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Play better golf with a sound mental golf game

This is part 2 of my series on mental tips on playing golf well under-pressure (part one can be viewed here).

[Note: there a few links in this article to golf videos and a few golf books that I have read and rate very highly]

At the end of part 1 I mentioned the Australian golfer who was really one of the greats of the game, spent years at number 1 in the World, but despite this amazing talent he struggled at the very highest level many times. That golfer is Greg Norman and he did struggle when playing it out for major championships.

Sometimes he triumphed like in the final round at Royal St Georges in the British Open in 1993 when he walked around in a “zen-like trance” shooting a -6 under 64. Just brilliant. Absolutely loved every minute of it.

Normans first near major win was at Winged Foot In the US Open of 1984.  He holed a 40ft putt at the last green to tie Fuzzy Zoeler. He shot 5 over par in the 18 hole playoff and lost to Fuzzy by 8 shots.

In 1986 Greg led all 4 major championships and won just the British Open. In the US open that year he shot 5 over par to finish 12th. Then there was the USPGA that year when he shot 76 and ended up losing to Bob Tway and “that Bunker shot” (can’t find the video online surprisingly).

He lost The Britsih Open playoff in 1989 in a playoff. If you watch the video (see link) it will show that he did shoot an amazing 64 to get into the play-off. He is and was seriously talented.

I remember as a Junior Golfer coming back from a tournament in rural N.S.W, Australia with British Runner-up our Jack Newton – “the one armed bandit” (he literally has one arm). He said that Norman had been laying up short of a fairway bunker on one of the play-off holes all week long (4 hole play-off) but in the play-off he hits a driver – going away from his game plan, hitting it in the bunker and ending any chance he had to win (the bunker like many on “links causes” is wide and narrow with a nasty face). The video shows this.

Then of course there was the 1996 US Masters when Norman went into the final round leading by 6 shots to Nick Faldo. Norman lost 5 shots, shooting 78 to Faldo’s calculated, relentless 67.

Faldo had 46 world wide victories to Norman’s 90 odd (Norman probably played more as he won a lot down-under in our summer) yet Faldo winds up with 6 major victories to Norman’s two. What is the difference? Faldo was a killer under pressure. He won his 89, 90 US Masters in play-off’s, shooting a -7 under 65 in the final round in 1989 and a 69 in 90, beating Ray Floyd in a play-off and then of course the 67 in 1996.

He also destroyed Norman in the 3rd round of the British Open in 1990 when the two played together. Faldo went on to shoot a Tournament record 18-under par at the home of golf – St Andrews. Major highlights of Nicks career can be seen here.

I remember Greg Saying after the 1996 Masters disaster that his swing “broke down” in the final round – the same swing that shot -12 under for the first 3 rounds. Yes Greg, it was your swing.

The great golf writer Michael Murphy played with Greg at Pebble beach and he documents this wonderful round in his excellent book: The Kingdom Of Shivas Irons. He calls him “John Stuart”; the book is fictional but he does write about some actual events; this engrossing round with Norman is one of those events. Anyway Greg or “John” shows is skepticism towards all this “golf psychology stuff.”

If you love golf and like to read, grab this book and the his earlier classic in this series: “Golf In The Kingdom”. They are funny, insightful and superbly written. Absolute classics, great reads and they will also help your golf.

Back to Greg, Psychologists at the time of Norman’s collapse in 1996 at the Masters, timed the time he spent over the ball. Greg is slow at the best of times over the ball and under severe pressure, his time over the ball got longer and longer.

This long time over the ball increases tension and gives your head time to think – which is not what you want! As Bob Rotella – the great Golf Psychologist says: you want to be “unconsciously competent”. There are times to think and times to keep the mind quite and act athletically. Being over the ball then pulling the trigger is one of those time to act without delay.

In my Golf Mental Mastery E-Book and in my Putting E-Book I talk about these things and notably about having a constant, no nonsense pre-shot routine that see’s you:

  1. Visualize the shot and the feel of the swing you want to use (a hold off with your hands or a sweeping draw or a low punch)
  2. Consistent routine and thoughts over the ball
  3. A swing thought or feeling to keep your mind occupied

I can not emphasis how important this way of thinking is. The fastest way to lower scores is through better thinking.

Anyway that’s enough from me. I hope you found this post of value and definitely have a look at those great books I cited. They will grow your knowledge on the game and make you a better player.

Hit em long and straight…


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