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10 tips to win the Ryder Cup: A golf psychologist's guide

10 tips to win the Ryder Cup: A golf psychologist’s guide

4 min read
  • Sport psychology

The Ryder Cup is back this weekend at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, where the best golfers from Europe and the US will compete to be on top. Team Europe is looking to defend its Ryder Cup title, and Team USA is setting out to put up a good fight on home ground.

All the golfers this weekend will be putting their best performance forward – and we want to help you learn how to do that, too. Here at InnerDrive HQ we thought we’d look at how some of the best golfers perform when the pressure is on and when it matters the most. Here is what the research says about playing golf at your best…

You need complete focus

The golf course has many distractions. Not only do you have 18 different holes to battle with, but there are also other competitors nearby, a big crowd, as well as feelings of pressure and expectation. Competition makes everything feel heightened and to perform well on a big stage, you need to be able to drown all of this out and maintain focus on the task at hand.

Try your best

You need to ensure you are putting in 100% effort to every shot and decision that you make. The best golfers value their end goals and give everything they have got when they are out on the course. You also need to prepare well, which means putting effort into your training, getting enough sleep and staying hydrated.

Develop your awareness

Pay attention to your mental states and surroundings. What went well? What can you improve? Many top golfers use a diary to tack their progress, which is also helpful to allow golfers to feel in control, less lonely on the course, manage their emotions and heighten their awareness. 

In the zone

You need to be fully up for it and “in the zone” to do your best. There is a variety of ways to do this – for example, clutch golfers sometimes warm up under pressure or listen to motivational music to increase confidence. Use a method that works for you but ensure that you have your emotions under control before you start. See our 10 tips controlling your emotions in sport for more.

Is this helpful?

We often ask our athlete to challenge their unhelpful beliefs by exploring different perspectives and not just trying to override negative thoughts with positive ones. The more successful golfers often question if their thoughts are helpful or not.

Train your mind as well as your body. Unlock your full potential with sport psychology coaching.

Be in control

Top performing golfers understand that focusing on what they can control is important. This relates to your thoughts, feelings and reactions. The golf course can become overwhelming, and there are things that you cannot control or influence – look to control the controllables instead. For example, focus on how to play at your best rather than concentrating on other players, the scores or the conditions.

Confidence is key

If you have practiced well and given yourself the best chance of success, you should believe in your ability. Confident and successful golfers use the past, present and future to stay self-assured, reminding themselves of their previous successes and visualising their future ones.

Immerse yourself

Champion golfers fully immerse themselves in the moment and focus on the now.  For each shot, you need focus on what matters most and then look at the next shot as an opportunity to do something special. Don’t focus on previous shots that may have gone wrong.

What’s your “why”?

Competitive golf motivates different golfers for different reasons. From winning the competition to cutting their handicap, golfers should identify their own reasons for playing. This should boost their motivation and give them the best chance of playing clutch golf.

Enjoy the competition

At the end of the day, you’re out on the golf course playing a sport that you love. The players who enjoy the experience and embrace the challenge often display the best performances and get the most out of their time on the golf course. Golfers who play well rarely tell you they didn’t enjoy it!

Final thoughts

These tips can help any level player to perform well on the golf course. The Ryder Cup will not only show which golfers have prepared well, but also which can pull it off when the pressure is on. In the end, it all comes down to who can perform the best in the moment when it counts. Have a look and see if you can spot any of the players at this year’s Ryder Cup using these strategies!

Find more tips on playing golf at your best level on our complete guide to golf sport psychology.

About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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