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 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!!!


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.

I was lucky enough to be mentored by, one of the greatest golf instructor of all time, PGA of America Hall of Famer Bob Toski.

So the story goes like this:

Super hot, but breezy spring day down at the Toski-Battersby Driving Range in Coconut Creek Florida. The year was 1995.

I was a young struggling college golfer. Growing up, I had the opportunity to take lessons from Bob since my father had taken lessons with him when he was a professional golfer.   I had not seen Bob in a couple years since I moved back to Boston. I pulled into the dusty lot, parked my car, and remember sitting in my car for a few minutes thinking about how much work I needed to do on my game. At the time, I remember feeling like I was months away from hitting it well. Forget about hitting it straight! I was more interested in keeping the ball on the planet. In those days I had a tendency to exaggerate ha!

Anyhow, I grudgingly pulled my bag out of my broken down 1985 Volvo and proceeded to walk towards the back of the driving range, where Mr. Toski gave the majority of his lessons. I decided to get there about an hour before I was supposed to start my session but I got about halfway back when I heard a golf cart driving up behind me. “Mr. McInerney!”  I turn my head and see that it was Bob. He must have seen me hanging my head and decided to get right at it. Bob would NEVER hesitate to give a student WAY more than you could expect from an incredibly busy coach. “Where have you been?” Bob asks me. “I’ve just been grinding away trying to figure this game out Mr. Toski.” Bob then said “Well, let’s go figure it out,” in a very confident and excited tone, “Let’s get it done!”

So, right off the bat, I already started feeling better. As great coaches do, Bob has a knack for saying the right thing at the right time.

As we were heading out to the back of the range, Bob and I went over the specifics of what I had been working on in my golf swing, what my miss was (where the ball was going when I hit it poorly), and what I thought might be going on to create that miss. I was hitting a massive slice at the time and for a player that was trying to take his game into a competitive arena, this was not a super good shot to have in the bag.

We spent a few more minutes sitting in the cart at the back of the range while I was finishing telling Bob my sob story. Bob then got out of the cart, even as I continued to rant about my life, he pulled out a 5-iron, and started ripping low bullet hooks. He then hits a few low stinger slices around one of the old tilted palm trees growing back there. He hits another hook, this time it was a towering one over a different palm tree. Then he hit a huge high slice around the same tree. He continues to mix up his shots, low right to left, high left to right, high right to left and so on. All the shots looked effortlessly struck with perfect divots. He hit all of these shots while asking me random questions about how my family was doing and talking to me about his cats.

After about a dozen shots or so, I finally caught on to what was going on here. Bob was giving me my goal for the day without saying a single word. Before I could finish laughing about how one of his cats was starting to really piss him off, Bob drops his brand spanking new 5-iron (which had the name Ryobi-Toski written on the back, his club brand, how cool is that?), and RUNS to the back of the golf cart.

The range I practiced at with Mr. Toski

He pulls a huge bushel of old beat-up Top Flight range balls from the back of the cart, dumps it out about 30 yards short of one of the palm trees he was firing balls under, over, and around, and starts kicking them all over the place. He then picks up one ball from the pile and guns it right at me. Luckily, I snag it before it knocked out the only real front tooth I had left (I lost the other one from my hockey days). He picks up another one and lobs it way up high in the air; I catch that one as well. He then says, “I’m done here, going to head back in and get some work done in my office.” Of course, I was a little caught off guard considering I had just flown down from Boston to see him for the day. He then hops in his cart and starts driving off before he turns around and says “I want you to aim at that red pin out there, and don’t move a single ball, play them all where they lie.” HE finished by saying, “Oh, and if you hit the tree, make sure you duck!” The tree was literally in the line of flight of every single golf ball I was about to hit.

Ok, so at this point, I’m sure you understand what Mr. Toski’s intention was. Needless to say, I hit the entire bushel of golf balls and I hit every shot towards the red flag I was ordered to take aim at. Nearly every single shot I had hit was either a hook or a slice to avoid the tree. I hit some low and some high. After a few hours, and about 300 shots, I actually left that range hitting the ball better than I ever had in my life.   To that point, Mr. Toski didn’t give me a single piece of swing advice. Mr. Toski’s message to me was to be an athlete, be an artist, don’t think, just react. Hit golf shots and don’t think about making golf swings. The club face with an iron is flat and the ball is round.  In racket sports like ping pong, tennis, or racket ball, I knew how to work a ball. I knew how to spin a tennis ball, I could hit it high or hit it low- without even thinking!

WOW! I cannot tell you how lucky I was to have a coach like Mr. Toski. Even though I had an intense desire to learn everything I could about the golf swing as a coach, this was a lesson that I never forgot. It changed the way I thought about the game forever. Unknowingly, it helped me develop into a multi-dimensional coach. He helped me understand how to make learning fun and golf even more fun.  Mr. Toski also taught me how to think outside the box and problem solve.

To say I am grateful for Mr. Bob Toski in my life would be an understatement. His lessons are those that you never forget and he is a person that you NEVER forget. Every message he offers is delivered in a unique way. Every day that I coach, I remember one of Mr. Toski’s lessons and I try to pass on his wisdom.

Thank you Bob Toski!


Some of Mr. Toski’s books:


by Coach Bill McInerney

Super pumped to kick off this part of our blog and share with you our first can’t miss tip.  Let’s get right to it!

This week’s hot tip – DELIBERATE PRACTICE


Wikipedia defines deliberate practice as repetitive performance of intended cognitive or psychomotor skills.  Rigorous skills assessment, specific information feedback, better skills and performance.

To dumb it down a bit I would think of deliberate practice as picking something very specific to improve on –  then figuring out what the one or two things that you would need to work on in order to improve that particular skill.

Lets take a look at a real-life example:

Joey has a very good golf swing and a very low green in regulation percentage (GiR).  He spends hours upon hours working on the mechanics of his golf swing but his GiR doesn’t budge.  Joey’s coach is stumped so he decides to go watch Joey play a round of golf.  Coach is happy to see that Joey’s shots are very solid but he is either coming up short or flying shots over the green.

After recognizing Joey’s tendencies his coach builds a deliberate practice session for Joey that looks like this:


Using a launch monitor to measuring the average distance Joey hit 10 shots with each golf club.  The goal here is to calibrate the average carry distance of each club.  It is also helpful for Joey to know how far the shortest shot and furthest shot with a particular club is for him.  At KOHR Golf Center we use a tool called Trackman to measure the distance the ball carries.  For those that do not have the luxury of using a trackman KOHR Golf Center has yardage cards for all of our greens which makes calibrating possible.


After calibration we recommend challenging yourself with a game.  We call this game-like type practice, Battlefield Practice at KOHR Academy.  Battlefield Practice (otherwise known as random practice) is when you are in your game-like mindset and trying to achieve a certain score.  Joey pulls out 18 golf balls and sets them aside (we use 18 shots to pretend like you are playing 18 holes).  He is then assigned a different target for each of those 18 golf balls – hitting 6 shots with his short-irons, 6 shots with his mid-irons and 6 shots with his long-irons and hybrids.  His goal is to see how many greens in regulation he would hit with those 18 golf balls.  At KOHR Golf Center a game like this is easy because we actually have real greens to hit to, making practice SUPER FUN!

Check out Phil Mickelson talking about one of his key battlefield games, which he calls the 3 Foot Circle Drill, to where he has to make 100 three foot putts in a row… YIKES!


Below I have listed some awesome books and articles that talk about the importance and research behind deliberate practice.  Enjoy and keep us updated on your progress.  We would love for you to share some of the ways you structure deliberate practice sessions or some of the challenges you all may have in achieving a deliberate practice session.

Either way, make DELIBERATE PRACTICE your goal for 2018 and you will not be disappointed.


  • Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
    • In summary Gladwell examines the factors that contribute to high levels of success.
  • The Practicing Mind by Thomas Sterner
    • Sterner’s message is to be process oriented, be present and have a very specific intention and stay ware of your intention.
  • The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin
    • I love this book!  Josh Waitzkin writes a book on his personal rise to the top of the chess and Tai Chi world, by explaining the mindset, proper ways to practice and how he built habits to take him to the top of the world in his professions.




By KOHR Golf Coach Bill McInerney