Do you have mental weaknesses that are not conducive to good performance on the course? If so, Dr Kitrina Douglas explains how you can identify them.


Do you have mental weaknesses that are not conducive to good performance on the course? If so, Dr Kitrina Douglas explains how you can identify them.

Decades of research across many sports has shown that some of our behaviours and actions are not conducive to good performances or, in golf, low scores.

But how can you figure out which behaviours are problematicand then, how do you ‘do’ something about them? These are the issues I’d like to address here. First up, if you are going to sift out the helpful from the unhelpful it’s important to become more aware of what you are doing and thinking on the golf course. In this regard it’s also important to ask yourself what types of behaviours and actions do you expect of yourself. For example, do you expect to act cool and detached under pressure?

Or do you expect that you’ll be overcome with excitement or anxiety and fluff your shots, miss short puts and feel sick and anxious? At this stage it doesn’t matter what you expect - what is important is that you identify what you are likely to do.

Taking the type of individual who is usually cool under pressure first. Commonly, if you usually do well in pressure situations it can refl ect that your life has been full of experiences that have gone well, or if badly, you will have taken positive lessons from them. It can also refl ect that you may not care about what others think about you, (for example, the selectors or fans) which can be very liberating as you are going to do things your way, keep your mind on your golf and not think about others, and probably that works 90% of the time. But, it can mean that sometimes you don’t listen and good advice sometimes will not be incorporated into your game. If you are confi dent, cool and detached under pressure it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will - all the time- think smarter than the person who gets anxious. Being ‘super cool’ and very controlled can lead to complacency, over confi dence, and a lack of attention to detail.

In contrast, for the person who gets anxious, it can be the case that you are expecting to play a bad shot, or not achieve what you would like to achieve (a win, low score, or to cut your handicap). It’s not uncommon for unpleasant ‘feelings’, stress and anxiety to be based on your previous golf experiences where you have ruined a good round, or spoiled your chances of lowering your handicap. If you have had really bad experiences these can be diffi cult to forget and even when you aren’t consciously thinking about them, your body (to quote a favourite author of mine whose been researching trauma) ‘keeps the score’. It’s also quite common for these types of feelings to be caused by self consciousness about your swing, technique or game if you compare yourself to the golfers you are playing with, or are about to play with. Another reason for such feelings is because you are trying to achieve something that you don’t currently have the skills to pull off.


Part of ‘solving the problem’ of identifying how you think is to consider your expectations, past experiences, and ‘in the moment’ what you are saying about them all in your head. The voice you use to tell yourself that you can either pull-off the shot, or that you may not. Rather than being positive or negative, ‘thinking smart’ means being aware of both your strengths and weaknesses. It means identifying where and when they are likely to become a ‘problem’ and then thinking (in advance) how you will act when faced with a particular issue. Like any other skills in golf (the takeaway, backswing, putting or chipping) developing your performance means also developing and enhancing the way you think and respond to situations on the course. It’s good practice to write notes to yourself about how you make decisions on the golf course. Writing memos in your yardage book, for example, and then incorporating these into your pre-shot routine.

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