To paraphrase one of the authors below, it’s astonishing that with all of the advancements in golf equipment, video swing analysis, etc., average amateur golf scores on the whole have not improved one bit over the past few decades. If you take a moment to reflect on this idea you’ll begin to grasp the gravity of the statement.
So why is this?
We’ve all heard (and always politely agree to) phrases like “golf is played on a five inch course – the distance between your ears,” and “golf is 90% mental and 10% physical,” but do we ever really take that to heart?
Over the past few months I have dedicated a significant amount of time and focus to improving my mental golf game by treating it as the same process as learning any other skill. Think about it, we’ll spend countless hours and dollars investing in learning the physical aspects of our swing (from swing training tools, to books, iPhone apps, lessons, and so on) yet when it comes to our mental game, we acknowledge it’s importance but rarely take our development any further than that. It’s almost as though we resign ourselves to either “having it” or not, and instead relying on our physical swing, and the improvement of our equipment, to carry us past this hurdle.
In my quest to improve my mental game “soft” skill, I’ve come across a number of golf mental game books (Amazon.com alone comes up with a whopping 245 published titles) but two in particular have really stood out. Through my research I’ve found these two books stand above the rest in their ability to provide excellent, detailed, and highly actionable information for improving your mental golf game:
1.) Zen Golf: Mastering the Mental Game by Dr. Joseph Parent
Let me put this simply by saying, if you only ever pick up one book on improving your mental golf game, Zen Golf should be the one. For under 15 bucks on Amazon (less than the cost of a dozen golf balls), I can guarantee that this book will do more for your golf game that buying that new $400 driver.
In the book you’ll learn concepts like, how to gain “unconditional confidence” and “natural commitment” by focusing on things like “listening to your intuition,” “cultivating and strengthening your awareness,” staying “calm, cool, and collected,” and even something as simple as “remembering to breathe.”
These may seem like simple concepts but Dr. Parent provides the analogies and methodologies you need to apply them properly to your golf game. In fact, I was astonished how little the author actually discuses the physics of your swing (something we’re all used to talking about ad nauseam), yet I still saw improvements in my game immediately upon implementing his mindset suggestions.
My suggestion; throw a copy of Zen Golf in your golf bag to refer back to from time to time. Just like physical muscle training, repetition (in this case concept repetition) is vital to long term improvement and habit forming. Having the book on hand to refer back to when I’m most frustrated with my game has proven invaluable and I think it will do the same for you.
Another thing I strongly suggest is to pick up the Zen Golf audio book version (something I personally benefited quite a bit from) which can be purchased on Amazon.com or iTunes, whichever you prefer. Simply put, this is a book you’ll inevitably return to over and over again, so I really enjoy having the audio copy available to listen to as a refresher on the way to the course. The author, Dr. Joseph Parent, narrates the audio book himself and does an excellent job of grabbing your attention and conveying his ideas in plain, and understandable terms.
2.) The Successful Golfer: Practical Fixes for the Mental Game of Golf by Dr Paul McCarthy and Dr Marc Jones
Authors Paul McCarthy and Marc Jones (a couple of great guys incidentally) actually sent me an advanced copy of this book a few months ago and I’m quite glad they did. The book itself is broken up into three sections and is perfect for readers looking for quick, to the point, yet still well thought out answers to the most common golf mental hurdles.
The first section of The Successful Golfer contains the authors’ top 50 mental golf faults each with it’s own practical fix. These sections are short, sweet, and too the point, allowing the reader to jump around to the questions that apply most directly to his or her game which is excellent for those seeking a “quick fix.”
In the second section the authors (both experienced sports psychologists) dive deep into current research studies and how their application has proven to help countless golfers’ games.
In the third and final section of the book, McCarthy and Jones piece everything together to provide the reader with “practical techniques for becoming a confident golfer.” This portion of the book presents information on things like “goal setting,” “practicing for the real thing,” and proper “self-talk.”
The Successful Golfer is perfect for those analytically minded golfers who want to know the hard evidence and tools behind this “soft” mental skill.
When factoring in not only the game improvement, but also the game enjoyment (primarily from their suggested shifts in mindset) these books have brought me, I can say with absolute certainty that they are both money well spent. Grab a Kindle or iTunes version today and you could be playing and enjoying the game at a higher level by your next round!