Science and Golf II: Proceedings of the 1994 World Scientific Congress of Golf

By A. J. Cochran; M. R. Farrally | Go to book overview

25

Mental preparation for golf: achieving optimal performance

S. Murphy

United States Olympic Committee, Colorado Springs, USA

Abstract

Three approaches to understanding the mental factors associated with excellence in golf are examined and commonalities are identified. A performance management model is presented which suggests that a golfer can use a variety of mental strategies to create the optimal internal conditions for playing the game. The critical aspect of the model is focusing attention during the performance phase. The paper concludes with some practical suggestions for creating the right conditions to allow peak performance to occur.

Keywords: Peak performance, Mental Strategies, Flow, Performance management, Sport psychology.


1 Introduction

Golfing, l.n. A pastime that gives people cooped up in the office all week a chance to lie and cheat outdoors (From Beard & McKie, 1987).

What is it about golf that has produced so many volumes of prose, poetry and analysis about the game? Surely part of the mysterious attraction of the game is that the mind has such vast quantities of time to ponder the progress of competition during a round. If we play a round in 4 hours, hit 90 shots in that time, and take about 20 seconds to play each shot, then we “play golf” for only about 30 minutes, and have the remaining three and a half hours, or 210 minutes, or 12,600 seconds, to think about how the game is going. When the mind is allowed to wander in such a manner, usually in beautiful and scenic settings, with good friends, and while playing such a frustrating and difficult game, is it any wonder that a whole mythos has been created about the magic of golf?

My personal experience for the last decade has revolved around helping elite athletes struggle with the issues of how to mentally approach their sport in order to achieve excellent performance. What is the right attitude, how do you play your best under pressure, how do you learn to concentrate, how can you get everything just right so that you can perform optimally? The lessons 1 have learned from them, and from constant interactions with other sport psychologists who are dealing with the same concerns, can be applied to the game of golf. Despite its mystery and allure, the mental challenges posed by golf are not unique, and the psychological lessons we have learned from elite athletes in other sports can help us do our best at golf. I am convinced that if you can learn to

Science and Golf II: Proceedings of the World Scientific Congress of Golf. Edited by A.J. Cochran and M.R. Farrally. Published in 1994 by E & FN Spon, London. ISBN 0 419 18790 1

-162-

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