Eliminate Decision Fatigue on the Golf Course

Tiger Disgusted

The Brain > The Body

There are thousands of tips about how to limit physical fatigue on the golf course – stay hydrated, eat well, lose weight – but I’ve never seen one about reducing mental fatigue.  This is strange because mental fatigue is an even bigger problem than physical fatigue.  With the right planning, you can compensate for a tired body, but when you make bad decisions on the course, no amount of strength or energy can save you.

In this lesson, I’m going to teach you about two key to fight mental fatigue on the golf course: routines and pre-planning.

This Lesson Is For You If:

You’re a serious player who wants to shoot better scores

Keegan Pre Shot

Routines

Decisions are like grains of sand – individually they’re small, but enough of them can bury you.  Creating great routines will help eliminate dozens, maybe hundreds, of decisions, and thus unburden your mind.

Pre-Round

Figure out how early you’re going to arrive and what you’re going to do when you get there.  The more precise your plan, the better.  Decide if you want to putt, then hit the driving range, or vice versa.  How long will you spend in each area?  What will you do when you’re there?

Keeping your bag organized is also important – no one likes that agitated, panicky feeling of “Where is my lucky ball marker?!?”  Similarly, know what you like to carry in your pockets and what you like to have in your cart.  When you walk onto the first tee, you should be fully organized – everything in its proper place so that you can focus on hitting shots.

Pre-Shot

Pre-shot routines are frequently discussed, but few players take advantage of having one.  Start by deciding what you want to think about before your shot.  Have a checklist or a process for evaluating the shot and the situation and deciding on a club.

Once you’ve picked a club and a shot, follow a routine for how many practice swings you’ll take, how you’ll set your alignment, and when you will pull the trigger.  Having a routine will not only eliminate decisions, it will also help you to feel relaxed and confident over the ball.

Nutrition & The Turn

One area where routine can help a lot is nutrition.  Decide in advance on your plan for the round: do you want to bring food with you?  Are you good with getting a hot dog at the turn?  Can you rely on the beer cart to bring snacks every few holes?  What kind of food and drinks do you want to consume on the course?

Personally, I always bring a liter bottle of water to the course and refill it any time I get the chance.  I’ve found that drinking soda or energy drinks leads to big swings in my blood sugar which I don’t like.  Food is one area where I could stand to improve my routine.  If I have the chance to play fast, I find that I don’t need anything, but when the round goes 5 hours or more I’m likely to stop at the turn for something that probably isn’t health food.  I would be much better off finding a simple snack that I could bring to the course to munch on throughout the round.

The turn is another area where some advanced planning can cut down on decision making.  The first decision is whether or not to stop.  I hate stopping – I find that it ruins my rhythm – but you may like to take a break, rest, and refresh yourself before the back nine.  If you do stop, are you going to eat?  If so, what kinds of food and drink will help you to play your best?

EPSON MFP image

Pre-Planning

Do you make important life decisions in the heat of the moment, or do you take the time to weigh your options and make informed choices?  If it’s the latter – and I hope it is – you can apply a similar practice to your golfing decisions.

New Courses

Before the internet and Google Maps, playing a new course meant flying by the seat of your pants.  “Is there a hazard over that hill?”  “Does this fairway turn left or right?”  Today, however, there’s no excuse for not having information in advance.  Not only will scouting the course help your score, it’s also a fun way to spend more time on golf.

The first thing to do before heading to a new course is to go to their website.  Many courses provide you with a scorecard, pictures of each hole, aerial views, and some local knowledge.  Some courses are less forthcoming, but you should be able to find a score card at least.  From there, head other to Google Maps and have a look at the place.  Make some notes, based on the scorecard and what you see, about hidden hazards, what clubs you plan to hit off each tee, and the best and worst spots to miss on each hole.  Armed with this knowledge, you’ll have fewer decisions to make, and the ones you do make will be better-informed.

Home Courses

Just because you’re playing a course for the 487th time doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t prepare for it.  Go through the course in your mind and think about each tee shot.  What’s the best club to hit if the wind is in your face?  Does the club change if there’s a tailwind or if it’s still?

Think about each approach shot.  You can’t always pre-plan your club selection, but you can think about pin positions that you want to attack versus pins that you need to stay away from.  Where are the good spots to miss around each green?  Where are the spots that need to be avoided?

Finally, think about the par 5’s.  At what distance is it worth it to go for the green?  Can you go for the green only from the fairway or from certain angles?  If you’re going to lay up, where are you going to lay up to?  Par 5’s involve more decision making than any other hole, but they’re often the holes where we make the worst decisions because of ego.  Make your plan in advance and stick to it.

Jordan Spieth, Michael Greller

Conclusion

Science has shown us that we only have the resources to make a certain number of good decisions in a day.  With planning and routines, you can save those resources for figuring out the best shots and focusing on executing them.  If you leave all your thinking for game day, you can expect that by the back nine, you’ll be making sub-par decisions…and not in a good way.

The following two tabs change content below.

Matt Saternus

Co-Founder, Editor In Chief at PluggedInGolf.com
Matt is a golf instructor, club fitter, and writer living in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Matt's work has been published in Mulligan Magazine, Chicagoland Golf, South Florida Golf, and other golf media outlets. He's also been a featured speaker in the Online Golf Summit and is a member of Ultimate Golf Advantage's Faculty of Experts.

Latest posts by Matt Saternus (see all)

4 Comments

  1. Sound advise. Last year I incorporated a pre-shot routine into every shot/putt throughout my round. Something I never really had before, and something I had to work hard at maintaining.

    The results: Scores consistantly in the low 90’s as opposed to 20 years of averaging 98 – 110. Five strokes better with the same equipment, in one year. It is the same routine Bruce Lietzke uses that I happened to see on a TV show.

  2. Hi Matt,

    I remember asking for decision making advices. This is spot on ! It covers even more than game based decisions.

    Thank you so much for this article and all the brilliant other ones.

    I’ve worked my way from mid-90s struggling to break 80s last year to consistent low-80s this year. Breaking it this year is now only a matter of time, all thanks to these precious advices of yours.

    Martin

  3. A great article Matt. I definitely suffer with mental fatigue especially if its hot or the round is slow 4 and a half hours plus.
    This year I have started putting a pint of whey protein shake in my bag, I starting drinking it at the turn, it does seem to help. I have also just put a stress ball in my bag, so while I am waiting for the group in front I squeeze the ball. I’ve learned never to stand on a tee while the group in front are on the fairway or green, I wait beside the tee or in my buggy. Keep focused is so important to me if I switch just for a moment the double will appear as sure as day follows night!

    • Matt Saternus

      Paul,

      The idea of staying off the tee box when waiting is a great one. It’s akin to staying out of bed except for sleep.

      Best,

      Matt

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*