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Mental Toughness: What it is and how to develop it

There is no doubt that one of the most important factors in playing consistently good golf, especially under pressure situations, is having mental toughness. Being mentally tough doesn’t mean pretending you’re not nervous; it means knowing what to focus on and how to maintain that focus. It’s really just as simple – and as difficult – as that.

Like so many other things in golf, the way to develop mental toughness is to practice it every time you swing a club, not just when you think you need it. You can practice improving your mental toughness the same way you practice improving your swing; by staying focused on clear objectives and practicing them consistently.

Everyone gets nervous in their own way in competitive situations. Avoiding these nerves is not your goal. By developing mental toughness and discipline, you’ll perform better under pressure (both in golf and in life); with or without those exact same jitters.


WHAT ARE CONTROLLABLE GOALS?
What should you focus on in order to develop mental toughness? The things you can control. And what should you avoid focusing on as part of developing mental toughness? The things you cannot control.

When playing a round of golf, a huge majority of golfers expend their energy on goals, and other factors, that they cannot control.  Worrying about your final score, the weather, bad bounces and breaks, and difficult playing partners, are just a few examples of things you can’t control.  If you waste your energy worrying about these items, you will not have any energy left to actually play the game and enjoy it.

Instead, you can learn to channel your energy towards only those things you do have control over – your controllable goals. Developing the habit of focusing on only what you can control, will, without question, make the game more enjoyable and help you reach your true performance potential.

So what are some controllable goals worth focusing on?

  • Decision making– Always make crystal clear decisions about how you want to hit each shot before you hit it.
  • Pre-shot routine– Develop and execute a consistent pre-shot routine.
  • Commitment-You need to be 100% committed to every shot.
  • Emotional Control– Always maintain control of your emotions-don’t let them control you!
  • Don’t give up– Always fight to the end —NEVER give up!!!


HOW DO YOU WORK ON CONTROLLABLE GOALS?

Perfect your pre-shot routine.
The pre-shot routine is something you have total control over, and that you can practice, both on and off the golf course. Even if you are just hitting a few practice shots on the range, it is a great idea to develop the routine of hitting each shot after going through your full pre-shot routine. A pre-shot routine is just as important as any mechanical fundamental that you will ever practice. Whatever the shot, the pre-shot routine should always be the same.  Think of it as your “security blanket” when you’re in pressure situations- without it your performance could suffer. By perfecting it, you will be mentally stronger, and be more comfortable, in any situation.

The pre-shot routine also includes:

  • Seeing the shot- Visualize the type of shot you want to hit- before you take a practice swing.
  • Feeling the shot- This is your practice swing.
  • Committing to the shot- 100% commitment is needed prior to hitting any shot. Only focus on where you want to hit your shot- not where you do not want to hit your shot.
  • Hitting the shot – Hit every shot without fear or concern about the outcome – just swing freely and with total commitment, belief, and confidence in your golf swing.

Finally, you need to practice controlling your emotions. The best golfers are the ones who don’t put any energy into worrying about the results of their shots, or their final scores, in the heat of battle. They never hit a shot from a place of fear or doubt. Most of us let our emotions beat us. Beating yourself up about a shot that’s already left the clubface, or complaining about a bad bounce, is useless.  It will only hamper your next shot, and consequently, your overall score.

Part of being mentally tough is learning to love a challenge instead of fearing it. It is also learning to embrace bouncing back after a bad break or a miss hit shot. Being mentally tough is having the strength to never give up.  Knowing that you’ll never give up makes you ready for almost anything, including winning.

I would love to know what has helped you achieve mental toughness!  Post your comments below.

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