Golf Psychology Series: Part One - Self Talk

The first part of our new mini series, helping golfers to work on the mental side of the golf.

Jack Seddon's picture
Thu, 23 Apr 2020
Golf Psychology Series: Part One - Self Talk

Golf is one of the hardest sports to learn, but one of the most important factors on improving your game that most people seem to ignore is the mental side. Golf psychology is what separates the best from the rest, with the world's top players having the ability to stay positive even during their worst rounds. Everyone has negative thoughts and you can't get rid of them completely, but there are ways of controlling them.

With everyone stuck indoors during the coronavirus lockdown, it can be difficult to work on your golf game, but working on your mental attitude can be done easily and affectively, with the help of PGA Professional Paul Babbage.

Paul Babbage - PGA Professional at Farleigh Golf Club

Firstly I hope that you are as safe, well and sane as possible in the current climate.

My name is Paul Babbage and I have recently done a series of short game videos for GolfMagic. I have been a fully qualified PGA professional for 10 years and I currently work at Farleigh Golf Club in the UK.

I have seen amateur golf played and coached in different countries and with different methods and applications. One thing that has been apparent to me is that the mental side of golf is usually not a priority alongside equipment, technique and practice. This may be because it is not often taught how to improve your mental game. If you think the right way, you can learn, apply and perform better and quicker.

Everyone’s ability to work on technique and play golf at the moment is very limited so I wanted to offer some exercises and ways of improving between the ears!

“It takes hundreds of good golf shots to gain confidence but only one bad one to lose it.” - Jack Nicklaus

“A bad attitude is worse than a bad swing.” - Payne Stewart

Last year I finished a Golf Psychology qualification through the P.G.A National Training Academy. I believe mental strength in sport and in any aspect of life is very important. The lockdown could be a good opportunity to start to realise the potential of improvement through golf psychology. There are a number of ways you can help yourself stop the above quotes applying to you, and enjoy your golf more.

I will be running a short series of exercises to get you started!

A lot can be learned from past mistakes and negative experiences, as well as positive, so please stay open and be 100% honest with yourself!


Self-talk can be a great tool to improve confidence and motivate yourself on and off the course. It can be internal (silent) or external (loud). Studies have shown people with negative self-talk may not perform as well as those with positive self-talk.

We are human and emotions can always get the better of us so negative self-talk is unlikely to ever be eradicated, but can be managed.

Step 1: Now I want you to read through the following statements and see if they affect you. Write down your answer from 1 - 5, with 1 meaning strongly disagree and 5 meaning you strongly agree.

1. Past or future – “I played so bad last time I played here” “I can’t believe I missed that putt”. Do you have this kind of self-talk? (internal to yourself or external to other people)

Always remember you do not have control of what has happened or may happen, focus on what is happening right now.

2. Dwelling on Outcome – “I must win” “I have to get 40 points or more to win” “I can’t afford to lose”. Do you have this kind of self-talk?

Worrying on outcomes can be negative, it is better to focus on performance.

3. Focusing on Weakness – “I can’t putt today” “I can’t draw the ball”. Do you have this kind of self-talk?

Focusing on weakness during play is only going to be negative, every day is different so focus on what you can do.

Directing thoughts and talk towards things that are uncontrollable are a waste of mental energy and a distraction from thoughts that can help
improve your game. Try talking and thinking about controllable things such as setup and equipment.

Step 2: Hopefully you are now more aware of both positive and negative things you say to yourself or others. Write down 5 examples of a positive self-talk and 5 of a negative self-talk that you have had during a game of golf. 

Once this is done re-write the negative examples in a positive way – Example, “I am a bad chipper” switched to “I can chip better.”

Now try to imagine yourself playing your home golf course and where you could start to use this more positive self-talk. Practice will make this habit when you go and play.

Until next time, good luck!

For lesson enquiries, contact Paul Babbage at or find him on Instagram @paulbabbagegolf