The Mental Edge: A Golf Instructor’s Guide to Peaking During Rounds

You are in Myrtle Beach, poised to make the jaunt from the range to the first tee with one question hanging over every step: will your game make the short trip with you?

Golf is notoriously fickle, and a good warm up session often means nothing when it’s time to start counting strokes. To help you play your best golf, we consulted with Dale Ketola, the director of instruction and fitting at the Grande Dunes Performance Center, for a few on-course performance tips.

Ketola is on the (very) short list of Myrtle Beach’s best teachers and from his perspective, once you are on the course, the battle is as much mental as it is physical. Here are five simple but effective keys to playing your best golf when it matters most.

Have a plan
You often hear television announcers talking about a professional golfer’s “plan.” It’s not a cliche. Elite golfers know how they want to play before arriving at the course, and you should too, no matter your handicap. Consult with a course’s website, review the yardage book, or use Google Earth to plot how you want to play. If you have a plan, it frees your mind of doubt because it provides you a process for performance, which is vital.

Accept the results
Once you’ve crafted a good game plan, accept the results – good or bad – and move on. Just because you caught a 7 iron a little heavy and it came up short, that doesn’t mean it was a bad decision. Everyone hits poor shots; don’t let a bad swing linger, creating doubt down the line.

Don’t say Don’t
How many times have you heard someone say, “Whatever you do, don’t hit it in the water.” That’s the wrong way to approach a daunting hazard.

“If you tell your brain don’t hit it in the water hazard, you haven’t given it any direction on what you want to accomplish,” Ketola said. “If there is a water hazard on the right, everyone gets that, but you have to give yourself some sort of intention for where you want the ball to land.”

Focus on what you want to accomplish, not what you are trying to avoid.

Great is the enemy of good
You probably aren’t a scratch golfer, so set your expectations accordingly. On some holes, it’s okay for disaster avoidance to be the primary goal, and you can do that by providing yourself plenty of leeway. Create big targets, and if there is water on the right, the left rough isn’t a bad place to be.

“Figure out where the worst place to be on a hole is and stay away from it,” Ketola said. “That’s what the pros do. “

You aren’t a pro. Bogey isn’t always a bad score.

Stay hydrated!
Course management is important but so is staying upright, especially as the weather warms up. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water, Liquid IV, Gatorade or whatever replenishing fluid you prefer. A buddy’s golf trip is often a good excuse to enjoy a few drinks with the boys, which only increases the importance of drinking more water. You will feel better, focus better, and play better if you are fully hydrated, so make it a priority.

Playing your best golf isn’t easy, but a good mental approach is at least as important as the time you spend on grinding away on the range, so take Ketola’s advice to heart and create a plan for success.

Need help with your game? Book a lesson or swing analysis today at the Grande Dunes Golf Performance Center

Follow PGA Professional Dale Ketola on Instagram Here

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Grande Dunes Resort Club

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