Jim Flick, Jack Nicklaus’ long-time instructor said, “Golf is 90 percent mental, and the other 10 percent is mental too.” How is your golf mind?
In 2018, golf enthusiasts spent $6 billion on equipment, apparel, and supplies. If the game is overwhelmingly mental, why don’t golfers devote more time, effort, and dollars on how to improve what’s going on between their ears?
Since 2006, Matt Cuccaro has helped juniors, collegiate champions, and professionals competing on the PGA and LPGA tours with the mental side of the game. As the Director of Performance at Sea Pines Resort Cuccaro also shares his passion for elevating a golfer’s mental game with Hilton Head, South Carolina, vacationers.
Mind Games Risk Factor
Cuccaro’s classroom is the Sea Pines’ Golf Learning Center at the beautiful Atlantic Dunes Golf Course. Whether he is working with a child, an All-American collegiate golfer, an Olympic medal winner, a PGA professional, or a 20-handicapper on vacation, Cuccaro encourages his clients to lean into the fear of whatever is ailing them as a golfer.
“I’m striving to identify a level of willingness and comfort to take appropriate risks and fail in the presence of one another,” Cuccaro said.
Cuccaro often begins a first session by asking his client to choose between making one foot, five foot, or 10-foot putts. What evolves out of this practice is the fine balance between expectation and success. The golfer expects to make the one-footer, and the expectations lessen considerably when attempting a 10-foot putt. The five-footer is often where things go haywire in a golfer’s mind. This is true if he or she is playing among friends or playing for the club championship on Sunday afternoon.
When the Easy Shot Isn’t So Easy
“Golf fully exposes an individual in front of others. Unlike other sports where there are numerous athletes competing simultaneously, golf only allows one player to execute at a time. All eyes are on a single competitor and the effort the individual gives on every shot. Poor results associated with a high level of effort lends itself to embarrassment. Often the shots that appear easy, like a five-foot putt or a short wedge to the green, can be the most nerve racking,” Cuccaro said.
Choosing to embrace golf’s challenges, while also recognizing that the easy stuff isn’t so easy, is a starting point for Cuccaro’s clients. Cuccaro reminds clients that when overcoming challenges and feeling competitive emotions both golf and life can be more fulfilling and enjoyable.
A willingness to miss is key. We need to recognize that we have limited control over shots and situations we encounter. When an individual understands what their best effort looks, feels, and sounds like in their head, at this point we’ve clarified the mental game and created a blueprint for optimum performance.
How to Know When Your Mind is Right
How does a golfer know when he or she is mentally on track? Cuccaro reflected, “When a player chooses to challenge themselves in training or in competition on a regular basis, and enjoys these challenges, that’s when I know they are on the right path to maximizing their potential.”
Tim Cotroneo is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer specializing in travel, business, and golf. Find more of Tim’s work at www.timcotroneo.com