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Golf teaching and playing articles > Mentally, aways be true to yourself

15 Apr 2004


Golf is a game that requires you to learn certain physical skills, but your mental and emotional skills also are important tools in scoring better and in competing.

Some golfers want to know their exact position in a field of players. Others do better if they just play the game, add the numbers up at the end and see what the final results are.

If you know which you are and stick with it, it will help you learn to deal with the mental side of the game and the emotions involved.

PGA Tour pro Phil Mickelson showed us that he needed and wanted to know exactly where he stood and how many shots he needed to catch up to Ernie Els in winning the Masters on Sunday.

He displayed emotional control by not panicking when he failed to birdie the par-5 15th, which is almost a mandatory birdie hole if you are going to win the tournament.

He came back to birdie the next hole, then made a good mental and emotional choice. He chose a fairway metal wood for the tee shot on No.18 instead of the driver, which could have created a shorter shot to the green but also increased the risk factor on the drive.

Perhaps in previous years, he might have gone with the driver. This year, he made the correct choice, made birdie and won the event.

Danna is a student of mine. She plays best if she does not add up the score until she's done. She tries to play her own game, not worrying about where she stands in the competition.

She recently won her club championship by being true to herself, not allowing herself to think about how she stood in the final round. Certainly she knew the competition was close, but she did not focus on this.

She was playing against a seasoned veteran who had won the club championship several times. Knowing if she started adding up the scores and checking her standing against the other competitors, she would place extra pressure upon herself, Danna chose not to do so. The result? She won the event for the first time.

Many golfers in Danna's situation put pressure on themselves that they cannot handle by becoming focused on the results, rather than staying in the present. Instead of playing shot by shot, they start to worry about their position, and their play spirals downward.

Phil Mickelson and my student Danna respond differently to the mental and emotional challenges of the game. Both were rewarded by honoring their own personalities and doing it their way.