The Ins and Outs of Mental Fitness for Golf

You suddenly have the opportunity for a game of golf while you're visiting friends in Massachusetts, and the only tee times are too early or too late, or they carry a course alert. You and the other players finally come to an agreement and make the reservation, but you're so irked by the less-than-ideal choice that you're not sure you can calm down enough to play well.

Many things from life outside the course can creep in and interrupt the game or interfere with the calm, relaxed frame of mind that contributes to one's best game. An argument with your boss or your teenager's bad report card can weigh on your mind and throw you off.

Of course, the game itself can get in the way too. Players can become irritated when the group ahead is dawdling and slowing everything down or their first two shots both end up in a hazard.

Some Components of Mental Fitness

Some of the elements of mental fitness can be gathered from the advice provided by experts.

o Know Yourself. Knowing the mistakes you tend to make, you can correct for them. If you don't review your performance, analyze what went wrong, and know what your tendencies are, you may be able to make good calculations about the course, the lie of the ball, and the weather conditions, but you won't be able to factor yourself into the mix.

o Plan Ahead. One recommendation of experts is that you prepare a mental checklist for challenging situations that you face often. Reviewing your checklist as you prepare your shot will help you focus and take all the important elements of the situation into account.

o Have an Anger-Management Strategy. Since getting angry on the golf course if more a question of when than whether, PGA golf professional and teacher Billy Bondaruk proposes a seven-step approach to recovery when anger strikes. Through the steps, the golfer recognizes anger as a choice, becomes aware of how anger manifests itself, rebalances mentally, stops the blame game, forms expectations that are realistic, and becomes grateful.

o Support Your Mental State With Good Nutrition. Scott Szymoniak, a PGA golf instructor, points out the importance of staying hydrated and energized throughout play. He emphasizes the value of water and smart choices at the halfway house.

Szymoniak comments on Martin Laird's strong finish in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, 2011, an event that Laird won, suggesting that he made the choices that kept his mental game strong. Tim Rosaforte, writing for GolfWorld, refers to Laird's approach as a "bulldog mentality," evoking tenaciousness and focus as Laird's key mental traits.

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