8 Great Ways to Stay Positive on the Golf Course

Mariah Swigart Mariah Swigart
6 minute read

As we watch professional golfers on TV, we will most likely catch a golfer or two lose their cool and explode in anger due to the game. What separates most of the pros from the rest of us is their ability to express such emotion and still be able to turn their day around to score well. A golfer’s mental game is their secret weapon on the course. While practice builds the confidence to play well, there are some tricks to train yourself to stay positive on the course and avoid giving up on your game. 

#1 Start with Self Talk

If you are talking negatively to yourself, you cannot expect to suddenly have a positive outlook on the golf course. Self-criticism can be detrimental to your mental game, and in turn, hurt your golf game.  Instead replace a negative thought with a positive. That may seem too simple, but it actually works. Leading psychologists use this approach to retraining the brain to reject automatic negative thoughts, and you can too. The only difference is that you can make your self-talk healthier while also improving on your golf game.  

#2 Save the Changes for the Range 

The golf course is not the best place to start breaking down your swing. There is a time and place on the course to adjust if you keep slicing the ball but trying to fix your swing mechanics on the course is not the best approach.  Mid game adjustments can lead to mixed results which can hurt your mental game. Instead, play safe golf .  Tell yourself one positive thing each time you swing and hit the range before your next round.  

#3 Rely on a Routine 

You may know the feeling of standing over a 3-foot putt for par, or even birdie. Oftentimes, those high-pressure putts can lead to feeling stressed and insecure about your putting stroke. When you find yourself doubting your swing or your abilities, rely on a pre-shot routine to steady your mind. Improving on your golf score involves a strong mental game. If you have a good routine, you can trust what you know, line up your shot, take a deep breath, and execute the shot with confidence. 

#4 Stay in the moment

It’s important to not get caught up on a high number hole, or the mistakes you have been making in your game. It’s easy to think, “I need to put this shot on the green to break 90 today.”  Though it sounds motivating, those thoughts can be harmful to your game and could ultimately ruin your mood. Approach each shot with a fresh mind, holding onto only one or two thoughts about your swing, and remembering to enjoy the round. Play moment to moment within the shots you have to hit without being caught up on the scores you need to get in the round. 

#5 Respond, Don’t React 

We’ve seen it often on the golf course, a player is utterly overwhelmed with their round and ends up breaking a club or walking off the course. These sorts of reactions to the golf game are understandable. However, our goal is to enjoy the day and overall, not give up on our game. It’s important to be realistic about where your game is at. You can set goals for the round but keep them within the realm of your ability. When we set exaggerated goals for ourselves, we often end up frustrated and disappointed, rather than positive and noticing results. 

Responding to bad shots means stopping to assess what went wrong (if you know), then accepting the bad shot, and finally moving on to thinking about the next shot. For example, if your ball went into the water, but you saw that you were aimed that way, then you can make a mental note to check your aim before your shot. If you respond instead of reacting to a poor shot, it will be beneficial to your mental game as you keep your cool on the course.  

#6 Set Goals 

As we mentioned earlier in the article, setting attainable goals will help you stay positive on the course. Goals can be a huge help to your metal game and physical game. One goal may be to replace your negative self-talk with positive. For example, any time that you hit a bad shot, say one positive thing about the day. Statements like “The weather is beautiful,” “This beats work,” and “What a beautiful course!” are all positive thoughts that can replace  negative thoughts and reactions to a bad shot. Come to the course with positive thoughts ready to use when you feel yourself starting to spiral into negativity. Also, set goals for your game that you feel confident in. It may be as simple as playing with no more than two balls in a round, or avoiding any 4-putts. You know your game the best and setting goals should be custom to what you feel is achievable to keep you positive, motivated, and enjoying your round. 

#7 Accept the Progress 

Start with reflection on the positives from the day. Releasing the poor performances and reflecting on the positives of your round will help you the next time you are playing. This is because you took the time to reflect and solidify those great shots in your mind. Identifying the strengths of your round and your game will aid in keeping your mental game strong. Use the positive thoughts to propel you and encourage you in your mental game to keep you positive on the course, seeing the successes and moving toward growth.  

#8 Positive Persistence 

Finally, stay persistent when working on your positivity on the course. Don’t give up on the process of reaching the goals for your mental and physical golf game. At home you can practice your mental strengths as well as your physical game. Reflect on strategies you can use on the course such as using the Quick Reference Card and keeping a journal of great shots or awesome golf days. 

Practicing your positivity both on and off the course can help improve your golf game. Instead of throwing in the towel on your ultimate quest to break 90, use these 8 great tips to stay positive and fall in love with golf even more.  

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