chances at birdie or hit as many greens as possible.
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- Why your pre-shot routine should match your personality.
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- Why indecision is your worst enemy in golf.
- Six ways your mental routine breaks down.
What are golfers saying about our mental game resources?
“My Self-Talk and Confidence Have Improved Tremendously”
“I am a PGA Professional and when I connected with you, I just wanted some ideas to help my students. But thanks to you, my own game has improved! I think I will shoot 69; negative thoughts have vanished; and my self-talk and confidence has improved tremendously. I will be referring my students to your web site.”*
~Bill Allen, PGA Pro
“Mental Game Techniques for His Success”
“Hank has consistently improved over the summer. He is getting stronger and more confident. He often talks about the mental game techniques that you have shared with him for his success. We visited my home in Wisconsin last week and he shot a 69 on my old home course which is a one-under round. Thanks for your help.”*
~Billy Dettlaff, Hank’s Father