“Concentration is a fine antidote to anxiety.”

There is no doubt Jack Nicklaus had, and probably still has, one of the best minds for the game of golf. His mentality for the game, and life is truly remarkable. Nicklaus would often make comments to the press that indicated his way of thinking was just as powerful as his golf game. However, mentality is much more than a saying. Mentality has deep psychological roots that either propel a golfer towards optimal performance or can lead to their undoing on the golf course. Let’s explore how mentality can be used to improve your performance.

Out of all the STOMP concepts mentality is the underdog. Everyone has a mentality, and each mentality has certain strengths and weaknesses. Mentality is produced by our cognition which is simply our ability to think. However, thinking can become clouded with (a) emotion, (b) physiological changes such as an adrenaline rush, (c) anxiety, or (d) nerves. These powerful influences often cause a golfer to make poor decisions that ultimately lead to their unraveling. So mentality is not just the ability to think, but it also includes awareness of what your body is actually doing. For example, Justin Thomas has a strong mentality for golf. I know he is not the most popular person right now for his comments about rowdy crowds, but his mentality for golf is excellent. When Justin is in contention the camera will often catch him examining his hands. He holds them out, fingers spread and examines how his emotions are affecting his physical performance. I have never met Justin, but I would be willing to bet he is using his mentality to calm and regulate his emotions. Most golfers think that a mentality is used for focusing on a golf shot, or visualizing an outcome, or thinking their way through the course. Yes, but mentality is also used to examine yourself during the stages of a competition.

Mentality is the glue that keeps all of the STOMP concepts working together. When we think about our ability to perform it should be positive, but we should always be thinking about our thinking (known as metacognition). When golfers think about their thinking they produce awareness of their total performance. When golfers become aware of their self they stand the best chance to master the task at hand.

Here is why mentality gives golfers the best chance at improving their game from a psychological point of view. First, golf is a game of transition. Golfers usually go to the range, the putting green, and warm up before their round. Here is where they go through the motions, warm-up, and usually hit shots they expect of their performance. Then they transition to the course. At this point golfers usually report getting nervous, emotional, or they place unrealistic expectation on their round. If they use their mentality to be aware of a physiological change then they can cope with it and think through their round. However, most golfers usually let their emotions control their game and then they run the risk of not performing their best.

Your mentality is much more than a thinking process. It is the ability to think through situations, think about your thinking, and become aware of how your physical reactions are affecting your ability to perform. Mentality is all-encompassing. Our mentality will give us the direction we need to go, but it is up to the individual to determine if that direction is productive or counterproductive. Don’t over complicate your ability to think. Just take a step back, mentally examine yourself, the situation, and let the emotions come to pass. After that just trust the hard work you put into your game and let the automatic process of striking a golf ball happen.