THE MENTAL GAME

The right attitude and strategies are essential for success in any sport (or any
human endeavor for that matter), but they seem to be especially important in golf.  
In so many other sports, your actions are reflexive, which leaves little time to think
about anything.

But in golf, the ball just sits there – giving you practically all the time you need to
decide what you’re going to do this time to pull off a successful shot.  And how you
handle yourself mentally on the golf course, starting with your basic attitude and
including general and specific strategies toward the game, have a very important
influence on your results.

So this section of Tom’s Golf Tips is devoted exclusively
to tips I’ve collected on the mental game of golf.  They are
worth checking out.

Technique is everything in this game and it doesn’t come
naturally to most people.  Don’t hesitate to see a pro to
learn the proper technique.  It will be a good investment.

Think before you hit and play within your capabilities.  
Don’t try to execute a shot when your chances of
success are minimal.  

Learn the terminology and basic rules of golf.

Understand that golf is more a game of precision than brute force.  Distance is
fine, but not helpful at all if the ball ends up in the woods.

Don’t try to think of more than one swing key at a time when you’re making a shot.  
It’s counter-productive.  

During the swing, it sometimes it helps to think about a short mantra, such as
“Am—ster—dam” to keep other thoughts (especially negative thoughts!) out of
your mind and improve your tempo.

Don’t dwell on a bad shot after it happens.  Focus on the shot ahead of you.

When you do have a bad shot, try to determine what caused it and turn it into
something that helps your game.

Don’t try to slug a seven-iron when a six-iron will get you there comfortably.  Most
high-handicappers err by underclubbing themselves.

If long irons are giving you trouble, switch to fairway woods and metals.  They are
much easier to hit.  

Don’t hesitate to use a three-wood off the tee for more control.

Rather than easing up on a club if you’re concerned about hitting
it too far, take a club with more loft and swing away.

Try your best on every shot.  

Make a conscious effort to remove tension from your grip and body.
Tension is a swing killer.

Take a few seconds to visualize the shot you are about to make.  It helps.

If you tend to slice (as a right hander), hit your tee shots from the right side of the
tee – and do the opposite if you tend to hook.  This gives you more fairway to work
with.

Always give yourself room for some error.  If you need to fly the ball over a tree, and
you think a seven-iron will do it, hit an eight-iron.

Pick out a precise target on every shot, and always try to put yourself in the best
possible position to hit the next shot.

Wind strength and direction can have a big bearing on ball flight.  Try to
learn through experience what one-club and two-club winds feel like.  

The same goes for uphill and downhill shots.

If you have a sidehill shot with the ground falling away from you, aim left.

If you have a sidehill shot with the ball above your feet, aim right.

Pay close attention to where you are losing strokes, and devote your practice
sessions to those areas.

While on the course, don't think about your final score.  Concern yourself only with
the shot at hand and the process of producing the best shot possible.

Above all, try to develop confidence in all your shotmaking.  Negative thinking is
probably the biggest score-wrecker in golf, especially on short putts.  Convince
yourself you can make that shot, or sink that putt, and good things will happen.
Long hitting in itself has
never won a tournament
that I know about, but the
effort to hit longer than
necessary to score well
sure has lost an awful lot
during my time in the
game!-- Jack Nicklaus
Golf is played on a course
five-and-a-half inches long
...the space between your
ears -- Bobby Jones
Tom's Golf Tips
If you think you're a
good putter, if you
keep telling yourself
how great you are, it
certainly helps --
Arnold Palmer
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"Save your nickels and dimes, stay
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Sam Snead
The world's best golf swing trainer.  I've tried it.  It works!  Tom
Make your practice session harder than the real game.  Instead of just beating balls in a general
direction on the range, give yourself very specific targets to aim at whenever you practice.  Aim for
an imaginary fairway 20 yards wide and see how many drives out of 10 you can get within the
fairway.  This will give you evidence of your progress and will also get your mind used to dealing
with tight driving holes and pressure situations.
Ed Bradley