Golf Psychology: Employing a Personal Trainer for Your Mind
In the very fickle game of golf, the mind is huge in facilitating a win. Without a strong mental game, the player is at an incredible disadvantage and can never know how good they can be. The mind is as important as the body.
Golfers can seek outside assistance to improve their mental game, by employing the services of a Golf Psychologist or Mental Game Coach.
A Golf Psychologist identifies where the psychological breakdown occurs. Then, a plan is developed to overcome the issues with exercises, talking through it and developing skills to build confidence. Some examples of weaknesses during competition can be: hot headed behavior, too aggressive, timid and over analytic.
SCNS conferred with Julie Armstrong, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist and certified GolfPsych® instructor, to help us navigate the subject.
Not all mental coaching professionals are created equal. Dr. Armstrong explains, “A Golf Psychologist is the proper term if the person is a trained and licensed psychologist. ‘Mental Game Coaches’ quite frequently are not licensed psychologists.”
The level of players willing to pay for mental game help vary…parents of a child prodigy, to the high school player vying for a scholarship, to the business executive wanting to further their career by playing golf with the boss, to pro golfers.
“The player seeking professional help has their eye on winning competitively. The common denominator is the golfer has identified something wrong with their mental game – but when it comes to competition they can’t ‘just do it’ and want to address it”, says Dr. Armstrong.
First, a psychological test is administered that assesses personality traits. Of interest to those professionals who use methodology based on a theoretical psychological model, is where the player sits on the “The 8 Traits of Champion Golfers.” These traits were identified in 1981 Dr. Deborah Graham. Her research determined champion golfers have 8 distinct shared personality traits.
2. Abstract thinking
3. Emotional stability
|5. Tough mindedness
The outcome of the test is discussed over one or up to several sessions. Then, a treatment plan is created. Exercises are given to the player to practice between sessions – on the course and off.
We asked how many sessions it takes to master your mental game. “The number of sessions needed is left to the golfer. The relationship could be a single assessment, many sessions, a few years or ongoing. It becomes a trusted coaching relationship”, says Dr. Armstrong.
In parting, Dr. Armstrong offered a suggestion – create a shot plan.
“At every shot create a plan, visualize it, feel it and carry it out. DO NOT focus on the outcome. The ball will go where it goes. After the round, go through your card, take 10 minutes to assess each hole, and then ask yourself – ‘Did I see, feel and follow-through on my commitment with each shot for this hole?’ The more you can follow-through on your shot plan, the better golfer you will be.”
- K Fisher