If you’ve been following this column over the past few months, you know I’m focusing on improving my game this year, with goals of creating consistency, establishing a handicap and participating in a Wisconsin State Golf Association tournament at the end of the season.

So far I’ve shared how I’ve been able to take lessons and practice drills to improve my actual game, even during the winter, and I’ve also discussed how I’m using my background in fitness to help improve my physical strength, mobility and flexibility, which, by extension, should also help my game. 

The final component that I’ve been working on, which is probably the one where I need the most work, is sharpening my mental game. 

As Mark Twain famously said, “Golf is a good walk spoiled” and I have to agree. A beautiful green landscape is littered with trees, sand traps, waste bunkers, rivers and ponds, just waiting to derail my little white ball on its way to the hole. 

And while I’m thinking “Don’t hit it in over there,” I’m also simultaneously thinking about taking the club back straight, rotating my hips, cocking my wrists, where my hands are at impact and 100 other swing thoughts. 

If I’m playing well, the round seems to fly by, but if I’m struggling, I want to tap out after 14 holes, wondering who decided golf should be 18 anyway. One blow up hole and the round is shot. And don’t even think the word “$h@nk” in my presence… you don’t want to know what happens then.

As someone whose best round is a 75, I know I’m capable of playing pretty well. That’s why it’s so frustrating when I can just as easily turn in a score 20 strokes higher the very next week. 

Thus, I decided to turn to a friend of mine, Dr. Matt Krug, who is a performance and counseling psychologist. Dr. Krug works primarily with athletes and high level executives, serving as Major League Sport Psychologist for the Milwaukee Brewers and consulting with TaylorMade golf on assessment and development of young players.

Dr. Krug recently launched a program specifically designed to help golfers called North of Your Neck, where one can take an online assessment and receive an individualized analysis, compare his or her profile to a research base of high performers, and get tools and tips tailored to help improve their game on a membership portion of the site. 

“If you know how your brain functions, you can figure out how to use it most efficiently on the course,” Dr. Krug explained. “Your brain is going to have some natural hard-wiring strengths. What I want to do is push your brain toward your hard-wiring strengths, but also be aware of where your roadblocks may be.”

After taking my assessment, Dr. Krug sat down with me to explain the results.

While everyone will be different, for me, I…

  • am super competitive,
  • can think through/visualize situations in my head very well,
  • get overwhelmed by my external environment frequently; and
  • have an extremely high self-criticism score.

Dr. Krug reiterated, “This is not about changing your brain. This is about how to make it work most efficiently. This is a really good profile for what you do for a living (communications and marketing). I can see how your creativity gets expressed in what you do and I think that’s outstanding. But how do you take that brain and apply it to the golf course?”

So for example, when it comes to concentration, he noted:

“My guess is that some of your best creative thoughts come during a yoga session. That works for you because it takes everything else away and enhances your focus score. You’re best when you’re inside of your own head and only get the information from your environment that you absolutely have to get.” 

A four-hour round of golf, on the other hand, he explained, is a long time to stay focused and also provides a lot of external distractions.

“If your brain looked at golf in 15 second increments, it could be really effective. The mental skill that you really need out of this is going to be a challenge for you based on this profile: It’s a routine that you are undoubtedly committed to at the beginning and the end of that 15 seconds. Your brain will work more efficiently if it has boundaries on that.” 

Together we came up with a routine that allows me to relax and be myself in between drilling down and really focusing for just about 15 seconds at a time for each shot, coming up with a plan for it, trusting my swing, executing it and then reacting to it all within that time span. 

“We get this mindset that you have to be locked in for the entire time and that is not the case. That’s not how your brain is going to be most effective,” said Krug.

I find all of this fascinating; it makes a lot of sense and it’s something I’m going to continue working on.

Dr. Krug also recommended some books for me to read, which have been helpful. Plus, Dr. Krug and his wife Anne recently acquired Eagle Springs Golf Resort in Eagle, Wisconsin (more on that to come next month!) and I’ll be headed out there to have a playing lesson with him soon as well. In the meantime, if you’re interested in learning more about North of Your Neck, you can email Dr. Krug at Matt.Krug@EagleSpringsGolfResort.com.

Another element I’ve incorporated is mindfulness and meditation; in my research I came across the Imagine Golf app which provides daily tips, tee shot visualizations and more in short, bite-sized increments. 

“Imagine Golf is tailored for those who have a desire to become a better version of their golfing selves. By sharpening the mental game, directing positive energy through your thoughts and unlocking new levels of focus, every other aspect of your golfing existence will improve. As I’ve seen so many times, I’m confident the rest will follow suit,” said Malcom Scovil, the app’s creator.

Scovil also noted that Imagine Golf is looking for 10 ambassadors in each state to help promote the app; they’ll enjoy a free membership, get to connect with other like-minded golfers, cool swag and more. If you’re interested in the app or program, visit ImagineGolf.com to learn more. 

Like everything else, this is going to be a work in progress, but, with a stronger physical body, regular practice and a good mental strategy, I feel well-prepared for the start of golf season. Bring it on!

Caitlin Moyer

Caitlin Moyer has been hacking and hoping since she was 10. Over the course of her career in the sports industry, she's had the chance to play the game with LPGA, MLB and NBA players, as well as NASCAR drivers and celebrities, but her favorite playing partner is her dad (even though he is a stick). Inventor and sole practitioner of the one-flap™ golf swing (patent pending).