Craig Ferris: The Psychology of Golf
In my role as resident Golf Pro at Bedfordshire’s Luton Hoo Golf Club I coach players of all ranges and abilities.
From the most talented player to the new beginner, there’s one thing that’s common to everyone at some stage in their golf-playing journey: a lack of belief in their game.
It can creep up on any player gradually, or it can be a sudden onset phenomenon - for example, after playing an especially poor game (and the reasons for that poor performance may have nothing to do with golf).
Once a lack of belief takes hold it’s like a creeping garden weed, stealthily choking your belief in your game. The solution is to take it firmly by the root, pull it out and throw it away. That of course is always more easily said than done. The important thing to remember is that it can be done: your game will be back on course along with your development as a player.
My studies and qualifications in sports psychology make me a firm believer in the power of psychology and how it can be used to overcome problems in performance.
Playing golf is of course about the physical aspects of the game, but, as with all sport, there is a very strong mental element too. Get the technique and equipment right by all means, but don’t neglect the mental aspect either
Here are some tips to enhance mental strength as part of your development and raise your game to a whole new level.
• Work on your relationship with your coach. As a PGA professional I have been trained to observe, assess and coach players. I need to understand what drives them in their ambitions as well as understand their individual learning style. By working together and forming a sound relationship with your coach, you can focus on every aspect of the game, including golf psychology.
• Learn how to breathe correctly. This also sounds so simple, but it’s crucial in controlling tension, lowering the heart rate and maintaining focus. It needs practice, but this can be done anywhere. It can be helpful initially to place one hand on the abdomen and another on the chest. Inhale, noting the hand on the abdomen moving away from the backbone and returning there as you exhale. Once you have mastered deep breathing in your diaphragm the hand on the chest will not move at all. Practice for at least 10 breaths.
• Visualisation. This allows you to focus on your shot and avoid lapses in concentration.
Visualise your target, whether it’s the fairway, for example, or the green. Then imagine the ball in flight, moving towards its goal. In your mind’s eye continue to watch it travel – and your swing will improve to copy this image.
There is of course a lot more to golf psychology, but if the concept is new to you, the above tips will make an excellent starting point.