The Mental Fundamentals of Golf

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It’s fair to say that at least half of the game of golf is played inside your head. There’s as much technique involved with keeping your head in the right place for the length of a game as there is for placing the ball. Of course, it always helps to have a few tricks up your sleeve, especially when you get yourself in trouble and frustration rears its ugly head. The following techniques should help you stay out of the pain cave and focused on what really matters — having fun.


Pre-Shot Routine

Having a set pre-shot routine is absolutely critical. It prepares your body and mind for the shot. The pre-shot routine should get you lined up and ready to swing, as well as clear your head so you can step up to the tee and trust your ability to hit the ball without over-thinking.

A good pre-shot routine goes something like this:

  1. Stand ten feet behind the ball and imagine a line through it to the target
  2. Picture a line through the ball to the target
  3. Choose a spot on the line to focus on three to four feet in front of the ball
  4. Approach the ball and position your clubface behind the ball, perpendicular to the target
  5. Position your feet while staring at the target
  6. Choose a spot (probably a dimple) on the ball to aim for
  7. Trust your fundamentals and swing

Develop a shot strategy

Even the pros don’t always put the ball exactly where the want it. In fact, many pros will tell you they hit their target about two-thirds of the time. One in three shots off-target is the norm, and these guys are the best in the world. What you’ll notice as you watch a tournament, however, is the pros’ uncanny ability to miss to the correct side, leaving themselves a solid follow-up shot.


The trick is to determine where your perfect shot would fall, then determine which side and distance you’d be OK with missing to. Then aim between the two. This may require using a different club than you’d use for the perfect shot; that’s OK. Giving yourself a wider margin of error will give you more confidence and, inevitably, shave strokes.

Have a default shot

One bad shot can cause a lot of trouble. If poorly managed, that one shot can come back to haunt you later — it can even ruin your game if you let it. There are lots of techniques that are designed to help you let go of the frustration and move on with your game. One very effective technique is to fall back on old reliable — use a club that will help you rebuild your confidence, even if it’s not the perfect club for your next shot. Take a swing with the 6 iron if that’s comfortable, or maybe an 8 that you can play form any lie. The idea is to get confidence back in your swing, and a comfortable club can often do just that.

Introduce Distractions

Another way to stay loose during the game or forget about a bad shot is to create a distraction. Strike up a conversation with a golf buddy on the way to the next hole, and make it about anything BUT golf. Just taking your mind out of the moment should help put things back into perspective and relive a little of the intensity that can make the game more serious and take away some of the fun. This technique can be applied to life away from the course, as well. If you find yourself obsessing about the game when you’re at work or driving your wife nuts by talking about golf all the time, it may be time to add another hobby — one that’s not golf-related, like fly-fishing or pool.


Golf’s mental aspect can be as intimidating and as difficult to master as its athletic aspect, and the mastery of both can take decades of constant training. Fortunately, there are a few techniques that you can use to control your mental game … think of them as the “mental fundamentals.”

Bio on the Guest Author:

Matt is an avid golf enthusiast and part of the team. When he’s not working on his fairway shot, you will find Matt writing about his passion for the process of the game.