It is common knowledge that golf requires a significant set of mental skills to perform at a high level. Recent surveys have shown that while the majority of golfers are aware of the need to improve their golf psychology, many do not engage in any form of psychological skills training. One reason cited was that there is a lack of information on the different ways of training your mind and brain to perform better. So, we have compiled a brief introduction into the 4 most popular resources for gaining that golf mental edge!
1. Sports Psychologist
Many golfers will engage a sport psychologist when they are experiencing a dip in performance or an issue they need to get through.
It may be a problem with stress/anxiety, or maybe an issue with attention/focus. Perhaps they are struggling with motivation or they might be choking at key moments.
However, sport psychology goes beyond fire-fighting and problem solving. Key areas include:
- Improving performance. Psychological skills training like visualisation, relaxation techniques, and self-talk can increase overall golfing performance.
- Injury recovery. An injured golfer may struggle with being sidelined and suffer from frustration or might require support to remove a mental block when returning to play.
- Adhering to exercise/training. We all know the benefits of training and exercising to our golf game, but many golfers struggle with motivating themselves to fulfil their goal.
- Numerous other areas
A good sport psychologist often also helps their clients with non-sporting issues. Many of the strategies used for sports performance can be applied to workplace issues, relationship problems, etc. Removing these stressors provides a great environment to build solid golf performances.
We are fortunate in Ireland to have a fantastic regulatory body (Psychological Society of Ireland) and if you are looking to find a chartered psychologist, you can search their site here:
2. Biofeedback/ Neurofeedback expert
We can use a variety of devices and computers to gain an inside view of how our body or brain is behaving. These devices effectively display (feedback) information about our body (bio) or brain (neuro). Common examples include heart rate variability (HRV), galvanic skin response (GSR), and electrical activity of the brain (Neurofeedback).
When a golfer experiences an emotional or mental state, their body will also have a reaction. A common example would be how an expert skill like performing a golf shot can become ‘overthought’ and poorly done following a stress event like a missed putt. Similarly, if a golfer experienced a change in their physical performance, there will be a mental and emotional change. For instance, a fatigued golfer may lose focus or motivation. A biofeedback/neurofeedback specialist can teach golfers about these psycho-physiological reactions and give them the tools and techniques required to control them.
This form of training is receiving great recognition in the media recently with the work Dublin-based Actualise (https://actualise.ie/) did training the Connacht Rugby team featuring in a number of publications.
3. Golf Self-Help Books/Blogs
The best golfers in the world employ the best sport psychologists – simple fact. Unless, you have an endless stream of money or are ranked among the top up and coming golfers, you probably cannot tap into these professionals for direct tuition. However, fortunately for us mere mortals, many of the top sport psychologists have released books on their approach or write regular blogs on their techniques.
While you can only get so far with teaching yourself, there is still a lot of information you can gain to give yourself the mental edge. A good blog subscription or a trip to your local bookstore will help bring your golf game up a level.
Probably the most common golf self-help books purchased are the series written by Dr. Bob Rotella – Golf psychology expert and consultant to our own Padraig Harrington among others.
4. Cognitive Brain Training
Research has shown that systematic training using computerised ‘brain training’ software has shown serious improvements in specific mental skills. Part of the benefit of getting computer software to improve your brain fitness is that you can do it without the need for an expert. In golf, there is a strong demand on mental skills like attention (focus and maintaining attention), ignoring distractions (internal and external), visual perception (green reading, depth perception), among others.
Much like training your body in the gym, using the correct cognitive brain training software, a golfer can complete a series of computer exercises daily and see a marked increase in their brain fitness.
Cue shameless plug (couldn’t resist!): we are releasing a golf-specific cognitive brain training mobile app in the coming months – register your interest at www.cognigolf.com.
The most complete solution would be to practice all 4 of these techniques, but that is not exactly practical. The trick is to find what works for you by researching each one properly.
Those incredibly frustrating rounds of golf have made us more than aware of the psychological nature of golf, so take the steps required to improve your mental game!
About the author:
Seán Hogan is the founder of CogniGolf, a revolutionary new software that allows you to train your brain specifically for golf performance. Using the same training systems that pro-golfers use in psychological labs, the CogniGolf app delivers elite level golf brain-training to golfers of all levels, in the palm of your hand. Seán is a sport and exercise psychologist and sports player who also heads www.GolfPerform.com an online golf performance community providing access to the World’s top golf psychologists and fitness experts.
Contact Seán on Twitter @TheSeanHogan and also follow @CogniGolf and @Golf_Perform.