What is sport psychology?

Sport psychology helps athletes perform better before, during, and after competition by using the latest psychological techniques. The uses of psychology within sport ranges from helping athletes to achieve and maintain optimal performance states, as well as helping athletes with their motivation, concentration and their overall well-being.

Sport psychology draws from a range of fields and a wealth of psychological knowledge to help athletes perform better.

Sport psychology can be the difference between a good golfer and a great golfer.

Sport psychology is becoming increasingly popular within elite and amateur sport. The best athletes recognise that sport psychology is not necessarily just about improving something they are bad at, it is also about making good parts of your game even better, and becoming a better learner at the same time.

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What does a golf sport psychologist do?

A golf sport psychologist helps golfers to release their full potential and become the best athlete they can. A golf sport psychologist will work both on specific problems that a golfer may be struggling with (e.g, tee pressure, putting pressure, competition nerves, swing consistency) and on improving their overall performance.

Whilst a they may not have a specific problem, elite golfers will work with a sport psychologist to make the shift from being a good golfer to being a great one.

Golf sport psychology isn’t about improving one thing by 100%, it’s normally about improving 100 things by 1%.

The goal of golf psychology is to help you become a better golfer both on and off the course. For example, a golf psychologist can help you develop practice schedules, adopt a more confident stance on the course, as well as help develop elite squad performance pathways.

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How does sport psychology apply to golf?

Having the right mindset and the ability to perform under pressure is vitally important in golf. As Gary Player once said, “A strong mind is one of the key components that separate the great from the good”.

Success in golf is largely due to strength of the mind.

Golfers that play at their best consistently are the golfers that are able to keep their emotions in check, think clearly, make the right decisions, are confident in their abilities to perform at a high level, and are motivated to practice and improve. These are all skills that golf psychology can help with.

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How can a sport psychologist help me play better golf?

Research suggests that “sport psychology has a transformational power that elevates performance”. It has also been documented that all athletes in all sports can benefit from sport psychology and especially whilst learning new skills in golf. There are two main ways that a golf sport psychologist can help:

Performing Under Pressure

A golf sport psychologist can help you perform better on the course by improving your:

  • Confidence – Whether it be on the 1st tee or the 18th green we can improve how you think and talk to yourself so that you have faith in your ability;
  • Concentration – Managing your concentration throughout a round, blocking out distractions and focusing on the right thing at the right time;
  • Intensity – Playing at your best for large periods of time;
  • Decision Making – Being able to make the correct decisions quickly and clearly when under pressure;
  • Consistency – Being able to play each shot consistently under pressure to the best of your ability.

Champion golfers consistently improve and play their best when it really matters.

All round development

As well as playing your best when the pressure is on, a golf sport psychologist can help you develop all round as a golfer by improving your:

  • Motivation – Having the drive to practice on and off the course;
  • Coping skills – The ability to bounce back from setbacks and poor performance;
  • Learning – Learning from your performances to improve for next time;
  • Attention – Having a clear focus on what is important in order to improve and play better golf;
  • Leadership and playing with others – Effective communication with other golfers.

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How a sport psychologist can improve emotional control

The ability to control both positive and negative thoughts is the difference between a good and a great golfer. Sometimes, emotions are complicated because they can be both a good and a bad thing when you are playing. For example, whilst some golfers put more effort in when they are angry, it may also make them lose focus on the task at hand.

Controlling emotions isn’t easy, but when done correctly, it can add an extra element to your game.

Golf sport psychologists recognise that for some, a round can be an emotional roller-coaster, which is why they work hard to help you control your emotions to play at your best.

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How a sport psychologist can improve self-talk

The golf course can sometimes be a lonely place, meaning that the way you talk to yourself is vitally important.

How you talk to yourself can affect your concentration, persistence, stress levels and your emotions, which in turn affects your performance on and off the golf course. The way you talk to yourself can also affect your belief that you can always improve and your ability to deal with distractions.

There is so much that you can’t control when you compete. But you can control how you talk to yourself, which can be a vital weapon.

Self-talk is an important tool, and everyone can benefit from it. The key to overcoming negative self-talk is to recognise that you are doing it, call a stop to it, then say something both helpful and positive. The best golfers in the world are quick to recognise when they are saying something negative to themselves and quickly stop that thought and think of something that is more helpful to their performance.

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How a sport psychologist can help create a winning mindset

A golfer with a Growth Mindset believes that their mindset is malleable. On the other hand, a golfer who believes that they can only get to a certain level because their ability is set is said to have a fixed mindset. Those with Growth Mindsets tend to learn faster and so tend to be much more successful.

A Growth Mindset is more than just thinking you can improve; it is also about using setbacks to learn and develop.

Examples of golfers with a fixed mindset can be seen both on the range and on the course. Some golfers will not practice what they are bad at, for example hitting long irons, because they think they are just not good at it (and so will only practice what they are good at instead). Other golfers on the course blame set-backs on others around them, luck, the course or the conditions rather than taking responsibility for their bad play.

One way to help develop a Growth Mindset in others is to help them see failure as a necessary part of learning. In doing this, you can reduce pessimism, increase self-esteem and stop golfers avoiding challenges.

Often, particularly good junior golfers, are labelled as being “naturally talented” as opposed to being seen as hard working and good learners. This “labelling” can be detrimental to their growth. To develop a growth mindset in a young golfer it is better to use “purposeful praise” where good processes are praised rather than abilities.

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Working with a golf sport psychologist

No matter what your level is, a golf sport psychologist will help you reach your full golfing potential by tailoring their work to your specific needs. We work with golfers both in the form of one-to-one sessions as well as in group sessions.

At InnerDrive, we leave no stone unturned to help you be the best you can.

Our one-to-one sessions take place where the golfer feels most comfortable and are confidential in their nature. In these sessions, we explore a variety of strategies to develop a golfer’s ability to perform when it matters most, as well as their all-round development as a golfer.

In our group workshops, we work with golfers, parents and coaches in practical interactive sessions to aid understanding of psychological principles and develop methods to put these into practice.

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What is the ‘mental game’?

Golfers often speak about the mental game in golf. This tends to encompass their ability to make the correct decisions, concentration, confidence, managing nerves and performing under pressure.

How much of golf is mental?

Having a great golf swing will obviously help you play better golf. However, many golfers and golf sport psychologists suggest that the ‘mental game’ can take golfers to the next level. Jack Nicklaus even suggested that “80% of golf is mental”.

How do you work on your mental game in golf?

Working on your mental game in golf is like working on your swing. You start with the fundamentals of a winning mindset. Then, through effort and practice, your ability to perform better under pressure, practice more effectively and ultimately grow all round as a golfer will improve.

What golfers have you worked with?

We have been privileged to work with highly skilled amateurs who have played county and national golf. We have also worked with professional golfers who have competed on the European and International tours.

How does working with a golf sport psychologist work?

Our work with individuals is private and confidential. One-to-one sessions take place wherever our clients prefer. This includes but is not limited to at practice grounds or at your house.

How can I play mentally better golf?

Try focusing on what’s most important and what you can control when you play. Ask yourself: what three things do I need to do well so that I can play my best? If you can focus on these and nothing else, you will be in the best place to perform.

How will a golf sport psychologist help me?

We help you become a better golfer by breaking it into three sections; before, during and after. Before you play, it is all about your focus and preparation. During a round, it is about performing at your best under pressure. After, it’s about reflecting on your performance and learning from it.

Do you understand golf? Because my last sport psychologist didn’t.

Yes. Often, sport psychologists rely on experience from other sports or from your understanding of golf. We are different. We have worked with numerous golfers with a variety of abilities, from those with high handicaps to elite golfers performing on professional tours.

Further reading

Here are our main golf psychology blogs:

And more of our blogs that could be of interest:

And some of our favourite related resources:

Our sport psychology team can help you get to the top of your mental game. Let's chat about how we can work with you.

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