Episode #12: Self-Talk in Golf - The Secret to Better Golf Fast

Your self-talk has a huge impact on your overall score and how much fun you have on a given round.

In an article for Golf Digest, sports psychologist Dr. Bhrett McCabe explains that using positive self-talk to focus on learning and improvement can help golfers stay motivated and committed to the process of getting better. "Golfers who view challenges as opportunities to learn and grow tend to perform better and have higher levels of self-esteem," he says.

Yet, so many golfers say the worst things possible to themselves, thinking that being a harsh critic of their game will somehow make them a better player. Heck, I've done it too and it's easy to do... but it's not helping your game. In fact, it's hurting your game and holding you back from playing your best golf. 

In this episode, learn why self-talk is so important and three easy to implement strategies to start playing better golf and speaking to yourself like a champion. 

To learn more about self-talk in golf, check out an excerpt from my book, Wicked Smart Golf.

Self-Talk in Golf

Another aspect of the mental game you control is your self-talk. Once your body language is under control, the next thing to do is check your language patterns.

What you say to yourself can build you up or tear you down. Golf is already hard enough; don’t make it more difficult by speaking badly of yourself. As Psychology Today said, 

“The content of your self-talk is important because, believe it or not, you are the most influential person, in your head. Yes, other people can certainly influence the way we feel and think, but at the end of the day, we are the ones who accept or reject the messages received from others.”

Not to mention, your mind loves to make what you say about yourself come true, regardless of if it’s positive or negative. That’s why it's so significant to speak about positive things in your life (on or off the golf course). 

Better Self-Talk = Lower Scores 

What you say to yourself during the round plays a pivotal role in playing your best golf. 

Just like my body language, my self-talk used to be horrible and negative. I would say things like: 

  • “I’m a terrible putter.”
  • “Just not my day on the greens.”
  • “What did I do to deserve all this bad luck?” 
  • “My warm-up was terrible, so I better have my short game today.” 

The woe is me mentality never helped my game. It wasn’t until I went on my development journey in 2016-2018 that I learned the power of the words you speak. I learned to retrain my self-talk with conscious effort, and now people call me the most optimistic player they know, which is a huge compliment because golf requires an insane amount of optimism and positivity to get the most out of your game. 

Now, when I’m playing with new people, I can figure their game out in two holes based on self-talk and body language. It cracks me up when someone misses a few putts on the first few holes and says, “Just not my day today,” or when a fellow player complains about the course conditions. It’s like they think whining to the Golf Gods will help them when they’re just setting themselves up for more of the same results. 

Your self-talk is a choice you must make.

What you say to yourself (both internally and externally) determines how much fun you have and how well you can play in any round. Don’t forget, your mind is always listening to what you’re saying, so make sure it’s hearing positive, empowering statements, not negative ones. 

To change your self-talk, you must first become aware of your language now.

The next time you tee it up, focus solely on what you say out loud to your playing partners and under your breath to yourself. If you’re like most golfers, you will be shocked about how many negative things you say to yourself without even realizing it. 

But you hopefully will notice you say some positive things too. When you notice that, congratulate yourself when you say positive, empowering statements. Then try to catch yourself when you’re spewing negative venom, so you catch yourself in the act. If you have nothing positive to say, keep quiet. It’s better to stay neutral than berate yourself and your abilities on the golf course. 

A good rule is, if you wouldn’t say it to one of your playing partners, you should never say it to yourself. Treat yourself just like you do another person! 

You must maintain a positive, optimistic attitude throughout the round.

 As Bill Pennington said in On Par, “Central to being a golfer is the belief that you will get better. Golf is so routinely humiliating that if we didn’t know we were going to improve, it’s doubtful we could press on.” 

Control what you can by speaking to yourself like your own hype man. Become your own biggest fan on the golf course (and in life).

Closing Thoughts

Your self-talk is an important tool that can help manage your emotions, stay motivated, and make better decisions on the course. Whether using positive affirmations, cue words, or visualization, harness the power of self-talk to improve your mental game and ultimately achieve greater success on the course.

By focusing on the present moment, maintaining a positive mindset, and staying committed to your shots, golfers can use self-talk to unlock their full potential. There are no downsides from being your own best friend on the golf course. 

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