newsletter: The Saturday Golfer
To Play Great Golf, STOP Thinking So Much.

Last updated Nov 03, 2023

To Play Great Golf, STOP Thinking So Much.

Are you getting in your own way on the golf course? Here's how to fix it.

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Written By: Zach Gollwitzer

Posted in: Golf Mental Game

Many readers of this site are what I'd consider "analytical" golfers.

What does this mean?

You might be an "analytical" golfer if...

  • You've been told to "just stop thinking so much"
  • You obsess over the positions in your golf swing
  • You "can't get out of your own way"
  • You try to play golf like you play chess
  • You wish you could be as care-free as Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, and maybe even Lee Trevino

I remember years ago at the 2018 Open Championship watching Bryson have a mental meltdown after the round at the range:

It struck a nerve because... I've been there.

I think we all can relate to the feeling of "getting in our own way" on the golf course.

So today, I want to talk about how you can become a more "carefree golfer" and shoot lower scores.

"Careful" vs. "Carefree" vs. "Careless" Golf: Which is best?

We all know what happens when we're careful on the golf course.

We start trying to "steer" the ball off the tee and tense up over our chips and putts. This causes bad shots that go exactly where we don't want them to.

We also know what careless golf produces—stupid mistakes and blowup holes.

But what about "carefree" golf?

Carefree golf is the golden mindset.

While some instructors or players might say, "Just get over yourself and rip driver on every hole!", I don't think this works for every golfer—especially the "analytical" type.

So for those of us who need an alternative approach to this problem, here's what I recommend.

Conservative strategy, aggressive golf swings

One of the best strategies for "playing more aggressive" golf is to give yourself the opportunity to play aggressive golf.

Let's imagine the following scenario:

  • You're 220 yards from the pin, second shot on a par 5
  • Water left
  • OB right
  • Green is about 25 yards wide

Many golfers would think to themselves...

Heck yeah, let me play some AGGRESSIVE golf and go for this pin!

In my opinion, that is not aggressive golf—it's "careless" (stupid) golf!

Aggressive, "carefree" golf is when you make smart decisions and make aggressive, committed golf swings.

Do you really think you could make a confident, aggressive golf swing holding a hybrid or 3-wood with this much trouble around the green?

Not a chance. You're "hitting and hoping".

It's okay—we've all done it.

But let me ask you this...

Could you make two aggressive, confident swings playing the following shots?

  1. Hit a short iron layup shot
  2. Hit a partial or full wedge into the green

Of course!

That's what "carefree" golf is all about.

It's the type of golf where your decision-making allows you to put aggressive, carefree swings on the ball.

If you are an analytical golfer—play more of this type of golf. Your scores will drop significantly.

How to embrace your thoughts rather than fight them

For years, I tried so hard to do one thing—stop my bad swing thoughts.

I failed miserably at this.

Instead, you should be accepting these thoughts and playing great golf in spite of them.

Here's the bad news–you'll have some bad swing thoughts and some bad dialogues running through your head while on the golf course forever.

Here's the good news–you can still hit GREAT golf shots even with your mind awry.

What I've learned by hitting thousands of shots under intense pressure is that playing good golf as someone who "thinks too much" is all about managing the mind and directing your mental energy towards the right things.

It's all about having clear mental strategies that you fall back on consistently.

Here are a few that have worked well for me:

  1. Hum a song during your backswing to rid your mind of bad swing thoughts
  2. Become "target-focused"—try to form a mental image of your target right before hitting your ball
  3. Verbalize the shot you want to hit—as you stand behind the ball, say out loud exactly what you want the ball to do. The more specific you are, the better.

For more strategies, I recommend picking up a mental game book that I mentioned in TSG #007.

Concluding thoughts

The difference between careless, careful, and carefree are subtle to the eye yet monumental to your golf game.

Next time you're on the course, take these "carefree" thoughts with you:

  • Conservative shots, aggressive swings
  • Focused on process, not outcomes
  • Target-focused
  • When you miss the green, think—"good, I love my short game!"
  • If you can't "feel good" over a shot, don't hit it. Change your club, target, shot shape, or strategy until you can feel good over the ball.

And with that, I'll see you in the next issue!

Hit 'em straight!

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