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Talk to myself? You must be crazy.

Setting the scene

We’ve all been there, sliced a tee shot, three of the tee, and you’re annoyed at yourself. Mentally berating yourself, how could you be so stupid, you know how to hit a straight tee shot, why can’t you do it?!…anybody?…just me?…well, this is awkward….


Either way, I know how frustrating it is to be like this, and whether it isn’t you personally, you definitely know someone like it. So what exactly can you do to help yourself?


Talk to yourself. No, seriously, hear me out…


Positive self-talk is a technique that has been used by athletes for years and to be most effective the self-talk should be short and sharp, you don’t want to overcomplicate things, particularly if your performance is already dwindling. Additionally, by associating the self-talk to the skill, and using it before the skill you can mentally and physically prepare for the shot you’re about to hit.


Types of talk

It has been suggested that there are three categories of self-talk that can be implemented into your game depending on the situation in which you find yourself in.


  • The first category of self-talk is technique related, within this you use keywords or a phrase that mentions how you’re about to perform your shot. For example; when hitting the driver, the word “rotate” will remind you to rotate the hips through your whole swing.


  • The second is encouragement, the one that I use the most. When you’ve hit a bad shot, and don’t want to get bogged down with potentially negative swing thoughts. Something simple like “you’ve made this putt before” reinforces to yourself that you can perform the skill, and will perform it successfully this time.


  • The final category is mood words. These are specific words that mentally prepare you for the skill you’re about to perform. These words can affect your mood and your physical response to the shot. For example saying the word “smash” before hitting your driver or “gently” before hitting a putt can evoke a physical reaction.

Closing thoughts

Effectively using self-talk within your game you can not only increase performances but also confidence when hitting shots whilst reducing your anxiety, perfect for those first tee nerves! As with any addition to your game it will take time to implement with benefits not necessarily being immediately noticeable.


It should be mentioned that self-talk doesn’t have to be said out loud, if you’d prefer to look a little more sane, the words can have the same impact if you say them in your head. At the end of the day it comes down to personal preferences and what works for you, don’t be afraid to say the odd word out loud if it helps you shoot a better score!


With all this in mind it is important you gradually work on adding it in, don’t overload yourself with swing thoughts or too much information. Take time to link the correct words with the corresponding shots starting at the driving range before heading to the course.


To find out more

For more psychology resources visit psych-chek. This research paper gives you an insight to the use of self-talk to improve performance.

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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