For Beginners: Getting Your Head Around Golf

Bringing Your Mental Game Along With Your Clubs

So you think you want to play golf? As in an actual “round” of golf? Not just whack balls on the driving range or practice putting and chipping, but actually play 9 or 18 holes? 

So far, being on or near the course has felt kinda magical. Your friends have been nagging you for months to join them. You’ve had enough lessons to grasp most of the lingo—“drives”, “fades” and “draws”, “chips” and “lay-ups”, “birdies” and “bogies”—and execute the basic shots. You pretty much know which club to use when.

Having watched some mind-blowing tournaments on TV, heard the roar of the crowd and vicariously shared the exhilaration of a 60’ putt that finds the hole, you’re becoming a fan. You cheer for Justin and Dustin, Ricki and Rory, Jordan, Jason and Sergio. Also for Lydia, Brooke, Michelle, Lexi, Paula, and Stacy. You flip on the Golf Channel, as much as an antidote to “real life” as to get closer to the game.

You’ve run out of excuses. You’re as ready as you’re gonna be. 
Now what? 

Time to make a game plan...

You know enough to know that golf can be incredibly complicated, not to mention intimidating. As you’ve practiced your strokes, learned the rules and the etiquette, have you given any thought to your mindset? Has anyone introduced you to "the mental game"? Have you ever considered the importance of mental preparation?

Allow us to quote some of golf’s greatest players on the subject:

Jack Nicklaus, widely regarded as the greatest golfer of all time said: 
"Don't ever try to tell me golf is not 99.9% a mental game.” And, 
"You attack a golf course mentally, not with your swing."

Bobby Jones, legendary golfer and Founder of The Masters Tournament famously said: 
“Golf is a game that is played on a 5-inch course — the distance between your ears."

And Tommy Bolt, Hall-of-Fame golfer and notorious club thrower, shared this pearl:
“The mind messes up more shots than the body.”

The truth is, you need to bring a positive mental attitude to get yourself onto the course for the first time--then cultivate that same positive attitude every time you play. To realize your potential you've got to "get in the zone". 


Here are some ideas to get you on the right track… 

  1. Start with the premise that there are no dumb questions; don’t be afraid to ask when you’re not sure about something! 

  2. Next, create a practice of positive self-talk. Remind yourself that today is about enjoying yourself and performing your best. Bring an optimistic perspective.

  3. Decide what your intentions are for this round. Think about what you want to happen and be realistic.

  4. Remind yourself to accept whatever happens and not fixate on results! You will get better!

  5. Now’s the time to bring the skills you’ve developed on the range and with your instructor onto the course. You’ve practiced enough to reinforce your muscle memory. Each type of swing is starting to feel like second nature--not something you actuallyhave to THINK about.

  6. Remind yourself to be in the moment and FEEL each unrehearsed stroke.

ShoeTips is dedicated to helping people at all skill levels—from beginners to pros—achieve peak performance by creating mental focus reminder systems. Because EVERYONE deals with the mental game!

We’ve organized our 18 interchangeable swing tips into 3 categories: FOCUS, which relates to your mind; FEEL, which relates to your body; and TECHNIQUE, which relates to your swing mechanics.  

See which of these 6 FOCUS tips you might want to use: 

BACK AND THRU — Create a good rhythm as you take the club back and follow through, completing your swing with confidence. (For optimal results, be sure to take it back and through on the same path.)

BREATHE/FOCUS — Remember to take a deep breath or two before you start your swing routine. Bring an attitude of relaxed concentration and awareness to your process. (This will reduce tension so you’re not gripping the club too tightly and will help calm any mental interference.)

STAY DOWN — Focus on letting the club do the work of lifting the ball, as it is meant to do. (Just select the right club for the intended height and distance.)

IMPACT — Focus your attention on making clean and crisp contact, striking the ball first, then the ground.

COMMIT/TRUST — Select your precise target and the appropriate club/swing. If you have doubts, change your plan and fully commit to it. Now trust your swing.

VISUALIZE — Decide exactly where you want the ball to go, let the image of the ball’s full trajectory fill your mind, and imagine the feel of your swing. 

Now just go for it!! Remember, everyone was once a beginner!

Ellen Rudolph