Mental Toughness


Let me ask you this - what happens that makes you hit that pull-hook? If you have the ability to hit the 300 yard rope, your body and swing are, obviously, more then capable of that result every single time. The reason you don’t is because of your mind…


No, it’s because I cannot consistently come from the inside on my downswing and because I cannot consistently keep the face of my club at (or to the right of) the target. I’m too steep in the downswing, which leads to this issue. So when I can synch it all up, which is most of the time to be fair, it works fine. But I can’t synch it up all the time because I haven’t yet mastered the problems with my swing that led to this issue.

It might be mental in the sense that I don’t put enough effort into fixing those faults, but it’s not because I lose concentration on the course a couple times a round.


You have just outlined all the issues that are known factors in leading to a poor swing. You obviously can physically sync it all up, but others times it does not happen for you. In my opinion, your mind is not allowing you to do this - not your “swing”. Every now and then, you fail to remember to “check all the boxes” throughout the swing (that are known variables) and execute the known elements needed for a good result. In my opinion, this is 95% a mental shortcoming.


I never said that. Dustin Johnson is not a +2. Hes probably a +8.

The difference in mental game between a 5 and a scratch golfer, is knowing how likely you are to hit a certain shot.

The difference in mental game between a 5 and a scratch golfer is really understanding what a sloppy mental decision is.

I’ve never met a 5 handicap that didnt make less than 3 bad choices a round.

If you have a pull hook in your game, but you dont normally hit one, then its mental. You arent prepared to take that shot out of play for a certain shot, if it means disaster on a hole. I would say your preshot routine could address that miss.


I’ll give you an example, im playing in a Stag event at my club last thursday. We start on hole 14, a driveable par 4. This is a quota event, so i need 4 points on this hole.

I dont get enough time to hit balls before the round, only get about 10 swings in.

I’m scratch. And i make a giant bonehead decision. This hole is still a birdie hole if you hit 4 iron off the tee. Well, i hit driver, overcook my draw, OB. Take a 6.

That had nothing to do with my swing. It had to do with a lack of preparation, and poor shot selection. Cost me two shots on a round i played in one over.


Maybe, but mental game is usually defined as state of mind or decision making on the course. I absolutely make decisions to avoid screwing myself with a pull-hook (especially off the tee because that’s where it gets me into trouble). But, sometimes, you just have to hit a shot and risk the pull-hook, because the alternative is just as bad.


Perhaps, but there some holes where you just have risk it. I have been working on hitting a 10 yard fade off the tee, just to have that quiver when I need it. But, I also lose enough yards on that shot that there are just some holes where I have to risk the pull-hook because a mishit fade will leave me in worse trouble.

[quote]I’ll give you an example, im playing in a Stag event at my club last thursday. We start on hole 14, a driveable par 4. This is a quota event, so i need 4 points on this hole.

I dont get enough time to hit balls before the round, only get about 10 swings in.

I’m scratch. And i make a giant bonehead decision. This hole is still a birdie hole if you hit 4 iron off the tee. Well, i hit driver, overcook my draw, OB. Take a 6.

That had nothing to do with my swing. It had to do with a lack of preparation, and poor shot selection. Cost me two shots on a round i played in one over.[/quote]

Totally agree that was a mental mistake. Maybe I just don’t make mental mistakes like that, and I’m an outlier? I just don’t remember making bad decisions like that. I remember a lot of bad swings, but not something along of the lines of hitting a driver instead of an iron off the tee.


Hitting driver on this hole under normal circumstances is not a mental mistake. It was in this particular situation.

We all make mental mistakes. Recognizing them is the difference.

Rarely, do you have to risk anything. Thats the difference. In a medal play event, unless im playing with two other particular players at my club, and i know exactly where i stand, i am almost always playing the safest shot possible. Risking nothing. If i dont risk anything, all round, im not shooting worse than 73. I’ll hit a lot of boring shots, to fat parts of greens, and that will leave the misses either 40 feet or 5 feet from the pin. As long as im not having a seizure that day with my putter, i’ll play good enough.

If i know im playing with one of the other 2 favorites to win, i will change my game plan at some point. Lets say Brad is -3 at the turn, well, hes likely to just shut it down right there and shoot 36 on the back if im 3 off the pace.

But ordinarily, in a normal round, i’ll change my gameplan day to day depending on how im hitting it. if the irons are tight, i’ll aim a little closer to pins. If my goal is to break par that day, you wont see anything more boring. I’m playing for 18 pars. If i play for 18 pars, i’ll break par. If i play for 18 birdies, i can shoot anywhere from -5 to +7.


I honestly think you’re coming at it from a perspective of being really fucking good at golf. I do all of this stuff and I can still shoot anywhere from +2 to +15 on a given day. The difference is execution. I bet you’re much better than me from almost any distance and that’s why our scores are different. I put my shots from 150-175 yards out inside of 15 yards a little more than half of the time. From 125-150 yards, I’m a little under 70% in putting them to 15 yards. I bet your numbers would be better than that. That’s why when you aim at the center of the green from 150, you’ll make a par most of the time, and when I aim at the center of the green from 150, I make par about 2/3s of the time. For comparison, the median leave for the PGA Tour from 125-150 is about 23’, and from 150-175, it’s about 33’. Do you think a better mental game would get my average leave down to those levels? Because I sure don’t!

Again, and I’m not trying to be pompous, but maybe I’m just the outlier here. I’m not going around trying to play super aggressive with drivers off every hole. I’m not shooting at pins - I’m aiming at the center of the green (or for me, normally, that means I’m aligned at the right edge of the green). But really, for most of us, the biggest issue plaguing our games is that our swings need to be improved, which I will maintain has nothing to do with the mental game.


I agree that for the majority of players, an improvement in their mental game wont gain them much.


As a 5 handicap, a stronger mental approach will lead to better execution.

I literally had a lesson yesterday with the 2018 PGA Teacher of the year. Assess the issue, review video, correct the issue, random practice.

That was the hour.

The lesson was for distance wedges, which, this guy might be the best teacher in the world for. James Sieckmann.

The fix was simple enough, shorter backswing, more aggressive turn.

We went through and got distances on all three stock shots with each wedge. Then he gives me a target, plays caddie and tells me to hit it.

He stopped me more times than not, because i did not fully execute my preshot routine. All my bad shots were 100% due to rushing through my preshot routine, and executing with a clear mind.

A clear mind, WILL 100% improve results. A clear mind is about as mental as you can get.

When you walk up to a left pin with 150 out. What is your exact target? Exactly how many feet are you going to draw the ball? What is your typical miss? What will you have left with your typical miss?

Once you select your shot, you arent thinking about a miss. Youre trying to do ONE THING, youre trying to reproduce the picture in your mind.

My wife is a horrible golfer. Took her out for her 3rd nine ever on wednesday. She has a pitch shot from 35 yards or so. She asks how hard do i hit it. My answer was for her to imagine the ball going in the hole, and where did it land. hit it that hard. She didnt know why that would work, but she hit it to 10 feet.


Yea true…everyone’s swing has some variability and relies on timing to some extent, so you’re going to have misses that are just going to happen (a.k.a golf is hard). I get that. I do think the better player you are, the more the mental game affects your score. Take it to the extreme…Tiger and Adam Scott had essentially perfect swings mechanically (still do pretty much) and can repeat them on command on the range or course and hit any type of shot needed. Tiger has 14 majors and Adam has 1. I think that’s pretty much all due to Tiger having a better mental game with every aspect of the game.


How do you know that it was because you were rushing through your preshot routine? Were you looking at videos to confirm that your swing was different when you rushed vs. when you didn’t? Did you have trackman or similar data showing some difference?


We were working with GC Quad. And he has the best eye on planet earth.

He was standing to the side, so he didnt watch my alignment on every shot. But he confirmed earlier in the lesson that my alignment is right on when im paying attention to it. All my misses were side to side and maybe 2-3 yards short or long.

I was rushing through, not really nailing down my intermediate target.


Fair enough.

Still seems like the biggest difference between you and me is not mental game. If I have a 4-6 yard variance in a shot, that’s not something I’m worried about. That’s good enough for everything further away than a 40 yard pitch for me.

I also think there’s a bit of a defeatist attitude with blaming your mental game for everything. In the vast majority of cases, the far bigger issue is the swing than your mental game. If you’re a 90s shooter who slices everything off the planet, that’s not a problem with your mental game. If you think it is a problem with your mental game, you’re not going to seek out a good instructor and/or spend the time to fix your swing. The OP isn’t necessarily an example of that, but I could imagine him getting frustrated if he’s can’t break through 80 consistently. Because that is frustrating! But the answer is not to work on your mental game - it’s to work on your swing to minimize your misses and maximize your best shots.

I went from an 18 to a 12-ish by just working on my mental game, short game, and practicing without a purpose. I didn’t get any better until I got good instruction. Once I got good instruction, I busted into the single digits quickly, and have been pretty consistently moving lower since then. If you want to get a lot better, reading Bob Rotella isn’t going to cut it.


aim small, miss small. It sounds cliche, but it really does work.

I dont think its a defeatist attitude at all. thats whats great about golf, there might be 50 different ways to correct the same issue.

And we’re not talking about 90s shooters with no control over their ball. We’re talking about 5 handicaps that are making pars and birdies, those are not by accident. 5 handicaps are talented players.

Challenging yourself with minute targets, and very clear ideas about shots, mental pictures, visualization, these things are key to improvement without even bringing technique or mechanics into the discussion at all.

For example, look at some youtube videos on Brad Faxon and his attitude about putting.


@aannddyy00 @DeadMan - there isn’t one way to get better, its different for everyone (which your back and forth communicates beautifully), its a physical and mental battle on every shot. If there was a template to getting better then anyone who put in the work would get better. Some people’s swing thoughts are totally technical and some people technical are actually quite mental.

Is thinking “I won’t leave this putt short?” a mental of physical thought? It either requires a bigger backswing or quicker tempo to accomplish that (physical), or if you pick a spot 3 feet beyond the hole and putt to that (mental) that would accomplish the same task, or it could be your pre-shot routine or this or that…

I tell my wife who is just starting in the game to just pick a spot and swing as she was really struggling after some lessons. For 9 holes she claimed she thought of absolutely nothing, just lined up and shot 41 in only her 8th 9 hole ever. She never even sniffed breaking 50 prior to that or since then and she says she hasn’t been able to find that mental calm since. She of course commented that she “figured it out” so she is in golf hell for at least a year.


I’ll chime back in to say that I do think that there is certainly some physical (and equipment for that matter) aspects that would definitely improve my game as well. And perhaps I was regressing to the mean the latter half of the round. But this particular instance in my original post felt mostly mental. After the comment the one guy made, my baseball superstition instincts kicked in and I felt sorta doomed. Light tug on the next hole (par 3) that put me up on the lip of a bunker but otherwise would have been pin high 20ft from the hole had I landed it another 2yds right (and still on the green 35ft away had I carried it another foot). From there it felt like a self-fulfilling prophecy that he jinxed me.


But at a certain point I think you have to be realistic about how you can best improve your game.

I don’t know your circumstance. Maybe you’re young with plenty of disposable income and lots of free time so you can spend a lot of time practicing to improve those swing flaws. If so, that is a great way to improve your game.

But for the vast majority of us, whether because of work, family, whatever, if we carve out the time for golf, we’re using it to play, not practice. I’m simply not at a point in my life where I’m really working on my golf swing any more. I work on it on the course sometimes. I go to the range, independent of playing golf, maybe once a year. Hell, I don’t even go to the range before playing all that often.

So, managing my game really is the best way to improve (or, in my case, stop the bleeding).


That’s a very valid point. But I still think you’d get better bang for your buck by practicing putting 10 minutes on your carpet at home a week, or doing mirror work with your swing.

I understand that golf uniquely preys on our minds because of how up and down it is. One day you’re hot and can’t miss, the next day you can’t find the clubface. I get the temptation to say that it’s really your mind holding you back in that situation, because you’ve experienced the highs that golf can give you. I get the temptation to look at your best rounds and think that you should do that all the time. And hey, the only difference between your best and worst rounds is how mentally on you were with your best rounds. In reality, you only get 30 some full game shots in a round of golf, and your score can change massively if 3 of those shots are unusually bad or unusually good. In the long run, getting those 30 some shots to be all good is more physical than it is mental.


Similar to what Andy said, I think the difference for me to start regularly shooting under par was primarily a conscious effort to play aggressively to a conservative target. You start thinking about your results in terms of where you hit it in relation to your target instead of the pin and it gets to the point where you’re just as thrilled to stuff it to a foot from where you were looking, even though you’re 18 feet from the hole. Then when you have those couple holes where the pin happens to be in the same place as the conservative target for your shot type you start throwing more darts. The other thing I realized is it’s an absolute must to take advantage of the “easy” holes if you’re going to shoot under par. If there are 5 of them out there, you better birdie at least 3 or 4.