Mental Aspects for Junior Golfers

Performance and Sports Psychologists

More advanced junior golfers, as they advance to tours like American Juniors may find it beneficial to incorporate a sports performance psychologist into their “team”, for example the practitioners at The Mindside.

Dr Bhrett McCabe is a performance and sports psychologist with The Mindside who gives some excellent advice for players and parents alike in the Professional Insights area of this website.  Read it here.  Our older son works with Dr. McCabe’s partner Meighan Julbert who stresses the importance of ‘mastery of the craft’ and has a gift with focusing the mind of a young teenager.

Positive Coaching Alliance

The US Kids Golf Tour partners with the Positive Coaching Alliance Organization and tries hard to emphasize the need for parents to build up as opposed to break down their players confidence.  You see it all out there in the trenches though !

The Positive Coaching Alliance Organization focuses on 3 fundamental principals for junior golfers : Redefining “Winner”; Filling the Emotional Tank; and Honoring the Game.

A fundamental goal in youth sports should be producing young people who are winners for life.  Winners are people who : Make Maximum Effort.  Continue to Learn and Improve.  Refuse to Let Mistakes (or fear of mistakes) Stop Them.  This is called a Mastery Orientation with the Tree of Mastery being the ELM (Effort, Learning, Mistake rebounding).  Athletes who are coached with this orientation tend to reduce anxiety and build self-confidence.

mental aspects for junior golfers

To Be or Not To Be

When filling an emotional tank, the ratio of 5:1 (praise to criticism) is ideal.  A parent’s job is to fill the child’s emotional tank: encourage, don’t give a lot of advice, acknowledge feelings of disappointment.  Praise about 5 times for every criticism – this will allow the child to hear the criticism without going too much on the defensive.

Honoring the Game gets to the ROOTS of positive play which is the cornerstone of maintaining a positive mental attitude.  ROOTS stands for Respect for : Rules (we don’t bend rules to win), Opponents (a worthy opponent is a gift that forces us to play to our potential), Officials (we treat officials with respect even if we disagree), Teammates (we never do anything that would embarrass our team on or off the field) and one’s Self (we live up to our own standards regardless of what others do).

The Mental Game blog section by Michael Riggs

This can be found on the Junior Scoreboard website and is interesting and worthwhile reading.

Some practical advice summarized from an article titled “The Top Five Problems That Affect Your Mental Golf Game” by Dr. Paul McCarthy and Dr. Marc Jones from a Golficity blog:

  1. Practice should be purposeful.  There is no point in long, lazy practices.  Practice shots as they would like on a golf course.  Play a skills challenge with a friend and build up thoughts and feelings you would tend to have in a tournament on the course.
  2. Don’t beat yourself up in putting practice but do end your putting session on a positive note like sinking 2 ten foot putts in a row.
  3. It is natural to feel nervous on the first tee.  One way to alleviate the nerves a bit is to make sure you choose a club that you feel gives you the best chance of landing the ball on the fairway.
  4. When you think you are in a slump analyze your game and see exactly what needs working on. A lot of the time it is just one thing, eg. putting, that’s bringing your game down.
  5. To remain focussed during the game a pre-shot routine is key.  It helps you focus on one shot at a time and not get distracted by internal thoughts and external factors.
mental aspects for junior golfer

Moments of quiet reflection are important on the golf course.


In a February 2014 article in the Golf Magazine players shared “The Best Advice I Ever Got“.  Steve Stricker credits the following advice from Jay Haas as a turning point for him on the tour :

If you’re going to come out here and play, be prepared.  Give it your all.  Don’t wish you were back home or doing something else.  Focus on the job and the game.

Lee Trevino’s advice to Johnny Miller, 25 time GPA Tour winner :

If you’re choking baby, just hit it low.  It doesn’t have time to get off  line.  The punch shot is the most valuable tool in finishing up championships; it was my go-to shot under pressure.  I teed my ball way low, aimed my driver down the left side of the fairway, leaned into it with my left shoulder and hit a low fade.

Keegan Bradley’s aunt (herself a World Golf Hall of Famer) told him :

Stay patient, not only on the course but also over the year.  Sometimes you think things are so bad, and then a month later you win and you’re back at the top.

Alison Lee, 2013 AJGA Rolex Player of the Year :

Good or bad you can’t let what happens on the course consume you.  All you can do is your best.  Play your hardest.  There’s much more to life than golf, and no matter what you shoot, there’s much more to you.

Mike Holder, coach of Hunter Mahan at Oklahoma State hit the nail on the head when Hunter was getting upset with himself on the course :

Do you think anyone cares how you play out here?  You care, your parents care, I kind of care, but do you think your teammates even care?  They’re pulling for you, but they’re trying to beat you.  So stop acting like everyone cares.  Just play golf.

Peter Kostis makes some interesting points in an article in the July 2013 Golf Magazine about “How To Think Like A PGA Tour Winner” Scoring when it counts is about attitude and belief.

  • You need to accept adversity, pick yourself up and play the next shot with full focus.
  • The only real disability in life is a bad attitude.
  • A bad swing with a great attitude can compete, but a great swing with a bad attitude will never reach its potential.
  • To play your best golf you need to allow your physical talent to be unleashed through your outlook and attitude.

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