Golf and life: Winning the mind game

Golf is a mind game and like it or not so is life. To win at golf or life requires us to avoid the same thought hazards. To avoid them we must know what they look like. Photo: Steve Jurvetson

WASHINGTON September 29, 2012 - Scanning information on golf psychology confirms that, without doubt, life is a game. The primary mental mistakes that golfers make are the same mistakes we all make while schlepping through our days. 

What separates great golfers from the average weekend hacker is avoiding the mental ponds and sand traps that rob equanimity and focus. The same mind hazards can frustrate us to no end in the games of leisure, school, employment, or relationships.  

Like golfers, we all need to know what the mental bogie-makers are, though knowledge does not guarantee avoidance.   

Golfers’ Mental Mistakes 

1. Worrying about what other people are thinking.

What is going on inside someone else’s head is their business. People who listen in on other’s thoughts usually hear criticism or rejection. This kind of mind reading drains energy and confidence whether at the office or on the links. 

Rule: What others think of you is none of your business.    

2. Comparing yourself to other golfers.

Self comparison is a waste of time and concentration. It serves no purpose other than making those on top feel good; those who are not, frustrated or deflated. People who are the best at what they do make great role models and mentors, but the only game anyone can play is their own. 

Remember, the only thing worth comparing are your socks. 

3. Dwelling on bad shots and mistakes.

The only way to benefit from a mistake is to learn from it and then let it go. Hanging onto a missed par putt, or a lost sale, takes you mentally and emotionally away from the game. Just as emotions can throw off a golf swing, they can muddle our thinking and ability to discriminate.  

As Douglas Adams wrote, “You live and learn.  At any rate, you live.” 

4. Tensing up when facing a difficult shot.

We do everything better when relaxed and our energy is flowing. Self doubt and dwelling on worst case scenarios translates into stiff muscles, cramps, shortness of breath, and headaches.  

Rule: When things look difficult, quit looking. 

5. Giving your internal dialogue free reign. 

To learn and improve there needs to be someone in the cockpit regulating the content and quality of our thoughts. Undisciplined, cluttered minds tend to be negative and pessimistic and will entertain any idea despite value. Learning and performing well demands the ability to put our attention where it is needed. 

“How we long to remove the clutter from our lives not realizing that the clutter is our lives.”  ~ Robert Brault 

6. Telling yourself what not to do.

“Don’t hit into the rough.” “Don’t look nervous in the meeting.” “Don’t talk too much.” “Don’t make any mistakes.” Our unconscious mind does not understand the difference between, “Think of an orange dog,” and “Don’t think of an orange dog.” Either way, our mind sees an orange dog. That is why it is important to think about what you want. That way your unconscious mind is working with you, not against you.  

Rule: “Don’t forget this rule!” 

7. Self-criticism of your technique

Noticing a glitch in your game is one thing, criticizing yourself for it is another. What we observe we are free to correct. Criticism causes frustration and is demoralizing, making any game more difficult and less enjoyable. 

Remember, self-criticism is unnecessary; there are plenty of people who will gladly do it for you.   

8. Dwelling on what can go wrong.

Why give your unconscious mind visions of failure, problems, or defeat when it does not know the difference between a successful image and disappointing one? Consciously evaluating possible hazards while making plans is sensible. Once preparations are made, focus only on the result you want. 

As the old saying goes, “Life is an endless struggle full of frustrations and challenges, but eventually you find a hair stylist you like.”  ~ Author Unknown

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Jacqueline Marshall

Jacqueline Marshall is a writer for Help For Depression, and freelances primarily in the areas of psychology and personal development. She has a MA in Counseling Psychology and is a licensed therapist living near Chicago.

Jacqueline has experience helping those diagnosed with severe, persistent mental illness, and in providing general therapy services for individuals, couples, and families. Prior to counseling, she worked in graphic design and music education.

When not writing or counseling, Jacqueline enjoys reading literature and math-less books about quantum physics. She is a published poet, and has studied animal communication and energy healing.  


Contact Jacqueline Marshall


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