Over the long weekend, I played my first round of 18 holes. Can I just say…18 holes is SO. MANY. HOLES!
At the turn, with a hot dog and a beer in hand, I realized it was only 9:30 a.m. And then I realized it was 9:30 a.m.! We got out there at 7:30 a.m. Two hours down and two more to go. It kind of felt like a lifetime.

I’ve talked to more athletes than I can count about building mental stamina and the effects of mental fatigue. But as someone who doesn’t like to run more than 5k and my chosen sport in college had me active for about a minute at a time with a long rest in between, I realized how ill equipped I was to live out the advice I give on the reg. What I noticed most was my inability to stay consistent with each stroke. I’d whiff the ball or totally top it and realize I wasn’t sure if I was even looking at the ball when I
swung. I gave up doing practice swings before the shot and I stopped even pretending I knew how to read greens.

I was cruising through the front 9 so I know I have the mental skills in my toolbox. And surely those few sips of beer weren’t enough to impact my game yet. As I lamented about my declining play, I had the realization that I was mentally tired. I had never flexed my mental muscle beyond 9 holes. And no matter how many rounds of 9 I played, I hadn’t tested my mental strength in this way before.

I wish I could report that my epiphany about my mental fatigue turned the corner and had me hitting lasers. Here are a few things I wish I had thought of before the point of fatigue.

3 Tips to Curbing Fatigue Before It’s Too Late

  • Use mental energy efficiently. Don’t put too much energy into early holes. Play strong and stay focused but remember to slow down and take in the scenery. Give your concentration a break and try not to get hard on yourself for bad shots – it’ll just drain your energy.
  • Golf is way more fun when you hit the ball close to the number of times expected on the hole. Hitting it double the expected number of times is both more physically taxing and mentally draining. If a shot doesn’t go your way – slow down, take time to reset and regroup, and move on.
  • Have a different pre-shot routine for different types of shot. Don’t rely on a similar approach or you’ll get tired and bored of it and start skipping it altogether. Just as surprise twists in movies or books help to sustain our attention, so does variety in pre-shot routine.
  • Find a positive with each bad shot. It might be the turtle in the rough just watching your round
    that you can go say hello to and give a little smile and wave. Or it might be realizing you learned
    something you can make a correction on. Either way, maybe 4 hours doesn’t seem so long if you
    can stay positive.

The big takeaway is that I’d like to petition the CEO of the game of golf and see if maybe we could shorten a round to 12-14 holes. And then the ultragolfers (like ultramarathoners) can be the crazy ones who want to keep going. Or maybe I need to actually spend more time on my mental game and recognize that you can’t build a muscle if you aren’t flexing it. Either one.

Dr. Chelsi Day

Dr. Day is a licensed clinical psychologist. She is an Ohio native who completed her Bachelor's degrees in Psychology and Health and Sport Studies at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio while competing on the Varsity Swimming and Diving team as a diver. She then went on to earn a Master's degree in Sport and Exercise Psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology followed by a Master's degree and later a Doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University New England in Keene, NH.