Of the 5 Elements of Success, the Mental Game might be the most enigmatic. Outside of GPC, the mental game looms mysteriously within the culture of golf. Every golfer knows how important the mental game is, but doesn’t understand it. As a result of their lack of understanding, the mental game is the most neglected part of the game. Evidence of this disconnect can be seen in research we have conducted over the years that clearly shows golfers view the mental game as critical to their success, but unfortunately, they rarely practice it (see charts below). This phenomenon is particularly true of junior golfers.In our experience, the primary reason the mental game is not practiced is simply due to a lack of knowledge, information, and exposure. The vast majority of golf coaches don’t have any formal training in the mental game and thus lack the competence to teach it properly. This task becomes even more difficult when working with juniors given the challenges that neurological development plays in the coaching process. As the neuroscience literature tells us, the human brain does not fully develop until the mid to late twenties, and the last part of the brain to mature is the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for many functions, but most relevant to the mental game, it controls things like focus, attention, impulsive behavior, decision making, problem solving, critical thinking, emotional regulation, self-control, and executive functions like planning, organization, initiation of behavior, and self-monitoring. All of these areas are critical to developing a strong mental game and need to be taken into consideration when designing a developmental program.
Students in our Academy Program attend a weekly two hour classroom session throughout the academic year, focusing on foundational concepts and ideas within the field of Sports Psychology as well as specific psychological skills unique to golfers. In addition, our student athletes meditate on a daily basis, incorporate mental game skills into their weekly practice plans, and when the weather permits, are able to take their mental game classroom learning and practice skills to the course during the week and on weekends.
From an assessment perspect, GPC has been using the Mental Golf Workshop Profile, which is a personality profile designed to give a golfer feedback about how their personality style translates to their golf game. The assessment is given several times throughout the year. By identifying an individual’s personality strengths and weaknesses, we can then provide “mental correctives” for the golfer to work on in practice.
In addition to the Mental Golf Workshop Profile, we have also developed our own assessment called the GPC Mental Game Skills Inventory, which focuses on the hard psychological skills all golfers need to be successful rather than the softer subjective skills measured by personality inventories. We believe the combination of the Mental Golf Workshop Profile and the GPC Mental Game Skills Inventory provides a rich psychological picture of a golfer’s mental game.
Looking to the future, we have recently partnered with a company called Talogy, to help us develop an assessment that takes a deeper dive into resilience and its relationship to peak performance. It is our hope that by blending a deeper understanding of the developmental issues, psychological skills and characteristics and traits of elite golfers, we will be able to uniquely assess and support the development of a golfer’s mental game allowing them to more efficiently reach their potential.