Mental game is bigger key than any golf tip

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Pat McTigue is the Director of Instruction at GolfTEC Tulsa.

First, if you’re reading this article, thanks! However, if you’re looking for a swing tip, I’ll save you from wasting your time.

I’m firmly convinced that articles, videos and television programs can’t fix your mechanical problems. That is because those articles don’t know what your mechanical problems are. Find a PGA instructor for one-on-one instruction to fix your swing. So, I choose instead to focus on aspects of the mental game that are a struggle for all golfers.

The simple reality is that golf is a very difficult game. That presents a problem for those aspiring to improve, as most golfers don’t really want their chosen leisure activity to be harder than their job. The problem is that you chose golf for that leisure activity, and to get better, you just might have to work harder at the game than you do at your job. As a coach it is not my job to make golf improvement the top priority in one’s life. But to improve, we can’t leave improvement at the bottom of the to-do list. Counselors say that to improve your marriage, "lower your expectations and raise your commitment." That’s pretty good advice for golfers. If your short game is terrible, quit hoping that it will get better next time out. Find some qualified help and commit time to making improvement.

Expectations in golf, whether positive or negative, are at best a distraction. I can expect to play good golf tomorrow, or expect to hit a shot close to the hole, but that expectation doesn’t help achieve a positive result (effects of negative expectations should be obvious).

The main problem with expectations is that they either exist in the future or in the past, while we need to play golf in the present. There lies the difference between expectations and confidence. An example of an expectation might be, "I’m going to play great today and shoot a record round," while confidence is "I’m going to swing loose and free today and trust that the ball will go where I want it to go." Do you see the difference? The expectation is in the future, while confidence is in the present.

I can’t take credit for the ideas above, as their origin was in Dr. Bob Rotella’s book series. I strongly recommend, no matter what stage you are in golf, to read his books.

I’ve added my own take on those ideas and combined them with what I have learned in my own experiences in competitive golf. My best rounds and tournaments were not when I hit the ball the best, rather when I was properly focused and thinking properly. I still read portions of Dr. Bob’s books before every important round of golf I play, so I can get those ideas fresh in my mind on the first tee.

Shaun White, the Olympic snowboarding champion, was asked what made him so successful. He responded that it was "absolute total focus, combined with a little bit of I don’t care."

That’s a pretty good description for how to be successful at anything.

Pat McTigue, PGA
Director of Instruction
GolfTEC Tulsa

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