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Golf Psychology 101

Golf Psychology 101

Golf Psychology 101

Eliminating Scorecard Fear; Plus the 2013 U.S. Open, Justin Rose and Yoda

Our golf pro writer gives us a pep talk — an a healthy dose of sports psychoanalysis.

Don't let the game's frustrations get to you. Try first by not getting hung up on your score and focusing instead on your play and having fun.

Don’t let the game’s frustrations get to you. Try first by not getting hung up on your score and focusing instead on your play and having fun.

So how does fear relate to golf?  What is it about golf that makes us so scared? 

Most of us don’t even know that we are scared of something in golf. But we are. It’s happened to me. I’ve seen it in thousands of my students. We have what I call “Scorecard Fear.”

Scorecard Fear is when the fear of taking too many shots on a hole or ending up with a large overall score drives you to feel nervous, anxious, angry and frustrated.

You think too far in advance of your score. You play scared golf. You try to guide your ball instead of focusing on the target. 

In high school, I took golf a little too seriously and got mad when I didn’t do well. In college, I realized that I didn’t do well at times because I was scared. I was scared of how I played, what other people would see in me, and I didn’t want to be embarrassed. I had Scorecard Fear. 

I let a dumb number on a piece of paper control how I played. I was too concerned with the outcome. 

You can’t control outcomes, only probabilities. 

Justin Rose said watching Star Wars and listening to Yoda's advice -- at the behest of his sports psychologist -- helped him win the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion.

Justin Rose said watching Star Wars and listening to Yoda’s advice — at the behest of his sports psychologist — helped him win the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion. See the “Empire Strikes Back” clip Rose focused on below.

What does that mean? It means that you don’t know how things will end up.  So, no need to focus on a perfect outcome.

Instead, do something to help the outcome. Give yourself a chance. 

The reason we have scorecard fear isn’t that we are embarrassed about a high number. It goes deeper. We believe that somehow the high number is a reflection on our character.  That we are not good enough. 

'Nuff said.

‘Nuff said.

You can watch the Golf Channel, read Golf Digest and take lessons that focus strictly on lowering your score. But someday that learned skill may deteriorate. Eventually, you’re just not as good as you used to be. 

But you still have character. You still have your values. 

It doesn’t matter if you win any golf tournaments. It doesn’t matter if your score goes down. It doesn’t matter if you beat everyone in your group. It doesn’t matter if you have a bunch of trophies. It doesn’t matter if your swing is flawless. 

What matters is that you really enjoy doing something. What matters is who you are. What matters is your character. 

“As he prepared last week at Lake Nona for the 113th U.S. Open, Justin Rose did more than beat balls, work out and review his game plan for Merion. He watched a YouTube download of “The Empire Strikes Back.” The scene that sport psychologist Gio Valiante wanted Rose to absorb was Yoda’s famous discussion with Luke Skywalker. “I wanted him to know he was ready,” Valiante said Sunday from his home in Orlando. “That he was finally mature enough to come into his own.” — Golf Digest, June 2013


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