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Unlocking Peak Performance: The Crucial Role of Mental Toughness in Golf Coaching4 min read

Ivar van der MoolenAuthor: Ivar van der Moolen


Posted on: 14th Jun 2023

Dutch mental coach, PGA of Holland Professional and creator of the ‘Mental Toughness’ programme, Ivar van der Moolen, has spent his career studying and campaigning for more attention for the mental side of golf.

Here Ivar looks at some of the key elements involved with mental toughness and how they can be incorporated in to PGA Professionals’ coaching practices…

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In the nuanced game of golf, there’s a maxim that rings true across all skill levels—success on the green is driven by more than physical prowess. It’s about the resilience of the mind and the ability to navigate emotional currents. As PGA Professionals, we understand the pivotal role mental strength plays in the game. But how can we integrate these principles into our coaching techniques, making them tangible and impactful for our students, both amateur and professional?

A golf game isn’t won solely on the driving range or the putting green, but within the landscape of the mind. Consider the wisdom of golf legend Jack Nicklaus, who said, “Golf is 80% mental, 10% physical, and 10% luck.” Anxiety, stress, and lack of confidence can obstruct even the most technically proficient golfer from achieving their potential.

To address these challenges, we must dissect the elements of mental toughness: Anxiety Management, Concentration, Confidence Building, Imagery, Mental Preparation, Motivation, and Relaxation. By understanding and incorporating these elements into our coaching, we can help our students not only confront but also overcome their mental hurdles.

Anxiety Management…

…is crucial for helping golfers stay composed under pressure. As a coach, you can integrate mindfulness exercises into training sessions, encouraging golfers to focus on the present moment, thus reducing anxiety and stress. For instance, during practice, have your students focus on the feel of the club in their hands, the sound of the swing, or the sight of the ball. This can help anchor them in the present, mitigating anxiety about past mistakes or future performance.

Concentration…

…is a fundamental part of golf, where a momentary lapse can make all the difference. To help your students improve focus, introduce exercises such as ‘quiet eye’ training, which involves maintaining a steady gaze on the target (like the hole or a particular spot on the ball) for a couple of seconds before the swing. This practice can improve visual attention and enhance accuracy.

Confidence Building…

…is best achieved through a blend of feedback and self-reflection. Encourage your students to journal their experiences during each game, noting what they felt worked well and what did not. Pair this with positive feedback, emphasising their strengths and achievements, which can significantly boost their confidence.

Imagery or visualisation…

…is a proven technique to enhance performance. Encourage your students to mentally rehearse their shots or play an entire game in their mind. This ‘mental walkthrough’ helps familiarise them with different scenarios, making them less daunting in reality.

Mental Preparation…

…is about setting up the right mindset before the game. Introduce practices like goal-setting at the beginning of each training session, discussing the plan for the day and what they aim to achieve. This provides a clear vision and promotes a focused mind.

Motivation…

…can be stimulated through setting both short-term and long-term goals. Celebrate small wins, such as improvements in swing mechanics or putting accuracy. These victories fuel motivation and show that progress is being made.

Relaxation techniques…

…like controlled breathing exercises can be incorporated into the warm-up or cooldown routines. A simple practice like taking deep, slow breaths can help slow down the heart rate, relax the body, and clear the mind, leading to improved performance.

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Incorporating these elements into your coaching methodology, either as part of a structured development plan or as individual tools, can make a significant difference. Using tools such as the ‘Mental Toughness’ programme provide a structured approach to these elements, offering various exercises and insights building momentum and increasing a player’s dedication to mental training.

As coaches, understanding the power of mental toughness and its critical role in golf allows us to elevate our coaching techniques. By equipping our students with the mental tools to complement their physical skills, we are paving the way for the next generation of golfers, who are not only technically proficient but mentally tough.

ABOUT THE MENTAL TOUGHNESS APP

Unlock your student’s potential with “Mental Toughness,” an online programme designed scientifically to amplify their game. Seamlessly integrating with your technical tuition, this programme offers a targeted approach for each key mental aspect.

From establishing powerful routines and mastering visualization to understanding physical and mental warm-ups—it’s got it all. Help your students devise critical situation plans, manage their control points, and use controlled breathing for relaxation. With an eye on holistic growth, it also aids in creating development plans, factoring in nutrition, rest, recovery, and training. Whether used as a comprehensive guide or for individual elements, “Mental Toughness” is your ticket to transforming your coaching and your students’ game.

For the price of one lesson, your student can benefit from the complete program for one year. PGA Professionals from CPG Member Countries can access an affiliate program that includes a discount for all your students.

Find out more about the Affiliate Program at https://cp.golf/3CpDTfe and more on the App at mentaltoughness.golf

Ivar van der MoolenAuthor: Ivar van der Moolen
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Ivar Van der Moolen has been a PGA Holland Professional since 1993. Ivar has a degree in Sports Psychology from the Amsterdam VU University, and is a Mindroom Peak Performance Mastercoach, trained by Dr Pierre Beauchamp.

Having also learned from other top mental coaches such as Pia Nilsson (Vision 54), David Cook (Peak Performance Coach) he developed the Mental Toughness Programme for golfers.

Ivar has coached Dutch National youth, was a Director of Golf at Houtrak, the most successful Dutch golf club of the past two decades, and is currently a Teaching Professional at Spaarnwoude, the largest golf club in The Netherlands.