Column: Golf is as much mental as it is physical

One of the great things about golf is that it tests a player mentally as much or more than physically.

Larry Norland, Green Haven Golf Course
Larry Norland, Green Haven Golf Course

The following is a short story of the thought process of a player coming down the last hole of a tournament with a chance to win and the mental gymnastics that they go through and how to conquer them.

There may be many ways, but these thoughts have worked for many golfers.

“Billy Ball stood on the 18th tee, which was the 36th hole of the Green Haven Club Championship. He was one shot up with one hole to play, a 381-yard par four with a tricky green and bunkers in the landing area.

While waiting for the fairway to clear, he privately reminded himself to focus on the one shot that mattered, the tee shot.

Instead of focusing on the trees and bunkers, he tried to focus on the fairway and the exact location in the fairway he wanted his ball to come to rest.

As he readied to hit his tee shot, he smiled to relax, took a deep breath and let it out slowly and then carefully went step by step through his pre-shot routine.

Pick an intermediate target and step into the ball. Line up the club face to the intermediate target one foot in front of his ball and then settle his feet in line with how his clubface was lined up.

He did his mental checklist, grip pressure – check, positive thoughts; check, breathe out; check, pull the trigger!

His tee shot landed just left of center, bounced a little to the right and settled in the fairway 132 yards to the pin.

As he walked towards his ball he continually reminded himself, one shot at a time, he didn’t want to get ahead of himself.

As he arrived at his ball he checked the wind, checked the yardage and started to think through his next shot – 132 yards to the pin, pin tucked on the right side of the green near the bunker and almost off the back edge of the green.

He picked his aiming spot, 15 feet left of the pin and about 20 feet short, so this meant he wanted to hit his shot about 125 yards, which was his pitching wedge.

By aiming here he took long and right out of play, unless he mishit the shot, which although is always a possibility one never wants to think about it.

He pulled his pitching wedge and again carefully went through his pre-shot routine and check list.

He breathed out and pulled the trigger. The ball came off the clubface a little thin and to the right, but due to good planning it came up a little short and right of the pin, but still on the green.

As he approached the green he allowed a glance to the right to see what his nearest pursuer was doing and found that all he had to do was to two-putt to win the trophy. Knowing that two-putting on purpose is one of the hardest things to do, he still aimed and went through the putt process as if he was trying to make the putt.

He hit his first putt and as it rolled to a stop three inches past the hole he finally let the thought of holding the trophy sneak into his mind.

The clichés of one shot at a time, don’t get too far ahead of yourself and use positive self-talk are clichés because they are tried and tested.

Use them and you to can get your name on the trophy next to Billy Ball!


Larry Norland is the director of golf at Green Haven Golf Course in Anoka.