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Getting back into the swing of things

 “If profanity had an influence on the flight of the ball, the game of golf would be played far better than it is.” – Horace G. Hutchinson.

The year started with such optimism, not just a new year but a new decade, a clean slate, and a chance to finally cut our handicaps. But no sooner had 2020 begun, we were locked down due to COVID-19, the courses were closed, and dreams of playing on tour were dashed…

Finally, in mid-May, the restrictions were eased, courses were re-opened and the mad-dash to the first tee began. But what a lot of us, ourselves included, overlooked, was the rust that had set in over the 6 weeks. With courses opening before many ranges, people went straight to the course without so much as a practice swing expecting to play just as they had done pre-lockdown.

Golf is a game that takes time, both physically and mentally, and consciously we all know this…but somehow, just knowing it doesn’t help. So what can you do to mentally prepare for the course after a long time away?


Realistic Expectations

Mentally, golf can be difficult. When things don’t go your way like a missed putt, or a lost ball, it’s easy to get despondent. We easily lose focus and motivation. Therefore, it is important that during these times of rust, you take particular care of yourself (mentally) on the course to avoid falling out of love with the game you’ve waited so long to play.

It’s easy for others to say, “don’t be so hard on yourself” or “just enjoy it” but how can you help yourself? Take your time, relax and reflect after each shot. If you top one 3 yards, remember it’s been a while and you haven’t been to the range. Simply reset before your next shot. Don’t sprint to the ball and try to take the paint from the ball, be realistic with what you expect to happen, or what can happen on the course.

Similarly, if you know what you want out of golf, take the time to utilise goal setting. I’m sure you’ve all heard of it, but how many know how to effectively use it to your advantage, both short and long term?


Goal setting

Quite simply, goal setting is the use of attainable targets to enhance motivation, performances, or both.

A golfer commonly has one, overarching outcome goal, this is your desired end performance result in comparison to another golfer, for example, bettering your playing partners on the course. To do this, there are a set of smaller, more attainable, performance goals that should be used. These are goals about your desired performance compared to your previous performances, for example, parring a hole you bogied last time.

In order to achieve these successfully, you must focus on the processes involved. These processes are entirely under your control and help you achieve both short term performance goals and your overarching outcome goals. For example, if you want to find more fairways, you would work on your driver at the range.


Utilising these goals can be a simple way of helping get back into the swing of the game you love.  By setting and achieving simpler, attainable goals, you’ll break down your larger, more daunting ones, benefiting both your performances and your motivation to continue playing.

Throughout the coming months we will be providing more ways to improve your psychology both on and off the course, and hope to help you reduce your scores and increase your enjoyment.

Even if I can’t help myself…

To find out more

For more psychology resources visit psych-chek, and to learn more about the different types of goal setting this book chapter explores and breaks goals down in golf-specific settings.

About the Author

Luke Vidler

An amateur golfer and recent graduate of Chichester University. I have both a BSc and MSc in Sport and Exercise Psychology and am keen to utilise my knowledge in practical situations, even if I can’t help myself!

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