The mindset of great golfers

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

A key distinction between golfers who improve and those who don't is their mindset. The peak performance mindset includes confidence, mental toughness, and thriving under pressure on the golf course. The best maintain a high level of belief in their ability and know they are the best. This belief propels them to play with trust in their skills.

Mindset Training
Keeping your confidence high - no matter the result - is the key to long-term success on the golf course.
Mindset Training

Unfortunately most golfers focus on just practicing the physical side of golf. They practice hard and are always refining their mechanics. This can lead to increased confidence, but when a round doesn't go as they expected, we see the mindset skills. How do you deal with challenges? Are you one to focus on the bad shot as a failure and beat yourself up? Or, do you focus on ways you can improve so you are better next time. If you lose confidence easily your mindset is what will get you back on track.

Keeping your confidence high no matter the result is the key to long-term success. Some of the ways golfers sabotage their confidence is through negative self-talk. Using self-labels like, "I always choke under pressure," or "I never play well at this course" are going to erode at your confidence.

You must take control of your self-talk and replace negative self-talk with positive statements. Start saying, "I love having the putt to win the tournament" and "I have all the shots for this course, stay focused." Having the discipline to shift your self-talk is a skill that needs to be practiced like your physical mechanics.

An area that all experienced golfers have to deal with is facing adversity. How mentally tough are you when things are not going your way? Can you shift from the outcome of the situation and place your attention on what is in your control, your process for the next shot? Too often athletes get rattled by the competition, a bad bounce, or other external distractions and they lose focus and their performance suffers.

The key is to change your perspective of the situation. Learn to focus on what is in your control and let go of what is out of your control. You can become mentally tough by looking at adversity as a challenge to take on, not an insurmountable obstacle.

The best love pressure and can't wait to feel the adrenaline of competition. Some get too hyped, while others view pressure as a negative. The key is to understand how you view pressure. When you are excited about challenging yourself you will embrace the moment. Pressure is self imposed. Are you putting pressure on winning or having a perfect performance?

I coach golfers to set high standards on how they will perform mentally. They stay confident, bounce back from adversity and love to perform when it matters most. When the mental game is improved the physical game will improve with it. Start today by becoming a complete golfer through training your mindset.

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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