Psychology of Winning

Any savvy sports psychologist will tell you that personality plays a larger role in the performance of golf than other sports. Sometimes even the best golfers are doomed to fail in competition simply because it clashes with their character. In truth, for pros and amateurs alike, tournament golf can be a form of mental agony.

Anyone who plays competitively is only too familiar with the nervy, jittery feeling that can envelop and imprison you in less than the blink of an eye as you walk to the first tee – and the sigh of relief when the ball takes off the way you wanted it to. To survive these peaks and valleys and to play well in tournaments the secret is in achieving emotional excellence and a balanced outlook on the game.

To perform close to one’s capabilities in tournaments, the mind should be “quiet” rather than “angry,” upset or troubled so that it can respond to challenges naturally and without predicting results. It’s essential for one to stay in the moment and not think or worry about the future. The state of calm that you achieve allows you to see everything clearly and not become clouded by furious emotion.

Al Barkow, PGA Tour historian, asked Byron Nelson “Is there a psychology for winning?” Nelson answered, “I don’t understand the psychological function of the human mind sufficiently to answer that very well, except to say that winners are different. They’re a different breed of cat. I think the reason is, they have an inner drive and are willing to give of themselves whatever it takes to win. It’s a discipline that a lot of people are not willing to impose on themselves. It takes a lot of energy, a different way of thinking.” Then Nelson added, “It’s hard to explain about winners, or champions. There’s a certain amount of aggressiveness. There is something about the mannerisms.”

Of course, Mr. Nelson hits the nail squarely upon the head when he talks about “winners” having discipline, energy, aggressiveness, an inner drive and, that they do whatever it takes to win. Anyone who possesses these attributes is undoubtedly bold and daring by nature and is sure to have some degree of cockiness to their persona.

And, while cockiness is not necessarily a good thing to take around with you in day-to-day life, it can really come in handy when you step to the first tee and look at the other golfers in your group and conclude that your chances for success are just as good as your opponent’s. It follows that for our purposes, cockiness represents total confidence and it means believing in oneself.


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