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Becoming a Better Mental Golfer

Ethan L

I am a fifteen year old and I play varsity high school golf. I am a good golfer with a handicap of about 10, 9 when I am playing really well and 11 when I dont play as well. I have taken lessons for two years and practice 24/7 over the summer. I understand fundamentals of golf very well. I have talked to my dad and golf coaches about what I need to do to take my game to the next level. They all say I need better mental game and I could become successful in golf if I make the effort.

They have told me too:

  • Understand the history of golf
  • Understand how the best golfers have played the game
  • control my emotions
  • dont dwell on bad shots but learn from the mistakes
  • focus
  • Take my time and think about the shot

Is all this correct? How do I actually learn how to control my emotions? How can I figure out how to stay focused? Does anyone know of any mental drills to make these parts of my game better? Does anyone know anything else to help improve my mental game?

17 Replies

  1. matt k

    Hey Ethan,

    I played Varsity HS golf for 4 years (captain my Senior year), and made big improvements mentally over the years.  I think what helped me the most was to understand that everyone is going to hit bad shots, the difference between a good and a great player is moving past that bad shot and having confidence on the next.  You'll notice that all great players have short term memory when it comes to poor shots.  Have the confidence in yourself that even if you have a bad start, hit a bad shot, or make a big number that you can come back from it.  I know if I make a bogey or double that I have the ability to birdie the next.  You've hit a long drive down the middle, stuck an approach, and made plenty of putts before, there's no reason you can't do that on any hole at any time, and that's what you have to instill in yourself.  Most of all, HAVE FUN and it will come to you.  Best of luck!

  2. Tony C

    I would suggest reading the book Zen Golf by Joe Parent. This really helped me improve my mental game

  3. Olivia S

    I am the same age and also in the same position. I easily reduced my scores by 5 or 6 strokes over the summer just by being able to control my emotions. After a bad hole happens, there is nothing to do but move on and have a good next hole.

     In terms of the mental game, I recently read a book, "The Golfer and the Millionaire" by Mark Fisher that is based all around the mental game of golf. I have found the ideas in that book very beneficial to how I think around the course and how to go about constructing my mental game.

  4. Nate S

    Let me go down the list for yah: (first I'm Nate I'm also 15 I have a 2 handicap that used to be a 10 until I read The Unstoppable Golfer by Bob Rotella) The first item, understanding golf's history, is completely unnecessary for your mental game. Number 2, understanding how the greatest golfers played the game, is sort of important put don't particularly copy exactly one players routine. What I did was take the best parts of the best golfers' routines. Number 3, controlling your emotions, this depends on the emotion. For a bad shot just let it go. If it's a good shot, don't overkill the celebration, but be happy with yourself and do a fistpump or a high five your fellow player. So let out the good emotion and just forget the bad. Number 4, not dwelling on bad shots but learning from them. Obviously. If you can't make a putt all day in your match, when your done practice on the putting green and try to find out what you did wrong but don't let it haunt you.  Number 5, taking your time and thinking about the shot.  Here is where I have to draw the line with your coaches. Only concentrate on the shot as long as you need to take in the distance and how the elements are effecting that distance (slope, wind, rain, etc.), and once you decide what shot you want to hit take a swing and your body will do the rest for you.  BTW this is what Rotella tells his students. I have had tremendous success employing these things in my golf game including 3 state golf association wins last fall.

  5. Nate S

    The administrators wouldn't let me post  the names of Rotella's students but one is a very popular pga tour golfer who won the wanamaker trophy in 2011.

  6. Carl T

    The mental part of the game is what makes golf hard. Yogi Berra says that golf is 90% mental and the other half is physical. I am 66 and still have issues but one thing that you can do if a certain shot gives you problem is to spend extra time practicing on correcting the problem so that you can take it to course. If you cannot hit a certain shot e.g., chipping, pitching, bunker play, slicing, hooking, etc., practice until you can do the shots that give you problems. A lot of golfer just practice the shots that they are good at. I say practice the shots that are uncomfortable 75% to the ones you are good 25%.

  7. AJAR

    I have to say that it is great to see maturity in all ages. It shows that the passion for golf spans such a large age group. I am in the middle of the ages mentioned and am a mid-handicap golfer. I played in my first match play final yesterday and won albeit with a confused tempo for 14 straight holes. My opponent played strong all day and I was playing catch up from 2 down to All Square several times. The momentum was mine going into the 17th and tied it up with a sand save on a par 3. I played a solid par on the 18th and that was enough to take my opponent. So, although I didn't play my best round (nerves took the best of me to control) I have to say the big lesson I will not forget is: IT AIN'T OVER TILL IT'S OVER'. All the best for you all in your future tournaments. 

  8. Nate S

    Another thing that I forgot to say is that you should never be satisfied with an ok score. Sure if you shoot 75 and win a tournament be happy that you won but not that's not good enough for me anyway so I'm never satisfied with my score Because I wanna be 5 under every time I play. Thats a good way to play along with everything else I've already said.

  9. Dylan B

    Hi Ethan

    I am 13 years old and about 10 months ago I played off 20-24 and really stugled with my emotions. I noticed that I needed to improve that so now I do not react at all (not even fist pumps) to any off my shots good or bad. I found that this helped my to stay calm, not getting down on yourself or getting ahead of youself. I play off 6 now

  10. tom b

    Hi ethan,

    Grab a copy of my favorite book - Fearless Golf - by Dr. Gio Valiante and Mike Stachura. It's awesome!


  11. scott a

    Being emotional isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if you have it in check and you’re respectful. Some use that to play better golf.


    The only thing I really work on (mental game wise) is when I hit a bad shot, I try to remember how cool it’s going to be to win the hole from another zip code while my competition is 100 out in the proper fairway. Embrace the challenge of the next shot!  It takes the negativity away and allows me to focus on the next shot. Because that’s the only one that matters.

  12. Allen L

    Ethan, as mentioned by others, if you haven't already read The Unstoppable Golfer, and Zen Golf, they could give you a new perspective on the head game.  I'm always amazed at how when I hit a bad shot then drop out another ball and just hit it, most of the time the careless, thoughtless second shot, is what I expected the first time.  Good luck, you'll figure things out.

  13. Benjamin T

    Hey Ethan, I am also a 15 year old golfer learning to control his emotions on the course. My coach always says that nothing good can come from thinking about your last shot - good or bad. I have been learning to stay in the present and when I do, I score a lot better. There are some great books - not boring - that are really good on this topic. They are by a golfer psychologist named dr bob rotella. He is a great writer, works with the best players in the world, and has helped me a lot with my game. Good luck!
  14. andy r

    Ethan, there is a very old golf cliche " one shot at a time" , it is simple but very,very true. Each shot in it's own is a new challenge.

    When frustrated walk slower not faster and just repeat  "one shot at a time". Picture your up coming shot in your mind, focus on what you need to do next NOT what just occured.

    Hope this helps, play well !!

  15. tyler s

    i am 17 and play number 1 on my schools varsity golf team i was a 2 then i started not constantly dwelling on bad shots and focusing more on the shots at hand i am now a +2.6 i think that is the big difference maker dont let a bad shot get you down keep your head up good luck buddy

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