Two Mental Fitness Tips the Pros Use That Can Sharpen Your Game

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All eyes are on Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville Kentucky for the 2024 PGA Championship, the second men's major of the year. With that comes higher pressure, higher expectations, a brighter spotlight . . . but also a chance at history, accomplishments and more that comes with performing well — or winning. You may think that there's not a lot of correlation between your game and the games of the players competing at the PGA Championship this upcoming week, but there actually is. It's the idea that both the best players in the world and you and your friends deal with pressure. Whether it's to win the Wanamaker Trophy or a weekend scramble, golf — like all sports — presents moments where we feel the heat. But it's not a bad thing, says Charlene Bendt , a PGA Coach at Gentle Creek Golf Club in Prosper, Texas. "It's instead how you frame it," Bendt says. "Those players you'll see at the PGA Championship . . . they're nervous, too. It's normal. The difference is they embrace it. Which is something amateur golfers can do just as easily. " Here's a few tips Bendt recommends to her players to handle the pressure: Establish your routine Routines are the biggest differentiator between really good golfers that can handle pressure and golfers that cannot. Think about it: If you're scrambling to the tee box, haven't eaten anything, didn't stretch or hit practice balls, will that be better for your nerves or worse? "We assume that the professionals out at the PGA Championship are comfortable with the pressure. They're not. But they are prepared with a routine," says Bendt. "You need to have a pre-round routine and a golf course routine. Pre-round, it could be stretching, a quick bite to eat, driving range, putting green and go. During the round, you should assess the lie, the wind, make rehearsal swings and, most importantly, don't forget to take a deep breath. Then, let it fly!" No matter how long or short your routine, Bendt adds to make sure it belongs to you. Don't just copy a pro's routine to copy it. Have one that puts you in a collected state of mind that embraces opportunity. Use the power of positive self-talk This is one is easier said than done. Sure, we can think about being positive, jolly and happy on the course . . . but what happens after we top our tee shot in front of other people? Or we hit one out of bounds? Or miss a putt? Does the positive self-talk disappear — or does it stay everpresent? "Golf is all about how you frame it," says Bendt. "And it's easy to frame things negatively when they aren't going well or if you're nervous something bad is going to happen. That's why self-talk is important. Think, 'Hey, this is exciting,' or 'this is a great opportunity to show how hard I've worked,' versus 'Oh no, this is scary.' If you frame your round in a way that allows positive to self-talk to be a major part of it, you can handle anything."