Mindset and Performance Ruts in Golf

Mindset and Performance Ruts in Golf

How Do You React When Your Game is Bad?

How you choose to respond will shape how you perform in future rounds.

Thinking about how awful you are playing, not being able to sink a putt, hitting your tee shots out of bounds, bogeys, double-bogeys, and triple-bogeys will take your game from bad to worse.

Here’s why. When you focus on the bad:

  • You put more pressure on yourself to snap out of it.
  • You lose confidence and, subconsciously, expect to continue playing poorly.
  • You feel the need to fiddle with your mechanics, and you will rarely feel comfortable over the ball.
  • You lose motivation and trudge through inconsistent practices.
  • You notice more external distractions (crowd movement or talk) while trying to focus on hitting the ball.
  • You second-guess, overthink, and over analyze each shot.
  • You become stuck in a negative loop of self-critical thoughts, frustration, self-doubts, and ineffective play.

How do you break out of your performance rut and go from bad to good or possibly great?

Climbing out of a rut requires a mindset shift. Instead of focusing on the bad, the past, and what happened or didn’t happen, you should focus forward.

It may be helpful to understand the potential causes for your performance decline, such as:

  • Playing with new clubs
  • Poor practice habits
  • Working with a new coach
  • Changes in your swing mechanics
  • Stress in your personal life
  • Neglecting your mental game
  • Nagging injuries

Knowing contributing factors to slumps will help you not blame yourself, judge yourself harshly, or believe you lost your talent.

However, ruminating, reliving, and being consumed by negative results sends you emotionally spiraling downward.

After you identify 1-2 potential causes, it’s time to focus forward and shift your attention to finding solutions.

When looking for solutions:

  • Be patient – You may not see immediate improvement if you are tweaking your mechanics, working with a different coach, or developing new mental skills. Many times, an adjustment period is needed to gain a level of comfort.
  • Maintain positive practice habits – Regaining your form requires a steadfast focus and consistent effort. Positive work habits start with setting practice goals, creating an action plan, and evaluating your progress along the way.
  • Manage your stress – Stress makes challenging issues even more difficult. Relaxation strategies and other mental skills can help you improve confidence, deal with pressure, and manage your emotions.
  • Tend to your mindset – Your mindset is your greatest ally and helps you focus on the process instead of worrying about results.

In 2009,16-year-old Matteo Manassero became the youngest-ever winner of the British Amateur Championship. 

By the end of the 2009 season, Manassero was the No. 1 amateur in the world. Manassero continued his upward trajectory over the next few years. At 20, Manassero was ranked 25th in the Official World Golf Rankings.

Everything was looking up for Manaserro, but in 2014, he started sliding backward. Four years later, Manassero lost his European Tour card.

Manassero opened up about his past struggles in competitive tournaments.

MANASSERO: “In late 2018..  I couldn’t play anymore, really. I was scared of where the ball was going. I had no control of it. It got to the point where you can’t face that sort of pressure; it’s too much. I wouldn’t necessarily say there was a low point, but the feeling I was experiencing meant there was nothing to enjoy. As a young player, of course, I would never have believed I could have reached that point. For such a long time, I had never experienced failure.”

In 2020, Manassero slowly started to find his game, and by 2023, he reached second on the Challenge Tour rankings.

Your first line of defense from preventing the continuation of performance ruts is your mindset. Remember, when your mindset changes, your performance changes as a result.

To help your mind focus forward, identify one and only one contributing factor to your rut. Next, think of 2-3 possible solutions. Your solutions are your action plan, which helps you move forward and focus on your growth as a golfer.

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