Dr. Bhrett McCabe is one of the foremost sports psychologists on the planet. As the founder and CEO of The Mindside, his business is helping athletes across all sports think better. He works with a number of PGA Tour players, so I gave him a call to glean some tips for how regular golfers can improve their golf mental game.
The first — and most important step — to improving is to understand what kind of personality type you are. According to Dr. McCabe, every person reverts to one of four personality types under pressure. Understand which one your are, and use it to perform your best when the pressure’s.
Personality Type #1: Amped-up
The “amped up” personality type is someone who plays their best golf when they get…well, amped up. Their golf mental game involves a lot of emotion. Players like Ian Poulter or Jon Rahm. They have have a short temper, but they can use it to get themselves hyped-up, which helps them play their best golf.
A tip for amped-up golfers: If you’re an “amped-up” golfer, give yourself lots of pep talks and pump-up speeches. Emotion is a good thing for you, so use it!
Personality Type #2: The Tactician
There are lots of tacticians in golf, Dr. McCabe says. These are players whose golf mental game, under pressure, gets very tactical and detailed (and perhaps a bit too slow). Tacticians don’t benefit from thinking about the situation, merely the next chess move ahead of them.
A tip for tactician golfers: When you’re under pressure, think about nothing other than the next shot you need to hit — and start breaking it all down.
Personality Type #3: The Bubble Player
The Bubble Player is the classic, get-in-the-zone, game-face players. Golfers, like Tiger Woods (or Happy Gilmore!), who need to find their happy place for their golf mental game to be at its best.
A tip for bubble golfers: Find your happy place! When the nerves kick-up, take a moment to think about the things that make you happy, calm and relaxed.
Personality Type #4: The Worrier
Worrying isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, some players need to worry in order to play their best. Dr. McCabe explains that when the pressure ticks-up, some players need to resolve their worries by worrying and complaining about things out of their control. Sergio Garcia is a good example of a worrier.
A tip for worrier golfers: When you start to worry about the pressure, don’t try to stop worrying. Worry, complain, let it all out. Just don’t bother your playing partners about it.
Personality Type #5: The Chosen Player
The chosen player accepts things are out of their control and submits to it. They release themselves to the will of fate or some other higher power, and let the chips fall where they may. Often these players have deeply-held religious beliefs, Dr. McCabe says. Webb Simpson is an example of a chosen player.
A tip for chosen golfers: Take solace in the fact that win or lose, your outcome is pre-determined.