Preparing for the game is just as much mental as it is physical—maybe even more so. Therefore, you should never underestimate the importance of warming up both your head and your body to play the game well. Below are some tried-and-true mental exercises you can use to continually improve your game.
Mental Warm-up #1: Develop a Pre-Shot Routine
Routine can help you break the chain of anxiety or negative thoughts that nag you before a shot. Routine also keeps both your mind and body concentrated and relaxed. Develop a pre-shot routine that you stick with each time, and practice focusing on the routine while allowing any other fears or worries to slide away. PGA member Louis Guzzi, who describes his pre-shot routine here, encourages players to watch what the pros do and use their examples to help you develop a pre-shot routine that works for you
Mental Warm-up #2: Take the Time to Work out a Pre-Round Strategy
Golf is not a reactionary game. You (usually) don’t have to dodge flying balls or clubs while trying to get your ball into the cup. Until you step up and swing, that ball is just going to sit there and wait for your next move. Therefore, take a more studied approach and really look at each hole and round carefully to decide how to play it in the best possible way.
Mental Warm-up #3: Distract Yourself between Holes
As anyone knows who has suddenly had a flash of inspiration about solving a problem, distance from the problem can often be the key. Distracting yourself from obsessing about your last shot or anticipating your next shot helps to keep you relaxed, which improves your mental focus.
Mental Warm-up #4: Do Some Putting before Playing
Synchronizing your mind and body to play golf well requires you to take some time before you start a round. Practicing putting allows you to get your head in the game slowly, to alert your body that you are now playing golf, and focus on the ball. If possible, spend between 20 and 30 minutes putting to the fringe from varying distances and then to the tee.
Mental Warm-up #5: Let Go of Expectations
If you’re nagging yourself to “do better, do better!” you’re doing it wrong. Expecting yourself to perform perfectly every time you play sets up a vicious cycle of disappointment and anxiety, which leads to tense muscles and awkward form, which leads to bad shots and more anxiety. Instead, focus on the thought that you get to play in the fresh air at something you really love doing and let expectations take a very second seat to the enjoyment of friendship, health, and beautiful scenery. A relaxed, grateful outlook improves your game, and the practice of focusing on the good things and ignoring irrational fear that you must meet some arbitrary set of expectations is great for your brain.