Traits of Champion Golfers The following article is based on information from the book The Eight Traits of Champion Golfers by Dr Deborah Graham & Jon Stabler. The traits are eight of thirty two that were analysed to determine the difference between champion and non-champion golfers. These eight were the ones which were the most significant. Focus This trait was found to be the most challenging among all golfers. Given the nature of the game in that it takes a long time to play and there are long periods between shots, this is hardly surprising. The keys to establishing and maintaining good focus include having a mental warm-up routine; practice focussing and refocussing during your pre-round warm-up. Establish a mental routine which includes Calculating what shot is required and then committing to it. Visualising the shot. Gaining a feel for the shot before you play it. While using a good mental routine may sound easy, it takes discipline, practice, and patience to use one consistently and effectively. A strong mental routine represents one of the most distinctive differences between champion golfers and average golfers, on both the amateur and professional levels. In fact, the strength and consistency of your mental routine will determine your success as a competitive golfer. P50 Abstract thinking This is the ability to analytically reason, problem solve, learn and adapt intellectually. While it is possible to fail to think clearly, it is also possible to over analyse a shot or situation. The essentials are to: Stay present; not dwell on past shots, score, upcoming holes, etc. Be relaxed and peaceful Have a clear mind Imagine what you want to do Take mental breaks between shots. A basic plan to achieve good thinking skills goes hand-in-hand with information required for making good decisions. List the clubs and shots that are your strongest Develop a plan for each hole (starting on the green). Manage your thoughts between shots o Positive and negative o Past & future thinking v present thinking o Avoiding thinking too much about swing mechanics Emotional stability While the best players do get nervous, they understand and are able to manage their emotions. Their tendencies are that they are seldom frustrated, slow to anger, usually worry-free, have little reaction to shots, accept challenges that confront them and peacefully focus on the process of playing their shots. Nutrition and hydration can also influence emotional stability. The best way to attain and manage emotional stability is to have an effective thinking process. This can be achieved by Listing the possible outcomes and challenges of the round/tournament. This will include both things that are within and outside your control. Setting process goals for the event. Using your emotions as a cue; when unhelpful emotions arise, have a strategy to get back to where you should be, emotionally. Judge the process of playing shots not their outcome. When considering scores and finish positions, make your judgements based on your level of commitment and your mental processes. Dominance This trait has to do with the extent to which a player displays aggression in their play. Ideally a player will have a moderate degree of aggression and they will display the following capabilities. Their game plan will reward both patience and assertive play Their strategies challenge and reward their physical skills. The player sticks to their plan. The player is able to make normal full and confident swings regardless of circumstances. Tough mindedness This can be defined as the ability to accept and prepare for the challenges that you have no control over. This can include things like not being put off by bad bounces, crowd noise, pace of play, etc. The tough-minded player is able to detach emotionally from these outside variables. They are also somewhat selfish when it comes to doing what is best for them on the course and in their preparation. It is possible to develop tough-mindedness and one way recommended in the book was to Draw a circle on a piece of paper and write in all the thoughts, feelings, words and phrases that describe you in your ideal mental state. Read what you have written and allow the feelings to emerge within you about those things you have written. Create an anchor for that state. Outside the circle list the negative thoughts and distractions that may impact you. And as you read the list of the negatives imagine mentally pushing them away because of the feelings you have from being inside the circle. Visualise being on the course in different situations and knowing that the distractions will not influence you unnecessarily because you can return to the feelings created from your list of words in the circle. Allow the distractions and negative thoughts to become a trigger which activates your anchor to the state you developed from the list you wrote in the circle. Confidence There are two types of confidence: personal and performance. Performance confidence is related to self efficacy; belief in yourself in the golfing context. Performance confidence is a learned trait that is developed and reinforced. Champion tendencies are to Dwell on strengths and the things that are controllable. They don t let self doubt stop them from making good swings or strokes. They can confidently focus on the shot at hand; there is no wasted mental energy. They regularly compliment themselves. They search for positives, even after bad rounds. Confidence can be further developed with Use of affirmations Monitoring your thoughts and nurturing the development of productive thinking as habitual. Rating your confidence in the different areas of your game and working on developing more confidence in the areas rated lower than the others. Ensuring your mental skills take priority over physical skills. Self-sufficiency This independence is a learned trait. Much of it revolves around the desire to make decision and to make good decisions. Self-sufficiency can relate to swing technique and knowing who to listen to and when as opposed to being vulnerable to taking on board any advice even unsolicited advice; knowing what is best regarding equipment; being adaptable but decisive with course management decisions; being committed to club and target selection and to the shot; practicing correctly and in a way that works for you. Self-sufficiency can be developed by Practicing making decisions Organising your practice Keeping a training diary or journal and noting your o Current physical and mental strengths and weaknesses o Creating goals related to practice and your strengths and weaknesses o Organising plans to achieve your goals; practice plans, drills, notes from lessons, etc. Optimal Arousal If arousal isn t properly managed then all the preceding components can the put at risk. There is a difference between good and bad tension. Good tension is an arousal level that you can channel and control. Bad tension is an arousal level that is controlling you. P176. The components which are used to measure or monitor arousal are muscular tension, heart rate, blood pressure, skin temperature, brain waves, breathing, anxiety, fear, worry and excitement. The main issues with arousal are controlling under or over arousal. Under arousal can be assisted by exercise (which will increase heart rate), goal setting and playing for something . Over arousal can be controlled by things like body checks, breathing, nutrition, relaxation techniques, thought checks, meditation, mental rehearsal, music, time management and personal-life balance. As you can see there are many overlaps, which means that development of one area is likely to positively influence other areas at the same time. Reference: Graham, Deborah and Stabler, J. (1999). The 8 Traits of Champion Golfers. Fireside Books, Simon & Shuster, N.Y.