Training vs. trusting: What mindset are you in?

By Rick Sessinghaus, Psy.D, PGA, Special Contributor

The number one question I receive at the VIP Golf Academy is, "How can I take my practice game to the golf course?"

Golf Swing - Mechanics
Can you just go out and play golf without being obsessed with mechanics?
Golf Swing - MechanicsDriving Range

Most golfers are stuck in the idea that to play good golf they have to think of the swing. Every golfer knows the importance of training and developing the physical skills needed to beat the competition. Unfortunately, I have seen the golfer who never gets out of the training mentality and is always trying to perfect his or her skills.

This leads to the problem of great practice player, poor game player. When I work with this type of golfer, I develop techniques that take an athlete from training mindset (practice) to trusting mindset (playing).

Can you just go out and play golf without being obsessed with mechanics? Can you play with confidence at the end of an important round? If you can't get into the trusting mindset, try these mental game techniques:

1. Practice like you would play, shifting from skill improvement to game simulation. Prepare your practice in such a way that it copies as close as possible the golf course environment.

2. Check your expectations, and don't be focused entirely on outcome. Your goal is to stay committed to the process of your game and remain focused in the present moment.

3. Develop a pre-competition routine. Your goal is to get your body warmed up and your mind focused on the upcoming round. Utilize imagery to pre-program how you want to perform that day. Stay clear on what is in your control as you enter a competition. Your mechanics are set, allow yourself to just play.

4. Before a round, use range time to go through the shots that you will face in the round. Go through your routine on at least five shots to prepare your mind to focus on the process of target, instead of being distracted by swing mechanics.

5. If you do have a swing thought, keep it simple. The mind can't process multiple swing thoughts. They get in the way of a smooth, confident swing.

Shifting from training mindset to trusting mindset will allow you to play with confidence and freedom. Start today by balancing your practice in both.

Rick Sessinghaus, Psy.D, PGARick Sessinghaus, Psy.D, PGA, Special Contributor

Known as "Golf's Mental Coach," Rick Sessinghaus, is the expert on the mindset principles that make or break performance. He is an instructional editor for Golf Tips magazine and can be seen on Fox Sports. His book "Golf: The Ultimate Mind Game" has been featured in national golf magazines and used by leading instructors across the country. For more, see

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