Mental Game Toughness

I am sure there is no quick fix solution to the mental game of golf.  I have the books, some on tape to listen to while on the road.  But, when it comes to my girls, I’m at a loss.  The more I’m involved, the more pressure they feel from me as a parent.

This weekend both girls played without a win or a medal against a field of girls they know very well.  So, what happened?  None of Kayla’s putts were going in.  Nalani couldn’t keep it clean up and down with her chips.  But, they practice and they practice a lot!  What else as a mother am I to do?

I’m guessing I need to simply take a step back.  After their rounds, when asked what they need to work on, their response is “EVERYTHING.”  But, I know that’s not it.  Kayla has been reaching the greens in regulation and if she doesn’t, she does execute her chips well. But, her 3-5 foot putts aren’t sinking.  That’s been a confidence issue we’ve had in the past.

Nalani just has her ups and downs.  She’s still only 8 and playing in a field of 9-11 year olds.  She has come in 3rd quite a few times this season which is fine, however she does know when she could have played a better round and puts pressure on herself whenever she bogeys a hole.

So, here’s my big question.  My girls can hit them straight and long.  Sure, they need to work on chips and putts a little more.  But, I do think their tournament performance of late is due to mental game.

What are your strategies for keeping your calm on the golf course?

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About Sinnary

Sinnary Sam is a marketing professional specializing in Prospect Marketing Events. She works from home part time and manages her four daughters' busy school and sports schedules.

41 Responses to Mental Game Toughness

  1. Jim Whittemore October 7, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

    She is only 8 years old. Just tell her to go out and have fun. Don’t think about anything!
    No one can have their “A” game every single day…not even the best and especially not an 8 year old. The more fun she has the better she’ll play.

    • Sinnary October 7, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

      Thanks Jim. Yes, for Nalani I tell her to just have fun and these tournaments are great practice for her. I think she remembers getting a medal at the same course, or shooting a lower score. So, once she bogeys her first hole, she gets upset. Will try to convince her, “It’s OK.”

    • Seth October 8, 2013 at 7:16 am #

      Well, first I have not read all replies. However, I did notice you answered your own question in your post.

      The girls need to work on putting, and work on it a lot. I’m still playing scratch golf, so I understand what it takes to win. They need to talk to their local pro regarding putting drills, mostly inside 10 feet. This does two things: 1. they become better putters 2. CONFIDENCE! When you’re on the tee, but you know when you make it to the green you’re going to roll in your putts, it takes a ton of pressure off your driving and irons….it carries through your entire game. They’re not old enough to “find the zone”, that will come with time. For now, they need confidence and it will come from the putting green.

      • Sinnary October 8, 2013 at 9:25 am #

        Thanks Seth, yes, we definitely need to spend more time on the green. I see why some of these parents home school, who has the time?

  2. Peter Flynn October 7, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    Just read your message.

    maybe it would be a good idea to look at what they are doing, way from the golf course, I am not suggesting, anything sinister.

    Just how are they going outside of the golf course.

    Youth cope with things differently to an Adult, different things affect there concentration, and centering is often not even on the table.

    Pressure to perform, is more that most can cope with.

    Enjoyment of there sport is and can sometimes be questioned, when the pressure is there.

    The fun maybe going out of the game, just find a way to bring it back.

    • Sinnary October 7, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

      Thanks Peter, yes, I’m getting the feeling that may be it more than anything. I’ve been scheduling play dates (on the golf course). So, often times, when we do a practice round, it is with a golf friend. I’ll keep focusing on the fun.

  3. Leslie Bonvillain October 7, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

    Sinnary,

    I would like to give feedback from someone who played junior golf and had my dad always there wondering why I didn’t win a tournament or play well. I played junior golf, collegiate golf, and some tour qualifiers. The biggest thing that I always took away from a loss was how much harder I wanted to win the next time and what I was going to do to make that happen. However, your daughters seem to be very young and very into the game, so keep it fun at practice sessions for them. Games, challenges, but always remember to practice perfection.

    From the prospective of your daughters, they put pressure on themselves to play well for themselves but more importantly you because you are getting them into these tournaments and they do not want to let you down. However, from the blog, it sounds like some of their issues stem from confidence but mainly just be able to practice more. You said that they were practicing quite bit and did not think that could be it. However, just cause they are practicing does not mean they are practicing the right way or the right things.

    Also, regarding this weekend, they may have missed some opportunities and did not win to a field of girls they normally go up against, but it may have not been there weekend. Even if they would have done everything right, they may have never won. However, I think it could be a good learning experience for your girls to notice that they played against a field that they normally play against and do well, but didn’t this weekend. This could be a driving factor for them to work harder and practice harder/smarter and get better.

    I would not overly stress about this one weekend or the past few months. It seems that they have done very well but have some weaknesses they need to work on. I could definitely give you more insight for them on practices as well as some things that may help them score better. My email is address is lbonvillain0202@gmail.com.

    Hope this helps and again, keep it fun, they will develop with the game if they want. From my eyes, they are already doing very well for their young age.

    Best,
    Leslie

    • Sinnary October 7, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

      Thanks so much Leslie. That is great advice indeed. I am not a very good player, so am not able to correct swing mistakes that they make. So, I often wonder if they are practicing bad habits. My husband does keep a good eye on their swing and that’s why we know they are capable of playing well. Kayla landed 8 out of 9 greens in regulation the previous weekend. So, we know her swing’s solid. But, she bogey’d the one green she missed so it’s obvious what we need to work on. But, I do agree. There’s a lot of pressure and I’m hoping to find that balance. Thanks for your email, I’ll definitely be in touch, your advice will certainly be valuable for us.

  4. Kevin sprecher October 7, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

    Sinnary,
    Sometimes playing games on the course helps keep the player focused. Points for fairways hit, GIR, up and downs and so on. Have them play 6 3 holes games.

    Another mental tip would be to have the ask themselves “what am I trying to do on this shot?” This helps keep them in the present.

    Good luck,
    Kevin

    • Sinnary October 7, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

      Thanks Kevin. That’s a very interesting approach. Perhaps my husband would be better at handling games. I guess I’m so focused on their ability to “Par” a hole when we’re out there on a practice round. I know my husband seems to making practicing putting fun for them. I’ll see if he can handle the games on the course.

  5. Matt Hughes October 7, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

    My mental golf system is a blend of ideas from Roseanna Leaton, Jayne Storey,
    Darrin Gee and Fred Shoemaker. Fly to California for a couple days and we will have your daughter in mental game readiness with immediate results.
    Sincerely,
    Dr. Matthew Hughes

  6. Sinnary October 7, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

    Thanks Chris, always a great reminder to visualize. And keeping it fun. Kayla has been coming in 1st & 2nd consistently this season, so I think she’s perhaps so focused on her standings and final performance. I’ll definitely see how we can take a breather and step back to find the fun in it.

  7. Patricia October 7, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

    I am an LPGA tour player. Please read my blog: What’s New in Golf Instruction for 2013? and Golf Myths about Practice. my blog address is tourtestedgolfcoaching.blogspot.com

  8. Ron Mann October 7, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

    HI

    I just read your blog. You are so sweet to care so much about your girls and seek out some help. With all their playing, I am sure they don’t need to work on everything. What is inside surely has a great impact on outcome and performance.

    Golf is life and we all have our moments. Patience, acceptance, and perseverance are some of the great lessons learned through this game. Sometimes when the stakes are higher we do try a little too much and therefore get in our own way.

    I am a big believer in learning how to play from a deeper part of the self that is not controlled and directed by the mind: expectations, ideas about how things are supposed to go, and outcomes.

    I have a yogic breath I teach players of all ages that helps to get the mind out of the way and bring back a deeper connection to the Self and awaken the feeling aspect of the game. Puts fall when we stop trying to hard to “make it” and pay more attention on being present and connected to ourselves. Life seems to go better in every way when we do that.

    If you can help them relax a little more about their performance and trust that the best golf will come when they trust their natural ability, stay present and have fun. If they are putting good strokes on the ball, but putts will fall.

    You can find out more on my website at http://www.ronmann.com. Let me know if there is anything else I can do to help you. You are a great mom.

    • Sinnary October 8, 2013 at 9:29 am #

      Thanks Barry, awesome read. You should write a book.

    • Sinnary October 8, 2013 at 9:45 am #

      Thanks Bob. Goodness, I’ll have to hire a coach! Well, I don’t coach my girls, my husband does but I’ve heard of some coaches who would trade off kids – let a coaching friend coach their child and vice versa for just this reason. Thanks, I’m going to definitely take your advice on this.

  9. John Ruvolo October 7, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

    I can help.

    It is my experience if all the work is done as far as practice
    Then I believe it is mental fatigue.

    I combat this by giving all my students and myself vitamin B in the middle
    Of my round to keep up my attention to details when I am giving playing lessons

    I do sell this vitamin and others. The great thing about my vitamins is they
    are a powder form mixed with water and are working within 90 seconds
    So you are mentally sharp.
    I believe if your girls are grinding on all chips/putts this will give them the boost
    They need to finish stronger and also make better decision.

    And I agree this is a game let them have fun at it.

    John.

    • Sinnary October 8, 2013 at 9:46 am #

      Vitamin B huh? Never thought of this. I usually just give them food, snacks and drinks.

  10. Kelly October 7, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    I am a coach and a mom of a nationally ranked swimmer who is 12. I will tell you a small story first before getting to my point which may tell it.

    2 years ago, 1 month before state competitions, at school my daughter was playing basketball in gym caught the ball wrong and injured her finger. As I am picking her up from school, she’s telling me the story, I look at it, it’s not swelling and just told her it was jammed. But to make her feel better I made a doctors appointment and got her in. I told the Dr. I can’t believe we are here but just pull it, it’s just jammed. The Dr said well to be on the safe side lets get an X-Ray, I chuckled and said ok here’s my $800 to tell me there’s nothing wrong seriously?! So we went straight over there got the x-Ray and they put a stat on it. We run home scarf down something to eat and run off to swim practice. The moment we are walking in the door I get a phone call, it’s the Drs office. They said we have the results of your daughter’s finger, it’s broken, I said what? Are you calling the right person there’s no way. I felt like the worst mother in the world, my heart sunk and all I could think about was my daughter not practicing and unable to compete at states. This was a wake up call for me, as a mom and a coach!! I still had to coach but not having my daughter at practices or attending additional meets it was weird but also not as stressful!! She was less affected by it than I was, little did I know she was starting to hate swimming and She was unable to swim at states that year.

    She the moral of this story is up to that point as a parent I was putting so much pressure on her she was starting to hate the sport and I didn’t realize it. So her injury was a blessing in disguise for both of us. I learned to back off (A Lot) and she relearned to love the sport again. She is now a Nationally ranked swimmer in her age group.

    So in all realty don’t stress over it, every kid will have an off day/weekend. The best thing for you as a parent is just tell them good job. If they are upset comfort them and tell them they’ll get them next time & leave it at that. Don’t tell them what they could have done or what they did wrong.

    I know this doesn’t relate to golf but it may help you as a parent of a talented child!!
    I wish you luck!!

    • Sinnary October 8, 2013 at 9:42 am #

      Kelly, thanks so much for the story. Yes, it’s a different sport but makes perfect sense. Nalani actually caught a fever last week for 2 days. She was worried about homework, even asked me to pick it up from school for her while she was home. Then, she asked me which day her tournament this weekend is scheduled and I told her Sunday, her response was, “Good, that gives me Saturday to practice if I don’t feel better right away.” No, I don’t want my kids to get burned out, that’s for sure. But, if they want to compete, I am providing the resources for them to do so. So, this post is going to give me a lot of frank feedback, and I’ll take all of it, some of it with a grain of salt of course, but all of it because I do want to do what’s right as a mother. Thanks, that is a great story Kelly.

  11. James October 7, 2013 at 6:00 pm #

    Hi, I have only one word to say but I’ll say it a lot “routine, routine, routine”.
    I wish I learnt that at a young age. The one that worked for me was by starting every shot with the same routine. Put a dot one their glove and look at before you start your pre-shot routine. It helps you to focus epically after a poor shot. You can say it resets your muscle memory. A dot on the glove is just one example, other ones are putting on your glove before every shot, tying shoe, tapping shoe with club, putting tee in cap, behind ear etc.
    Just find one that works for each of them and hopefully that will improve their focus and block out negative thoughts.
    I hope this is helpful and your kids do well!

    • Sinnary October 8, 2013 at 9:37 am #

      Thanks James. I’ve never thought of that. Will give it a try and ask them.

  12. Mark Sosnowitz October 7, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

    I grew up in the golf business, my Dad built and owned four golf courses. I had a wonderful childhood and my love for golf was kindled somewhere around age three, when my Dad had two clubs cut down to my size. We lived in an old farm house in the middle of one of the golf courses, the house was in between two holes and in the evenings, I would play one hole out and the other back in, over and over. The key was that they never pushed me, no pressure. Either my love for the game, my will to learn, practice and play had to come from within me or it would be on to something else.

    The point is let them have fun and enjoyment. You have given them a great start and you will continue to be a great help and guidance, but the love and the will has to come from within. You can’t stand over a putt for either one of them, even through you cheer hard and feel great when they win and down when they lose. Arnie’s right “for the love of the game.”

    It so happens that I never got any better than a nine handicap, but I fell lock, stock and barrel for the game and the golf business. I have done renovation golf course master plans and built some exciting projects over the last forty years. All for “the love of the game” and a little bit of money.

    I wish you and the kids the best of luck.

    Mark Sosnowitz

    • Sinnary October 8, 2013 at 9:37 am #

      Thanks for the feedback Mark. I enjoyed reading the passion in your words for the game.

  13. JD October 7, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

    Actually the mental aspect of anything IS the only component that can be changed on a dime, just like flicking on a switch. Physical training takes reps and time.

    Your problem is actually very simple, and has been 100% created by you and then the girls probably through you and/or whoever else is involved in their golf life. No sugar coating here (so forgive me if I sound brash, but I’m here to help, you can take it and continue the future however way u wish)… some of your comments here as an example + my responses:

    The more I’m involved, the more pressure they feel from me as a parent.
    • • • So…….. u want them to feel this type of pressure… from you? Seems the solutions is pretty simple, you just don’t want to execute it.

    But, they practice and they practice a lot!
    • • • Irrelevant. Many serious golfers of all ages practice, a lot, a little, medium, whatever, again, irrelevant, never a reason at this age to “expect” anything. Sometimes there is such a thing as practicing too much or practicing wrong. The only reason I have heard parents say their kids practice hard or a lot inevitably leads to the fact that they should do better. So what happens when they don’t? Think about it.

    What else as a mother am I to do?
    • • • Be a mother. Make them healthy meals. Take them to the courses/lesson/tournies. Be there when they need to talk to you about anything. Give them hugs and kisses. Be a mother. Mother does not equal golf coach. Ever. That doesn’t mean you can’t be one, but you better be near perfect at it to make sure you do a good job as a golf instructor/coach + mom.

    After their rounds, when asked what they need to work on, their response is “EVERYTHING.” But, I know that’s not it.
    • • • Obviously. When kids or exacerbated adults say that, it means they have no idea at THAT time, don’t really care at THAT time, its more like = “Leave me alone, I sucked today, I wanna go veg out and eat junk food and not talk to anyone for a while.” The worst thing you can do is go ask them to “be more specific” or “c’mon honey, it’ll get better” blah blah… if you want your kids to grow up and learn to handle it, let them vent on their own, and eventually they will talk about it. A step above that would be for them to be able to shake it off right after they come off the last hole and say “That was a bad day, I’m hungry” with a nice stoic look. Then analyze later when the pain dissipates.

    Kayla has been reaching the greens in regulation and if she doesn’t, she does execute her chips well. But, her 3-5 foot putts aren’t sinking. That’s been a confidence issue we’ve had in the past.
    • • • Wow… If your daughters are not even in jr/high school yet, all that fluff is… well… fluff. Analyzing a kid’s game like this when they are 7-8-9 years old will do near ZERO for their game improvement. You are much more likely to make them head cases. The goals should be more fun and just play a lot. “GIR” is not fun. Nor should GIR (one example) be emphasized. If GIR’s are so important, what happens to their fragile minds when they miss 9 in a row in their more important tourny? Are they THEN, on the fly, supposed to say “Oh that’s ok, GIR’s are not important at all… I’ll be fine.” I don’t think so. Don’t do tour pro analytics until they are at least in high school. Believe me, if they don’t do well, THAT wont be the reason. Make up other fun goals during each round, yes, even during a tournament. Fun doesn’t mean not serious, it just means they shouldn’t be in mathematical stiff “must-win” mode where they will be miserable in a few years and burn out.

    Nalani just has her ups and downs. She’s still only 8 and playing in a field of 9-11 year olds.
    • • • Ditto from above. Why wouldn’t a human being have ups and down in everything and anything in life, no matter what age, profession, race, background, setting? Because she is playing golf tournies? The thing you have to realize is, ups and down can each last hours, days, months, sometimes years. If it can happen to some of the greatest players that ever lived, well……

    She has come in 3rd quite a few times this season which is fine, however she does know when she could have played a better round and puts pressure on herself whenever she bogeys a hole.
    • • • 3rd is fine? Is 4th not? 5th? 10th? 50th? Every round of every player in the world, even a 58, “could have been a better round.” Not being happy because you bogey a hole means she doesn’t understand golf at all. Someone better teach her quick. I would normally say leave it alone at this age, but one thing they DO have to learn at an early age is what is acceptable and not in golf. Stop building false foundations that can lead to improper expectations.

    So, here’s my big question. My girls can hit them straight and long. Sure, they need to work on chips and putts a little more. But, I do think their tournament performance of late is due to mental game.
    What are your strategies for keeping your calm on the golf course?
    • • • Is there anyone in the world that doesn’t need to work on their chips and putts? What kind of sample size are you basing this latest performance? What is this pressing need for them to win or do so well in each tournament…. Is someone sponsoring them and you guys lose your house if they don’t continue to do well? In fact, all these stressful irrelevant components are adding to their unsettling and would be impossible to stay calm when they miss a 3 foot putt, or miss a green, or hit one OB.

    At this age, and even through adulthood, if you want to be the best you can be, golf and every other sport should be a “challenge”… in that you know you will never perfect it, you will never shoot an 18, but to have fun hitting great shots more often than the bad ones, enhancing feel for the game. Placing in a tournament should be the last concern. If anyone thinks their tournament placements from age 3-14 means anything after that, they have no right coaching their kids golf. Yes, it feels better to win than lose, thats any competitive athlete. However, to put premium on that as young golfers is sure to handicap them before maximizing their improvement.

    • Sinnary October 8, 2013 at 9:35 am #

      Thanks for the frank feedback JD. Just curious, do you have children?

  14. Raimo Kainulainen October 7, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

    Dear Sinnary,

    I fully agree what many say about fun – golf should be fun, at all levels. But if your junior would like to learn a perfect swing, we have a solution. Please visit http://www.swingia.com. Our system is suitable from juniors to PGA professionals – understanding and practicing the swing – at home.Maybe golf could be more fun if one part is under control – the swing.

    All the best
    Kindest regards
    Raimo

    • Sinnary October 8, 2013 at 9:29 am #

      Thanks Raimo, I’ll look at the sight.

  15. Michael October 7, 2013 at 10:10 pm #

    There will be a number of solutions offered that may be the basis to spark a more focused approach. This is the age old problem encountered by all golfers. Unfortunately none of them will last the test of time because mental golf problems evolve, they are never constant. From my own experience and observations I would say that this is a natural phase that should be played out. She has reached a plateau of development that is probably quite natural and healthy. You cant be on your game all the time. She, and you should not doubt her ability. Keep working on the swing, have fun, take stock and wait. It will come when she is ready. The solution is within her and it will ultimately stem from her own trust in her own ability.

    • Peter October 8, 2013 at 8:52 am #

      Let her be a kid until the age of 14 and not fall into the Tiger syndrome! Have her play other sports to see where she fits. Golf is a one shot at a time – mental nightmare and most kids and adults can’t do it! I will take a jack of all trades and master of none every day!

      • Sinnary October 8, 2013 at 9:23 am #

        Peter we do dabble with other things. The girls do tumbling. They’ve tried dance, but are too shy. They love art. We have lots of play dates. But, they do love to compete and I don’t want to hinder their drive to always do better. So, of course we’ll nurture it. My 10 year old likes to set goals, my 8 year old really does take it one hole at a time but doesn’t give in too much to winning, just performance right now. So, I’m trying to balance allowing them to achieve what they’d like, while mixing in a healthy lifestyle. Thanks, I do hear that especially with girls that come from Japan that play Jr. Worlds. By 14, they are required to make a decision on their future and if by that age, they haven’t determined if they have the potential to play professional women’s golf, they must choose a career path. We are so blessed here in the U.S. that the girls can continue to pursue multiple avenues and still excel enough to play collegiate golf if they choose. And, well I have teenagers as well, so I know first hand that by that age, I’m not the one making their decisions for them. Thanks for your feedback. One shot at a time.

    • Sinnary October 8, 2013 at 9:30 am #

      Thanks Michael. That makes perfectly good sense.

  16. Jude OReilly October 8, 2013 at 6:29 am #

    Why do your kids play golf ?

    • Sinnary October 8, 2013 at 9:27 am #

      Hi Jude, that’s a good question, I’ll have to ask them. We got them clubs very young. My 8 year old at just 2. She loved her clubs. They sat in the living room with some balls and she’d always tap that ball around. When she started to really hit the ball, getting some loft and risking our TV, we got a mat and put it in the back yard for her. She’d aim to hit the ball into our pond. Then, she started aiming to reach over the back fence. when the neighbor started to complain about the balls hitting their roof, we decided it was time to take her to the driving range. She just had a passion for the sport and always wanted to be involved, so we nurtured that.

  17. Tony Piparo October 8, 2013 at 7:33 am #

    Hi Sinnery,

    Proper physical practice strategies, learning how to focus, and having access to strategies that eliminate the chemicals that are released into the body naturally as a response to pressure. They are simple, powerful, and can be used by golfers of all ages and abilities. Check out my website for more info. I’ve worked with juniors for over 25 years.

    Tony

    • Sinnary October 8, 2013 at 9:22 am #

      That’s interesting Tony, I’ll definitely look at your site and read more about that. Thanks for the feedback.

  18. Sinnary October 8, 2013 at 9:27 am #

    Thanks David!

  19. Tam October 8, 2013 at 9:38 am #

    Hi Sinnary Sam~ congratulations on your beautiful family and your deep concern for your daughters. You are in a perfect position to affect them in a most positive way.

    Our unconscious is always talking to our conscious minds, meaning our “mental” game is always on. In studies of kids who physically practiced basketball free throws for one hour against the kids who simply visualized throwing perfect free throws for one hour, the results were remarkable. Both groups shot exactly the same. One with diligent physical effort, one with relaxing visualization.

    We train our body’s through our minds, so help them use their minds to create fun, enjoyable games with excellent scores: the rest will fall quickly into place. Offer them 3 minutes 3 times a day of quiet breathing and visualization will a) relax them and b) increase their results both physically, emotionally and mentally.

    My best to you and them.

    Tam I Am, Energy & Mindset Trainer
    http://www.choosebigchange.com

    • Sinnary October 8, 2013 at 9:49 am #

      Thanks so much for the feedback Tam. That sounds like something that definitely would be beneficial to my children.

  20. Sinnary October 8, 2013 at 9:43 am #

    Hi Brian, I’ll take a look at it, thanks for the feedback.

  21. Mental Golf Edge August 12, 2014 at 11:31 pm #

    I also experienced that kind of term.. But it came to past that I realized to quit is to lose something except if you don’t love what you are doing.. but for me we need to love what we are doing and every thing that you are doing you need patience to achieve what your goals!

    Thanks,
    Mental Golf Edge

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