How important is mental preparation for golf success?

I’ve heard many of my golf buddies describe golf as mental. It seems to be true, because most experts think the same. Even golf legend Jack Nicklaus himself once said that 80% of golf is mental. He was just sharing his observation and his words can’t be treated as facts, of course, so i decided to research further – just how much of success in golf can be accredited to one’s mental abilities?

If we compare it to physical preparation, i think we can all agree that while physical fitness is extremely important, it’s nearly not as important in golf as in other sports. In that way, golf is more mental than physical. Experience and confidence are hugely important on your shots. You can’t hit well with hands shaking of fear, even if you are super fit. As an example, i challenge all of you, readers, to look back on last time you played on golf course. When you made mistakes and lost strokes, what was the reason for your mistakes? Was it mental or physical failure?

In my opinion, it’s the mental weakness that causes most golfers to make these mistakes. That kind of mental weakness can be both temporary and long-lasting. I also see golf as a game of analysis more than anything else. Each shot you take, has consequences and you have to make decisions to reflect on the results of your shot. If you just made mistake, there are many different ways to fix it, and choosing the right path requires peace of mind and calm analysis. These decisions can be as trivial as – which golf club to choose? How to adjust your golf swing so that the wind doesn’t get in the way of good shot? And many other questions like these.  Or they can be much simpler. Deciding what golf clubs to get is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly either. Especially if you’re a senior like me, making the right decision is crucial. I believe golf is unique that way, because the same can’t be said of any other sport. No other sport requires as much analysis to make decisions on the spot.

Not only that, but there are other ways in which your mental state can affect your golf performance. Player’s attitude is often affected by what’s going on in their heads. Bringing your stress to the golf course can lead to this. I see too many people who are physically on the golf course, but are drifting away in their minds and still think about problems at home or work. That can badly hurt your golf performance.

If you think your mental game is spot on and you don’t have any problems in that regard, think again. I used to think the same, until i competed in this tournament which is held in my hometown. I don’t live far away, so i always make time for one hour trip to take part in it as a tradition. Taking part in this tournament really tests my nerves. It’s extremely difficult and challenging, so it takes every bit of concentration and focus i have for me to even have a slightest chance. I didn’t have this fear when i was younger and had no reputation to worry about, but few years back, i started to fear failure. I was afraid that if i didn’t do well enough, i’d be laughed at and never taken seriously again in the community. This fear has turned into self-fulfilling prophecy and while i wasn’t laughed at, i did fail spectacularly.

At the end of the day, i think it’s good thing that i took part in the tournament. In general, it’s healthy to feel extremely challenged and nervous once in a while. It can expose your insecurities, and give you chance to work on them and eventually get better. Also, not getting laughed at after failing to do well has taught me that i overestimate the amount of attention that people pay to both my successes and failures. In the moment, someone might judge you for failure, but at the end of the day, most people will emphasize and go on with their days. That has taught me to not let my fears get in the way of having a good time. Succeed or fail, your real friends will always be there for you. So you shouldn’t be afraid of failing publicly and should just enjoy the game. I know it’s hard to overcome those fears, i’m working on them myself, but i can already say it is exhilarating to be free of them. You have to realize that everyone is different, with different fears and different things we’re good at. Someone who is terrible at golf might be brilliant at some other skill, and vice versa. Realizing this has helped me not to judge myself and others based on superficial things like doing well in tournaments.

The best thing about golf, in my opinion, is that it challenges us to get better. There is so much room for mistakes that i’ve never even seen someone who hasn’t made one in his or her golfing career. Which means that we can always be working on improving ourselves, and sky is the limit to how much we can achieve with enough practice in golf. But there’s also important lesson of not evaluating yourself based on your successes. Remembering that golf is just a game and nothing else, is the key to happiness as a golfer, i think.

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