PGAs of EuropePsychology – PGAs of Europe Home of the PGAE Thu, 23 Nov 2017 23:35:13 +0000 en-gb hourly 1 Growth Mindset Culture Wed, 25 Oct 2017 08:16:23 +0000 Train Ugly The USA Women’s Volleyball Team has been one of the best at applying growth mindset into their team culture...]]>

The USA Women’s Volleyball Team has been one of the best at applying growth mindset into their team culture. 

Their staff explains how they do it:

This interview was the inspiration behind The Growth Mindset Playbook (a page dedicated to laying out the best ways to teach and implement growth mindset).

I’d like to give a huge S/O to Karch and his staff for being so incredible these past few years – I can’t explain how much they’ve helped the Train Ugly mission!

If you’d like to see the crew in action and learn more about their approaches, check out:


Growth Mindset Culture
How to Keep Your Brain Sharp Wed, 27 Sep 2017 12:43:11 +0000 Coaching4Careers Coaching 4 Careers reveal 4 ways you can keep your brain sharp to preserve healthy cognitive function and sharpness across all the right areas...]]>

The brain. The body’s most powerful organ. Only a brain surgeon could fully understand its inner workings or how it does what it does. One thing’s for sure, though: you’ll miss it when it’s gone.

With Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia on the rise, ‘brain-training’ is very much in vogue among retirees and younger whippersnappers alike. As game developers have been quick to appreciate, preserving healthy cognitive function means maintaining sharpness across all the right areas, from memory and recall to problem solving and planning. There’s enough there for a bi-annual upgrade and then some.

Video games aside, there are plenty of equally as efficient but less costly ways to keep your grey matter firing on all cylinders. Here are some top tips for successful cerebral conservation:

1. Learn something new

Be it the cello, Ancient Greek or Chinese calligraphy, teaching yourself a new skill is a great way to keep the old brain cells ticking over. A recent study of retirees showed that a challenging mental activity one a week reduced the risk of dementia by 7%.

2. Get physical

Work the rest of your body while you’re at it. Research suggests that 30 minutes of exercise three times each week can reduce dementia by 40% and cognitive impairment by 60%. The secondary benefits should also be obvious.

3. Food for thought

You don’t need a PHD in nutrition to know some foods are better for the brain than others. Indulge in vegetables, nuts and fish – staples of the Mediterranean diet that promote blood-flow to the brain. Drink plenty of water and stay off the junk food!

4. Take a load off

From catching enough ‘Z’s each night to meditative techniques, giving your brain some much-needed down time is essential in reducing wear and tear. It will also help you maintain skills such as problem solving, concentration and memory. Aim for 7.5 to 8.5 hours a night for optimum brain function.

Whether happily retired or gainfully employed, whatever your age, looking after the stuff upstairs should be a top priority. The good news is that keeping your neurotransmitters nimble needn’t cost the earth and can slot fairly easily into your day-to-day lifestyle.

This content appears courtesy of Abintegro, experts in career management, transition technology & e-learning for today’s modern, mobile and technology-savvy workforce – Find out more at

Credit: Forbes;; Time


How to Keep Your Brain Sharp
The Player – Psychologist Relationship: Working With Practitioners at the Highest Level Thu, 22 Jun 2017 13:58:57 +0000 Dr. Brian Hemmings What lessons can be learned about creating a successful, effective team of practicioners around an elite performer?]]>

European Tour Professional, Seve Benson, and sports psychologist, Dr. Brian Hemmings, have established a successful professional relationship that has lasted well over a decade.

IGPN spoke to Brian and Seve to find out more about how they work together and what lessons can be learned about creating a successful, effective team of practicioners around an elite performer.

Becoming an Effective Part of a Player’s Team

How did your working relationship come about?

SEVE: Our relationship began when I was a young lad playing for England. Brian was the England squad psychologist when I was about 17.

BRIAN: I remember seeing his name and like many people I thought it was misspelt.  So that was noticeable at first in terms of his name but I remember meeting him as a what was really a young boy of 15 and of course now he’s in his late 20s.

What sort of work did you do at first?

BRIAN: It would of been a typical session with a young junior golfer on the fringe of England recognition with ‘boys’ – what you’re trying to do is get to know somebody and how they approach the game because we’re all different.  Then largely it’s individually based – so for some people it might be very much on putting work and with others it might be their approach off the course.

But for a lot of young golfers, there are their own expectations of how far they want to go in the game and it’s very competitive in the game from a very early age.  What I probably recall from Seve…would be something about expectations of yourself, and of trying to forge a career in the game.


What has your working relationship entailed?

BRIAN: Seve’s always been a quiet individual, keeping himself to himself…I think sometimes with players, when they’re quiet they can be deemed to be unconfident but I would say Seve had quite a quiet assurance about him, which he’s always had.

SEVE: Working with Brian for this length of time has been a real joy.  He has always kept me focused on the process of what I am doing.  After working together for a long time he has become a great friend.  We meet on pretty much an ad-hoc basis from time-to-time and after seeing Brian I’m always left with a sense of calmness, which I love.

BRIAN: The beauty of working with somebody over that extended period of time is that you see him or her through so many psychological transitions – not just in terms of their game, but also as a person going from a young boy into a young adult.  Then they’re developing long-term relationships off the course in terms of their partner, along with other transitions such as buying houses…and all the things that we probably don’t think much about when we look at sportspeople play golf.

At the same time you’re cautious about the fact that you’re not their friend.  When you’ve known somebody for 14 years you get to know them very well but it’s a professional relationship, it’s not a personal friendship relationship.  Therefore we’re both quite disciplined in that way that it retains a professional sense whilst it is in a friendly way.

How do you manage these influential factors with players like Seve?

BRIAN: Work with any player is very individually-based if it’s going to be the most effective because you’re trying to establish a very unique relationship – what makes a player unique, what’s their way of thinking about the game, and how can you remind them of those things when there might be a sense to search for something that’s going to be more effective.

So we retain contact only maybe by text before and after a tournament. When he’s home for a reasonable stretch of time we try and meet up either at Wentworth where he’s based or more locally to me.

Then it’s very much in the moment about what’s on his mind – is it a performance issue or is it somewhere else in terms of lifestyle or his approach that he’s maybe lost his focus – it really comes from him.

SEVE: Since a young age, Brian has helped me to become very strong mentally and cope with any situation that may arise on the golf course.  I think that as time has gone on our relationship has improved and Brian knows how I tick so when something comes up in my game we can deal with it really effectively.


Brian, you’ve seen Seve through all of these various stages of development – is that a challenge to get background and relationship bond with players when you first begin working with them?

BRIAN: Yes, in new relationships getting to know one another, getting to know how someone thinks about their game, their particular issues or the demands/pressures at that point, gets easier as you get to know people.  But by and large, in sports psychology, they’re actually more short term relationships – people come to you with a specific issue and that may last as little as one or two sessions, six sessions, or over six months, but is more fleeting.  I think that this is where it is different from a PGA Professional because although players do change coaches my experience is that they generally do have a bit more longevity than a sports psych.

[Sports psychologist] relationships are generally more fleeting and therefore there’s more pressure on you to be effective over a short period of time, whereas with somebody such as Seve or a longer-term relationship, there’s a sense that you can get into other areas that perhaps they wouldn’t think are performance-related by getting to know the person better.

What is it about Seve and others that set them apart?

BRIAN: They’re all very different in their approach…but my observations of working with the amateur-professional transition in the English game would be that they invest in themselves.

So at National coaching level there would be a number of technical coaches with specialist areas, a physio, strength and conditioning people, and one of the difficulties for players when they turn professional is that all of a sudden that team largely drops off because they’re not at your beck and call as a national squad player.

So all of a sudden the support structure that you’ve experienced and the edges in performance through sports science or through certain technical coaching is no longer there.

I think that when you speak to people who have made ineffective transitions, you find that their team completely dispersed and they really suffered as a result of that.

Whereas I think that with people like Seve, Danny [Willett], Chris [Wood], what they did very well was that they still invested in themselves.  So at a time when perhaps money might have been at a bit more of a premium, they still tried to retain as many people of that core team as they could.

SEVE: I think my professionalism, relentless work ethic and commitment to the game are my strong points.  But they all come from the fact that I’ve always focused on, and invested in, the mental side of my game and made sure I put the effort in to maintain what I’m doing.

Because I’ve known Brian for a while and specifically since I was young, he’s helped me to mature as a person and become very professional in what I do.  We also spent a lot of time in the past looking at goal setting so our work has helped me become very clear on how to achieve those goals.


Brian, how do you fit into Seve’s coaching team?

BRIAN: I’m very rarely at tournaments, the European Tour is obviously a world-based tour now so there’s the cost implications of [travelling to events].  And also I think Seve is ‘low maintenance’ so I don’t think there’s a need for that a lot of the time.

Generally I’ll try and see him play a couple of times a year – clearly the UK ones this year, Wentworth and Woburn, are the easiest, and that’s more observationally.  As I say to him, I’m not looking to intervene at that point; it’s really an observational point to see how he operates because a large amount of his work is based on his reflections.  Also of course there’s a chance at that point to interact more with his team – he has a world-class coach in Pete Cowen, he works with Justin Buckthorp who works with Justin Rose and a number of other players in terms of his strength and conditioning, and I get a chance to meet with his caddie.

He works with Phil Kenyon on a week-to-week basis out on tour…so it gives me a great chance to catch up with their work and the putting work I am doing with him to make sure it’s in accordance with them.

So to get the views of other people who are closely involved with him in terms of their observations on maybe his improvement or areas where there could be more improvement is very useful.

So that’s how it works, but otherwise when Seve gets back after a series of tournaments we’ll either catch up face-to-face or by Skype, FaceTime or phone, whatever’s the most convenient to him.


How do you make yourself an effective part of Seve’s team and manage his expectations of what you hope to do?

BRIAN: There are many sports psychologists that would emphasise the content of interventions and ‘this is what you do’, and often there’s a lot of ‘yes, this technique will enable you to do x, y, and z’.  I’ve always approached it from a slightly different way – I’ve always recognised that the relationship is of primary importance.  So, as somebody begins to trust you and you build rapport with them, the relationship is in a sense also how you help people change their views or beliefs, or how they approach a certain situation.

So I always put great emphasis on the importance of the relationship with any player.  As it is with Seve, that’s easier to say as I’ve known him a long time.

The second part of it is that I try to be open to his needs at whatever point he is at.  Sometimes players give you that themselves.

I would like to think that sometimes I challenge his way of thinking when I think it is unproductive to him, or I present a different story to him that could be equally valid based on his experiences.

Let’s say in terms of expectations, in terms of your progress through the game, you could write a story where you say ‘well Seve’s never won on tour’.  He’s won as a professional, but like many people he hasn’t won on tour yet. They’ll be other people who will say ‘well Seve should have won by now’.  Now of course if that creeps in to your thinking that can put you under enormous pressure.

Where as an equally valid story is to say ‘well actually year on year he’s improving and whether he wins or not is not entirely down to him’.  It’s down to how in any given week, the rest of the field also perform.

SEVE: It’s really important to have a good team of people around you.  I would say that the team would each need to be open-minded and have minimal egos – that way they can work effectively for the player.


With thanks to Brian Hemmings, Seve Benson (@SeveBenson) and Northampton Golf Club (

The Player – Psychologist Relationship: Working With Practitioners at the Highest Level
Moments of Mastery – How Coaches Can Build Belief Thu, 01 Jun 2017 13:30:34 +0000 Corey Lundberg & Matt Wilson of Curious Coaches In golf, there are the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. The ‘haves’ possess the required skills to excel on the course, along with the key: self-belief...]]>

In golf, there are the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.  Not only do the ‘haves’ possess the required skill set to excel on the course, they also have the secret ingredient that truly separates them from their less-successful counterparts: self-belief.

This topic came up as we were recently discussing the results of some of our competitive clients.  It seemed we kept coming back to this commonality in describing our students who were experiencing the most success.  Obviously, they perform well because they are all highly skilled, but the players that seem to have an unwavering belief in their abilities– keep achieving— sometimes even beyond the level that their current skills would predict.

We love the queued up clip below of the current World Number 1 communicating an amazing sense of belief in himself and his abilities.

“They had no chance.”

“Who’s playing for second place?”

This steadfast outlook on his ability to perform manifests itself in a few key characteristics:

  • a willingness to take on meaningful challenges
  • a propensity to exert maximum effort in training
  • a persistence in the face of setbacks

These traits allow the self believers to navigate the ups and downs of golf and better manage the stress inherent within competitive golf.  Psychologist and motivation expert, Albert Bandura, referred to this belief as Self Efficacy. Here is how he describes performers with high self efficacy:

Alternatively, we sometimes encounter highly skilled and technically proficient players who lack this Self Efficacy. They approach competition with anxiety rather than the exhilaration.  These are the players who, despite having robust skills, aren’t able to parlay them into maximum output. How often do you see a player approach their performance with trepidation and expectations that are not in alignment with what they are capable of? Why is that?

It may seem obvious, but so much effort is spent on refining skill and technique that it’s easy to omit this essential component to performance from our lesson plans.  And sometimes it’s worse than merely omitting— sometimes we prepare for an event in a way that inhibits self-efficacy and belief.  Spending too much time on technique in our interactions leading up to an event rarely fuels a belief in their skills ‘as-is’.  Instead, this approach may allow for a bit of doubt to creep in as the performer wonders what iteration of their mechanics will show up when it counts.  This is a really difficult roadblock to avoid, especially if performance wanes in the lead up to an event.

So how can we build belief?

One of the most difficult things to do, as coaches, is to persuade a performer to believe more in their abilities. And that’s because players need something more tangible– to see it, not just hear it. They need proof. While we certainly try to build it and protect it through how we communicate— ultimately that belief has to be earned.

In our experience, the best source of Self Belief is the memory of previous accomplishments. To that end, we work closely with players to build a success inventory – a storage box of instances that demonstrate to the player, that they are capable to excelling in a variety of situations.

Think of an athlete who struggles to perform.  If we know the person well, and know what they need to be successful, we can get pretty creative in creating situations where these accomplishments can be earned – and their memory bank can get filled.

Through reflection, we found a very common pattern – the occasions in which the people we work with reported the most confidence and performed best in events, closely matched the time in which we presented them with tasks aligned most closely with the ‘Build Efficacy’ quadrant of our Task Design Matrix.

These tasks – ‘Moments of Mastery’ – allowed the athletes to train in similar-to-play conditions under  achievable outcome demands.

In looking closer at the anatomy of a Moment of Mastery, our end goal is to craft a task that creates assurance for the athlete– once complete, they know their skill is on-point and ready.  We want them to be able to recognize a situation and refer back to the training they have completed and know, with great certainty, that their skill set is more than capable of producing the outcomes that they want – and need – in that circumstance.  This performance state serves as a stark contrast to the uncommitted, uncertain performer who just isn’t sure if they can pull a certain shot off.  If that’s the perceived belief, they SHOULD be nervous and anxious!

Although it sounds simple, there is an art to it.  Knowing how hard the task needs to be to get them engaged and exerting effort while also keeping the difficulty at a level that is likely to produce a successful performance is quite difficult, as it is often a moving target and a very thin line to walk.  However, it is the means by which this ‘swagger’ is earned, and it is something that expert coaches are able to do with practice and careful planning.

This is obviously made more difficult when the player attempts to create a Moment of Mastery with a technique that isn’t producing the desired results.  That’s when, as coaches, we have to scale difficulty and possibly even put certain aspects of technique in isolation, so the performer can mentally ‘check the box’ and move on.  While this ‘isolation’ technique may not align with how a player best learns in the long-term– it’s worth doing at times if we know it will have a positive effect on their perceived competence.  For an example of successful players training his way, visit the putting green of any tour event Mon-Tue and witness players going through their technique checks with any number of training aids in a noticeably superficial environment.

On these occasions, we prefer a stable, unrepresentative setting despite the stigma that often comes with these ‘blocked practice’ activities.  If, in that moment, it will help an athlete believe in themselves more, we won’t hesitate to go there.  Even if it’s a bit manufactured and unrepresentative– skill acquisition science be damned!


There are two things that we need to be aware of when designing Moments of Mastery.

  • The goal is to boost a player’s perception of their ability to be successful under the gun.
  • The boost comes from them being able witness their success in the first person, repeatedly.

With those action items in mind, we need to provide a task that has three distinct characteristics:

  • Low to moderate relative difficulty.
  • A like-golf environment.
  • Repetition.

These three aspects of the training task – difficulty, instability, and time on task – work together to create an environment that has the potential to inspire motivation and perception of one’s abilities as it offers the possibility for the performer to be successful, in similar-to-play situations, often. Provided the outcome standard that governs success is in alignment with their skill set, these tasks serve as a catalyst to the creation of confidence.  Here is an example:




In this instance, the athlete received certainty that what he is training, he is able to recall when he needs it and that the outcomes are very good.  Again, it sounds very simple, but the more we can create these moments, the more moments of success they have in the memory bank to reference during competition.

In addition to providing opportunities to see success, we can further promote their sense of ‘I-Can-Do-It-ness’ by keeping track of their performance.  Logging skills assessments or statistics, can show tangible proof of progress against early versions of themselves.  What will happen to the athlete in the screencast after we point out a drill that at one time seemed very difficult, but now they complete with ease?  This is another great source for self-belief— it’s a great way to promote their sense of ‘I-Can-Do-It-ness.’

While we don’t claim to be sports psychologists– we realize that our interactions need to impact performance state in equal measure to skill.  Exploring the motivational and psychological underpinnings of how we coach and train should be a priority for all coaches.  Luckily there are experts in golf like Pia Nilsson, Lynn Marriott, Dr. Bhrett McCabe, and Dr. Rick Jensen who share their insights generously.

If you feel researching this topic could improve your coaching– our friend Cordie Walker is putting on the Unlocking Performance Virtual Summit.  Some of the brightest minds in golf, including the ones listed above, will be sharing their thoughts.  We would highly recommend checking it out!

Another great source is James Sieckmann’s new book, Your Putting Solution.  Not only does he cover the technical components of putting in comprehensive detail, but the second half of the book is essentially a master class in how to coach, build belief, and train more effectively.

And after you check out those great resources, we hope you’ll engage us in further investigating this topic in the comment section.  What activities do you use to create similar ‘Moments of Mastery’?  Describe a task that you use that seems to evoke a strong sense of ‘I can do it’ from your students.  We would love to compile a database that we can all learn from and use in our coaching.


Moments of Mastery – How Coaches Can Build Belief
Changing Limiting Beliefs: Do You Focus On Your Character Or Your Reputation? Tue, 30 May 2017 15:21:56 +0000 Dr. Brian Hemmings The great American basketball coach John Wooden once said that sportsmen and sportswomen should focus more on their character rather than on their reputation...]]>

The great American basketball coach John Wooden once said that sportsmen and sportswomen should focus more on their character rather than on their reputation. Wooden remarked that character was ‘what you are’, whereas reputation was merely ‘what others think you are’. 

In nearly two decades of working in golf with PGA Professionals and elite players I hear a lot about pressure and see where coaches and players become overly worried about their ‘reputation’ rather than knowing and trusting in their own ‘character’.  Here I witness the limiting beliefs people have about themselves and the perceived consequences of poor results.

Often players will underperform because they feel pressure about how they might be viewed by others if they fail.  This can also affect coaches as they sometimes feel their own reputation is determined by the performance of those they coach, when in reality performance has so many variables, and the coach only contributes in specific ways.

In essence being overly concerned about your reputation creates instability as it is not under your control as it involves the perceptions of others.

Knowing the impact of limiting beliefs should give you the motivation you need to change them for yourself or to help players when you sense this is an issue. A healthy belief puts you into the right frame to have the best chance of success. It is also true that negative beliefs and thoughts have a huge impact on performance, so if we find it difficult to be positive then we must at least learn ways of managing negative thinking to keep it to a minimum and hence give ourselves a chance.

In the previous two articles I have written about the need for effective listening in coaching. Particular words to look out for are must, should and got. For instance, ‘I must make the cut; ‘I should beat this opponent’; or ‘I’ve got to win’. These words reveal very rigid, inflexible beliefs and create unnecessary pressure as they result in patterns of ‘all or nothing’ negative thinking.   It is much better to frame performance beliefs with a prefer approach.  For example, ‘I’d prefer to make the top ten’.


Often these beliefs hinder players’ views of themselves, their golf, and of their potential success.   So in future improve your coaching by listening carefully to the words your players use. They will reveal much about their thinking patterns and the performances that follow.

Changing Limiting Beliefs: Do You Focus On Your Character Or Your Reputation?
What’s in your Coaching Toolbox? Increasing Your Knowledge, Client Base & Income Tue, 16 May 2017 23:33:31 +0000 Dr. Brian Hemmings Dr Brian Hemmings looks at 'Reflective Coaching' and ensuring your knowledge is appropriate for your clients' needs...]]>

‘If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.’

Abraham Maslow

When players start to look ahead to a new season they are often conscious of renewing efforts to develop their games and achieve their goals.  The difficulty is that players of all standards will often not be specific enough in any practice they do.

Maslow’s famous quote applied to golf implies that if players don’t develop different tools/shots in their game, their development is likely to stagnate as they are likely to always approach situations on the course in the same way. Of course this could also be applied to course management skills and decision-making on the course.

The same could equally be applied to golf coaches and teaching professionals (and psychologists). Broadening one’s knowledge and skill set enables us to consider more variables when trying to improve the performance or enjoyment of the golfers we work with. Therefore, it is important that any coach considers what specific coaching education they might need in order to progress their repertoire of skills, their coaching achievements, the players they work with, or to increase their income.

Therefore, take time to reflect what is in your coaching toolbox? Do you always reach the same conclusions with players and find yourself repeating the same instructions? Coaches in other sports are encouraged to engage in regular ‘reflective practice’ to self-assess their effectiveness. These questions might prompt where your ‘toolbox’ is limited.

Reflective Coaching Questions

  • What happened in that coaching session?
  • What were you thinking and feeling?
  • What was good and bad about the session?
  • What sense did you make of the player’s progress?
  • What else could you have done?
  • If the same situation arose again what would you do?

To return to developing a player’s toolbox, a suggestion might be trying a ‘shot of the month’ short-term goal-setting task to focus their coaching, efforts and practise over the coming months.

This simply requires you discuss with players the goals they have for the coming year, and what limitations they may have that could be improved on each month.  This is not to say all other coaching work stops, but it is usually helpful to target one particular shot in a realistic timeframe. Identify the most important shots or skills, measure their current success in some way, and then agree the thrust of coaching, technical instruction and practice that month to improve that particular shot.

A simple re-test or re-measurement at the end of the month should hopefully show better execution/results and therefore more confidence going into the season.

JanuaryChip from the Fringe(e.g. currently 50% finish within 4 feet) FebruaryGreenside Bunker Play
MarchMid-Range Putting April30-40 Yard Pitch Shot
What’s in your Coaching Toolbox? Increasing Your Knowledge, Client Base & Income
Coaching Confidence: 3 Ways to Help Players Pre-Tournament Tue, 16 May 2017 13:03:45 +0000 Jonathan Bint Coaching at tournament sites or in the lead up to tournaments can provide unique challenges for coaches - Jonathan Bint explains more...]]>

“I found something on the range”. A typical quote that you hear from time to time from players who have just shot great rounds in tournament golf.

Coaching at tournament sites or coaching players in the time leading up to tournaments can provide unique challenges for coaches; from dealing with pre-competition anxiety or working with a player who is convinced they need to be ‘patched up’.

In my experience, knowledge of the mental challenges that a player may be experiencing tends to (not surprisingly) be aligned to what experiences the coach themselves has had with tournament play. This is not necessarily a bad thing (depending on the coach’s experience) but what I’ve tried to do below is highlight some general factors from a psychological perspective that might help your coaching in pre-tournament situations.

Coach the situation

Why will a player come to see you close to competition? I’d be willing to bet that the majority of lessons arranged (with existing coach-player relationships) within a week leading up to a competition are by players looking for a fix of some kind due after poor recent performances.

The tendency in such moments might be to over-coach or get sucked in to the player’s dilemma whilst the situation calls for something completely different.  A strong coach has an acute awareness of these situations and has an ability to remind the player of the longer journey, to show evidence of progress made to date, to listen well and to simplify and refine rather than introduce new ideas.

Take some time to think about your tendencies in these situations. Do you get drawn in to the player’s ‘problem’? At these times pay attention to the bigger-picture: What are the factors that may be impacting on the player? What do you need to filter to be effective?

Comedian and Counsellor

Away from technical expertise one of the main tools a coach has is his or her ability to communicate.

At tournament sites or close to tournaments in many ways a coach becomes much more like a counsellor or psychologist. How you relate to the player in these circumstances can directly influence how the player feels, which in turn can impact on performance.

The image I have of Butch Harmon working with players around tournament sites is one of jokes and laughter not heavy technical work. I’m not suggesting you need to turn into a comedian to be effective but a greater awareness of how your tone and words can impact on a player will be useful.

Being open to simply listen intently as a player talks through concerns may sometimes be most useful for the player at this time. Don’t under-estimate the impact this can have.

Also near competition it’s worth reminding the player how far they’ve come to get to this point. What specific progress have they made? The current tournament is always the next measurement post rather than a final exam. Playing ‘down’ the current tournament is nearly always helpful for golfers.

Always seek to gently adjust the player to the playing environment, from a technical mentality to a playing mentality. This may go against your natural instincts as a coach. Help the player adjust by providing tournament scenarios (“now you’re on the 6th tee”) while reminding them that they have some of the feelings associated with tournament play will help them play better and should be embraced rather than feared.


‘Giving’ a player confidence

The coach who could pass on confidence like a magic pill would command great power in the world of golf. Confidence or lack of is probably the most used explanation for if a player is playing well or poorly.

There is a great mystique about how confidence can come and go for players. “If only I could have had the confidence I had last week”. The idea that someone else can give or pass on confidence is a bit misleading but knowing a little more how a player obtains confidence is a useful tool for any coach.

Roughly speaking, confidence derives from a few factors: being prepared (and feeling like you are more prepared than others you are competing against), a track record of quality practice (and a perception that you’ve practiced better than peers); having the experience of beating a similar group of players that you’ll be competing against, use of competition specific imagery, running through scenarios that you may face within the competition; being able to use self-talk for reinforcement; and being able to perceive high arousal as helpful.

Obviously, the confidence ‘recipe’ is complex and will be different for each player but in general the following ‘rules’ should help coaches facilitate feelings of being confident in the players they are helping:

  1. The closer to tournaments the more simple instructions should be.
  2. Remind players to focus their efforts on controllable factors; praise and encourage a player to take pride in doing the simple things well.
  3. When reminding players of successes use fact-based evidence. Confidence doesn’t feed off half-truths or hopes.
  4. Take time to check in with player for understanding? How does the player understand what you’ve just said? Uncertainty is a confidence killer.
  5. Help the player adjust to a performance mind-set; use language that will remind a player to be target focused and playful rather than analytical.
Coaching Confidence: 3 Ways to Help Players Pre-Tournament
The Difference Between Winning & Losing with Jon Stabler & Dr. Deborah Graham Thu, 27 Apr 2017 08:53:32 +0000 Golf Science Lab Golf Science Lab, Jon Stabler & Dr. Deborah Graham look at personality traits and what we can learn by separating those that win and those that don't...]]>

We’re going to take a look at personality traits and see what we can learn by seeing what separates the elite golfers (who can win) and those that don’t. Our guests have done the testing only directly with players on the LPGA, PGA, and Champions Tour players.

We keep treating people like a machine, and we don’t address the controller.

If you don’t have control of yourself, your thoughts and your level of arousal, you have no chance.

The 8 Trait Study

Dr. Deborah Graham set out to see if there was a difference between the frequent winners and the other LPGA tour players in terms of personality traits.

She had them take the Cattell 16PF personality test and then took data on each players’ career record. Creating groups of the ‘frequent winners’, and then she had a ‘near champion’ group, who had won once or twice but been on tour for a while, and a ‘non-champion’ group who’d been on tour a long time and never won.

Then using statistical analysis software she analyzed and compared the groups and compared them by personality traits. The analysis said that on eight of the personality traits, the ‘frequent winner’ group was different from the other two groups, and the level of statistical distinction was at the 95th percentile and above. On the 9th trait compared, the level of statistical distinction dropped down to the 60th percentile.

The difference between the champions and the other players is night and day. The champion group lines up on these traits and the other players do not. Those eight traits existed; Dr. Deborah discovered them.

A Case Study

(From Jon Stabler) Gary McCord had known us for quite a while, in fact he had us consult on Tin Cup. When he turned 49, he’d been commentating already for a while, he liked it, life was good but he wanted to take advantage of the opportunity the senior tour presented. He wanted to play, but he didn’t want to change his life. He didn’t want to give up the commentating, he didn’t want to go into a major effort to get ready and came to us for help.

A little back story on Gary, he played 376 PGA tour events in his PGA tour career, he made 242 cuts, no wins.

After we got the results back of his assessment, it became somewhat obvious where his challenges were. He only lined up on two of the eight champion traits. He was off the mark on the other six, but there were two of those, one in particular that was the most damaging.

He measured very high on the abstract scale. The frequent winners on tour do not. They only measure slightly above average on the abstract side of the scale. His biggest challenge is quieting his mind and making a decision he can commit to in a short amount of time.

The old cliché is ‘paralysis by analysis.’

On tour, if you are the first to hit, you have 40 seconds by the time you get to the ball. You can’t think about all the options. You have to come to a decision pretty quickly and play the shot. If you are over the ball and still thinking about what you are supposed to do and what you need to do and think about whether you have the right target or whether you have the right shot, or making adjustments because the wind just came up, there is no way you are going to hit the ball well.

Once he understood that, he was able to keep it simple, game plan the night before, so all the thinking is done when in a more relaxed state. Secondly, listen to your intuition. What we found is that people high in the abstracts scale have really good intuition or first impressions. Go with the first impression. Don’t over-think it. Thirdly, on the putting green, read the putts from behind and below the hole and then stop. Don’t second-guess it, don’t go to the other side of the hole, it will just give you too much information, you’ll get confused.

With that work and basic mental routine information, Gary was able to go out and win in the rookie year on the senior tour.

He won 2 out 17 events with the same guys he couldn’t beat on the regular tour.


About Jon Stabler

Jon Stabler is co-founder of GolfPsych. Along with being a co-researcher and co-author in the personality study of golfers and the resulting book, “The Eight Traits of Champion Golfers”, Jon has developed and conducts our GolfPsych group schools and Instructor training programs. He has worked with numerous competitive juniors, pros and college teams including TCU, SMU, A&M and Baylor.

Jon invented the Mind Meter used in GolfPsych schools & programs. It enables GolfPsych clients to quickly learn to manage emotions and attain optimum tension levels for golf shots.

About Dr Deborah Graham

Dr. Deborah Graham is a licensed Counseling Psychologist specializing in golf performance. Working with professional and amateur golfers from around the world, her client list includes over 380 players on the PGA, LPGA and Champions Tours, 21 of which she helped guide to 31 major championships. She was recently chosen by Golf Digest to their first Top 10 Sport Psychologists in Golf list!

Beginning in 1981 with a study of LPGA players she determined the statistical differences between champion and average players on tour, collecting data with the assistance of LPGA hall of fame member, Carol Mann. The findings helped earn her doctorate and discovered 8 critical personality traits for success in golf. This study was duplicated on the PGA and SR. PGA tours with the assistance of her husband, Jon Stabler, again finding the 8 champion traits and forming the foundation of the GolfPsych mental game training system. These studies and their Tour experience resulted in their book, “The Eight Traits of Champion Golfers”, published by Simon and Schuster in 1999.

The Difference Between Winning & Losing with Jon Stabler & Dr. Deborah Graham
Lessons That Matter – Junior Coaching & its Meaningful Impact on Young People Wed, 12 Apr 2017 15:10:28 +0000 Corey Lundberg & Matt Wilson of Curious Coaches The Curious Coaches discuss whether it is a requisite or just a coincidence that those seemingly naturally happy coaches gravitate towards junior golf?]]>

As I meet more and more coaches, I have begun to notice a common denominator among a certain group – junior golf coaches.  All the best ones seem to be relentlessly cheerful while radiating their passion for growing the game and working with young athletes.  Why are they so positive and upbeat all the time?!

Mull it over for a second.  Think about the best junior golf coach that you know and test my theory.  I’m pretty confident it holds up.

Is it a requisite or just a coincidence that those seemingly naturally happy coaches gravitate towards junior golf?  Or perhaps it’s a result, a natural by-product of the positive work they do making a meaningful impact on the lives of young people.  These coaches do work that matters.

Everyday they connect with an impressionable student at a critical time of their development as people and golfers.  Subsequently, it seems that these expert junior coaches adopt an approach far different than what is common from their adult instructing counterparts.

Because the typical adult student seeks instruction with very specific directives concerning a fix or a flaw, the attention and efforts are focused there– say, fixing a slice.  But a junior golf coach is tasked with much more than fixing.

Their curriculum extends beyond ‘How to Golf’ and encompasses a far richer set of topics:

  • How to learn
  • How to deal with adversity
  • How to win
  • How to fail and it’s impact on the learning process
  • How to interact with others and it’s impact on performance, enjoyment, and learning
  • How to practice
  • How to play by the rules and value sportsmanship
  • How to play, not just on the course, but to deepen learning and increase enjoyment

The list goes on, an expert junior coach could expand upon that list for days.  And that’s not to say that some coaches don’t implement similar curriculum in all their lessons, its just that these types of lessons are especially expected in developing young golfers.

About half of my coaching time is spent with young athletes.  While I love coaching all golfers, my time with the juniors is certainly the most gratifying.  I feel like I’m making a difference and living up to every coach’s most paramount mission: enriching lives. So as I’ve pondered the fundamental differences in coaching these two groups, I have begun to ask myself a question — ‘If it’s so gratifying, why have I not been approaching EVERY golf lesson with the same mindset?!’

As soon as I leave the juniors and begin a lesson with an adult golfer, my mindset shifts drastically.  Instead of striving to serve as LIFE ENRICH-ER, I too often become ‘INFORMATION TRANSFERRER’.  Not quite the same ring to it.

Can a lesson in which the teacher acts exclusively as a transferrer of information ever really matter? The slice or the hook might disappear, but the precious opportunity to make an impact on another human may be lost.  If all we do is spout our vast knowledge of the golf swing and its various subtopics, is it possible to really make an impact?  Does your time spent coaching really matter?

Maybe the shift in mindset occurs because expectations from our adult students are so different.  Both coach and student have many years of indoctrination of what a lesson should look like.  But while the pupils may come with different life experience and expectations, what would a typical lesson look like if the ‘Junior Golf Mindset’ was applied?

What if the goal was always to enrich a life, not just fix a slice?

Here are a few concepts that allow a great junior coach to make a lasting impact on students.  To me, they represent cornerstones of what I see as an effective Junior Golf Mindset.  As you read through the various elements, ask yourself if you approach things the same way in every lesson or if it changes depending on the age of your student.


If you visit your favorite junior golf coach on the lesson tee, you might have to lower your eye level.  They know that getting down on the same level as the junior golfer is an effective way to connect and communicate.  While the adult golfer may not require the same kneel down manoeuvre, too many coaches fail to make an authentic connection.  Connection can be sacrificed for credibility.  With kids, your authority is assumed, it comes with the title.  So for some, with an adult it’s more important to be seen as the authority than to make the authentic connection that creates trust and acceptance within the learning environment.

Discovery and Empowerment.

Because nothing will bore a group of 10 year-olds quite like an hour-long lecture on ball flight laws, we are forced to get creative with young athletes.  Instead of telling them, we show them.  We have them experiment and explore.  Their shorter attention span forces us to allow students to experience new concepts, not just be told about them.  This experience lends itself to a deeper understanding that empowers them to self-coach.

Failures and judgement.

When a fragile young ego is on the lesson tee, we approach failure far different than we do with adults.  We frame failure as a positive part of the learning process.  They’re young; we expect them to mess up as they go.  Yet for adults, failures can sometime seem unacceptable.  Our interactions lack the same compassion that seems so much easier to exhibit for our younger students.  We don’t deal with failures as delicately, yet adults are just as affected by the judgement and disappointment accompanied by a perceived failure.  Too much emphasis is placed on immediate results without respecting or embracing the role of failure in the developmental process.

Fun and Games.

I end every one of our junior sessions with a game.  For the juniors, it’s a light and fun way to apply the lessons of the day.  But it’s also an essential step in bridging the gap between understanding and performance.  The benefits of implementing challenges and an opportunity for ‘play’ in all lessons are abundant: maximize the enjoyment factor, increase the likelihood that students transfer new skills to the course, and introduce effective practice habits.

Long Term Learning.

Obviously we approach juniors with a more long-term approach.  After all, we have more time, right?  The sky is the limit and skill and ability seems so malleable at that early phase of growth.  We focus on establishing a solid foundation of fundamentals from which our juniors can develop skills.  Emphasis is placed on educating the golfer about an effective learning process, not on urgent solutions that are often unsustainable for golfers who seek a quick fix.  What if we approached every student with the same sense of possibility and hope?


With a 6 year old, you don’t have many options when it comes to demonstrating a new motor skill.  Every concept has to be distilled down the most fundamental idea.  Instructions have to be succinct  but vivid.  The possibility of overwhelming students with a litany complex instruction and information disappears simply because it’s no longer an option.

Think back to that happy-go-lucky junior golf coach.  Maybe they’re so happy because they approach each lesson with the fascination and creativity that is inherent in working with young people.

After examining these ideas, it’s easy to see that those coaches are on to something.  While they leave it to the rest of us to argue and trivially debate the finer technical points of the golf swing, they go out and make a difference everyday.  And the very same mindset that allows them to enrich lives, makes them more effective coaches!

If the same attitude is applied to coaching students of all ages, more effective lessons are inevitable.  And it’s more fun to boot!  Instead of just spewing information, each day is approached with creativity and passion.

Every lesson would matter.

Maybe the concepts above are unique to my own experience.  I’m anxious to hear thoughts from others on the subject, I have a feeling that I’m not alone.  Please feel free to leave comments describing your own experience.  I look forward to exploring the topic more.


Lessons That Matter – Junior Coaching & its Meaningful Impact on Young People
6 Powerful Hacks to Increase Mental Toughness (No. 3 Is My Favourite) Thu, 02 Mar 2017 16:57:26 +0000 Mental fortitude comes with the territory of being an entrepreneur. Here's how you enhance it.]]>

Mental fortitude comes with the territory of being an entrepreneur. Here’s how you enhance it.

Being mentally strong is one of those personal attributes that everyone could benefit from. Since we all encounter personal challenges and difficulties in our life, the ability to stay psychologically strong is invaluable. But is mental strength something we are just born with? Or can it be developed? Luckily, there are ways to enhance and amplify mental toughness. Here are six of the best.

1. Stay on target.

A major component of mental strength is the capacity to focus in on the pursuit of long-term goals. People who are mentally weak allow the minor hindrances of life to distract them from their objectives, which inevitably leads to underachievement. Surviving the inevitable setbacks and disappointments of life requires focusing on larger goals and plans.

2. Look at adversity as an opportunity.

Tough times aren’t necessarily a bad thing–in fact, they can often be a positive. That’s because you only really learn and grow through overcoming difficulties. The simple act of embracing a challenge can be a massive psychological step forward. Such a change in attitude can alter your whole outlook on life, helping to increase your mental fortitude.

3. Focus only on what you can control (my favorite).

Worry and fear are the enemies of mental stability and strength. While fear and worry may be impossible to totally avoid, many people bring trouble upon themselves by obsessing over things they cannot really control. For example, worrying about how a project will be received once it is submitted is pointless and accomplishes nothing. Focusing on whatever task is at hand–and letting the rest take care of itself–is simply smarter.

4. Develop resiliency.

No matter how much the perfectionists among us might wish otherwise, no individual can completely avoid setbacks and failure. In fact, what’s far more important than avoiding error is developing the mental strength required to bounce back quickly from a mistake. Learning how to get back on your feet, without spending any time malingering or feeling sorry for yourself, is essential. This is the entrepreneur’s armor.

5. Don’t spend too much time thinking about what other people think.

While everyone should be able to accept constructive criticism and other kinds of helpful input, there’s a definite limit to how much attention should be paid to the opinions of others. Ultimately, other people are responsible for their opinions, not you–and there is no point in dwelling on something that isn’t your responsibility.

6.Strive to be emotionally even-keeled.

Getting either too high or too low emotionally is almost always a barrier to true mental strength, something I’m especially guilty of. However, being out of control emotionally makes it impossible to proceed forward in a rational, constructive way. Those who experience excessive emotional turbulence have a hard time dealing with life’s problems. That’s why the ability to keep control of powerful, disruptive feelings is such a crucial aspect of mental discipline.

Whether it’s in sports, career, or another of life’s competitive arenas, mental strength is often more important to success than natural ability. Fortunately, psychological strength is not an innate talent but rather a trait that can be acquired. With the recommendations above, almost everyone should be able to enhance their mental strength.

Tom Popomaronis is a serial entrepreneur, an e-commerce expert, and a proud Baltimore native. He has been recognized for technology and startup leadership by Fast Company, Entrepreneur, The Washington Post, and Forbes. Tom was also named “40 under 40” by the Baltimore Business Journal in 2014.


6 Powerful Hacks to Increase Mental Toughness (No. 3 Is My Favourite)
GREAT LEARNING HABITS – ‘Teachers open doors, but you must enter by yourself’ Thu, 03 Nov 2016 09:09:40 +0000 Dr. Brian Hemmings "Teachers open doors, but you must enter by yourself" - Some believe this ancient proverb originates from Confucius (551–479 BC)]]>

‘Teachers open doors, but you must enter by yourself’

(Chinese Proverb)

Some believe this ancient proverb originates from Confucius (551–479 BC) who was a teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher.

I have always thought this saying very much applies to PGA Professionals and their players/pupils in that teaching professionals can equip players’ to succeed, however it is the player who will have to take the initiative to apply what they are taught to be successful.

Teachers can only help players identify and develop the skills they need; the professional cannot practise for the player or hit the shots.  Yet I have met so many golfers who feel all they have to do is turn up for lessons and they will improve.

This means that golf professionals provide the coaching environment and instruction for players to learn and progress and can open up a world of knowledge and skills.  But teaching professionals can’t make players learn.  They offer the opportunities, but it is the player’s responsibility to accept the opportunities, and afterwards put in the effort and practice to improve.  In fact I meet too many teaching professionals who take too much responsibility for their pupils’ learning.  So how can coaches impress on players what is needed for learning to take place?

Good to Great

In his best-selling book ‘Good to Great’ Jim Collins cites various reasons why certain companies and individuals make the step from just being good to achieving greatness.  In essence, many of the factors demonstrated that individuals took responsibility for their own development.

Last year in England men’s national coaching, the coaching staff asked the players to do the same – to take responsibility for their own learning and performance.  In other words, the coaching staff would open the doors to learning, but the players needed to decide if they were really going to take control of their attitude to learning.  We challenged the players to individually think through what they needed to do to go from ‘good to great’ in the coaching environment.

The ten factors below were what the players (who went on to become European Men’s Team Champions the same year) cited as being critical to take more responsibility for in their development.

England Team ‘Good to Great’ Factors

  1. Ask for what you need
  2. Develop decision-making skills
  3. Handle the pressure of different situation
  4. Develop great time management
  5. Develop great organisational skills
  6. Preparation is everything
  7. Adopt a great work ethic
  8. Trust what you do
  9. Have goals, plans and structure
  10. Listen to people you trust

Of course may PGA Professionals will not be working with national team or tour players, however, human behaviour is largely the same at all levels.  Whilst a beginner or a mid-handicapper might not be striving to go from ‘good to great’ they will want to improve through teaching and lessons and many of the ten factors cited are about habit.

Considering some psychologists estimate that up to 90% of all behaviours is habitual, this suggests that golf teachers and coaches need to stress the learning habits needed to improve at golf, and at the very least emphasise the responsibility of the player in the learning process.

So if you want to see more of your players develop, challenge them to take responsibility for their learning habits!

GREAT LEARNING HABITS – ‘Teachers open doors, but you must enter by yourself’
‘What’s in Your Coaching Toolbox?’ – CPD Course Tue, 25 Oct 2016 19:19:29 +0000 Dr. Brian Hemmings Join Dr Brian Hemmings and guests as they share their unique experiences in working with professional and amateur golfers of all abilities...]]>

‘A Golf Psychology Masterclass by Golf Coaches for Golf Coaches’

Dr. Brian Hemmings with England National Coaches:

Graham Walker, David Ridley AFPGA, Paul Ashwell FPGA, Luke Whiting

Wednesday 16th November 2016

Northampton Golf Club

The speakers see this masterclass as an opportunity to share their unique experiences in working with professional, international amateur, county players and golfers of all abilities over many years.

You should attend if you….

  • Want to take part in a unique one-day training opportunity with leading coaches who have worked with leading professionals, England squads, and golfers of all levels for over three decades
  • Are a PGA Professional and want to increase your mental coaching skills and impact with players
  • Are a practitioner/coach working with golfers to develop their mental skills
  • Are a sport psychologist and want to learn about coaches application of psychology in learning and performance

What you will gain from the Masterclass….

  • Innovative techniques that have been used for player and coach development
  • Skills and strategies to build players’ confidence
  • A chance to see mindfulness techniques applied to golf
  • Structuring practice for maximum engagement
  • Creating a coaching environment that challenges and excites players
  • A certificate of attendance.
  • PGA Professionals will be credited with 25 CPD points by The PGA of GB&I for successful completion/participation of this course.

Fee: £95.00. Fee includes lunch and refreshments. *A reduced fee is available for PGA Assistants. *Please email for group booking rates (3 or more)

**Early Booking Fee**: £85.00. The full amount must be paid by 31st August. Fee includes lunch and refreshments.

Booking Forms & Payment Methods: A booking form with a range of payment options, and extensive venue details can be found at

Call now to discuss your Masterclass place on 07908 677660 or e-mail

Download Masterclass PDF (0.3MB)

‘What’s in Your Coaching Toolbox?’ – CPD Course
Effective Listening Skills & The PGA Professional (Part 1) Fri, 16 Sep 2016 09:19:05 +0000 Dr. Brian Hemmings Dr Brian Hemmings outlines five common barriers to listening effectively when coaching...]]>

‘Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools talk because they have to say something’

Having had the privilege of working with many coaches over the past 15 years, I have noticed that the attributes of successful coaches have huge similarities with effective psychologists. The quote above, from the Greek philosopher Plato, could easily describe one of the most important personal qualities needed by coaches; that is great communication skills and, in particular, the ability to listen effectively.

Coaches are like psychologists in that they rely on similar sources of information to assess a golfer’s needs. Whilst observation may provide the coach with extensive movement/technical information and analysis, both can gain much from what players say about themselves and their game.  However, many coaches are unaware that listening effectively is a skill that can be developed.

I heard it said in my core training as a psychologist that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason – so we can listen at least 50% more than we speak.

Time constraints can make listening to players/clients more challenging, however often self-awareness can start to considerably improve listening skills.  Here, I outline five common barriers to listening effectively when coaching.  See how many you can see in yourself…


You take everything a player tells you and refer back to your own experience, and launch into your story before they have a chance to finish theirs.  Everything you hear reminds you of something that you’ve done, felt, or achieved/not achieved.  In being so busy with your own stories, there’s no time to really hear or get to know the needs of the player.


Whilst coaching is about advice giving, we can all fall into ‘advice mode’ too quickly before gaining a full understanding of an issue.  Here the coach can become the great problem-solver, ready with help and suggestions, and you only have to hear a few sentences to begin searching for the right advice.

However, while you are searching, and then convincing the player to ‘try this’, you may be missing the most important information.  You didn’t hear the feelings, and you didn’t acknowledge the person’s real concerns. You may go down a technical route instead of noticing it’s mainly a physical or mental issue.

Mind Reading

Coaches are not mind readers; they rely on verbal, visual and statistical information.  The mind reader coach doesn’t pay much attention to what people say – in fact, she/he often distrusts it.  She/he is busy trying to work out what is really happening.  The mind reader pays more attention to non-verbal cues (e.g. body language) than to factual words, in an attempt to see through to the ‘truth’.  If you are a mind reader, you are also likely to make assumptions about people’s perceptions of you as a coach.  These notions arise from intuition, hunches and vague misgivings, but have little to do with what the person is actually saying to you.


You don’t have time to listen if you are rehearsing what to say yourself.  Your whole attention is on the preparation of your next comment.  You have to look interested, but your mind is racing with your story, or a point you are eager to make.  Some people rehearse chains of responses “I’ll say that, then s/he’ll say…then I’ll say…”


When you filter, you listen to some things and not to others.  You pay just enough attention to see if someone is angry, or unhappy, or if you are under fire.  Once satisfied that none of these things are present, you let your mind wander.  Another form of filtering is to simply avoid hearing certain things – in particular, anything unpleasant, critical, threatening or negative.  It’s as if the words were never said – you simply have no memory of them.

The power of good listening in effective player-coach relationships should not be underestimated, and the importance of listening intently is also a Biblical saying that dates back 2000 years – ‘Be quick to listen, and slow to speak’ (1 James v.11).

Have a think about the barriers I have outlined above and assess if they sometimes apply to you?  Do you sometimes have difficulty listening to your players? If you do, it is likely that your coaching relationships could improve greatly through targeting this simple, yet significant skill.  Effective listening is part of the cornerstone of great assessment, which leads to the best intervention with players.

This article originally featured in International Golf Pro News. Visit the IGPN Page to find out more and subscribe for free.

Effective Listening Skills & The PGA Professional (Part 1)
Recommended Books on LEARNING From Past Contributors Fri, 09 Sep 2016 09:30:22 +0000 Golf Science Lab Golf Science Lab went back through their past contributors and pulled together everyone’s books so you can pick up anything missing from your library...]]>

We went back through our past contributors and pulled together everyone’s books in one place so you can pick up anything that’s missing for your library.

This post’s books are from contributors to season 1 of the podcast and presenters from the Motor Learning Masterclass. Great for both golfers and coaches looking to expand their knowledge of how learning and skill development actually happens.

Dr. Mark Guadagnoli


No matter what you have tried so far, there is a better way. There is a better way to practice so you lower your scores and have more fun. The better way means learning to go beyond your comfort zone on the range so you are in your comfort zone on the course.

The better way means combining the mental and physical aspects of golf to create habits of excellence. “Practice to Learn, Play to Win” uses the latest research in brain science to supercharge your golf. The better way to golf starts with great practice and ends with great scores.

Get your copy here >Practice to Learn, Play to Win

Adam Young


This book is the most comprehensive guide to improving your Golf EVER!  A best-seller in the USA, UK, Canada, Germany and France, and featured on The Golf Channel, “The Practice Manual – The Ultimate Guide for Golfers” is creating a wave in the golf industry and changing the way we think about playing better golf. With golfers around the World hitting the driving ranges and not improving, it is time to do something different — it’s time to do something better. Using information from the latest in motor learning research, you will discover the key ingredients which make the ultimate practice plan. You will also find out where you have been going wrong all these years, and be able to quickly change for the better.

If you are a keen golfer who likes to practice, or if you are an aspiring Tour Pro or College player, this book is a necessity. For Golf Coaches around the World, this book will transform the way you teach golf forever.

Get your copy here > The Practice Manual: The Ultimate Guide for Golfers

Trent Wearner


In order for you to successfully take your game to the course, you must bring the elements found on the course to your practices and that is exactly what this book (and this interactive website) does.

With its 230 pages and nearly 100 competitive practice games (all with color photos), items like score, a consequence, different lies, distractions, pressure and more are brought to the forefront so that you can practice in a manner that TRANSFERS to the course.

Get your copy here > Golf Scrimmages: Realistic Practice Games Under Pressure

Dr. Gabriele Wulf


Attention and Motor Skill Learning explores how a person’s focus of attention affects motor performance and, in particular, the learning of motor skills. It synthesizes the knowledge coming from recent research examining the effects of attentional focus on motor performance and learning, and it provides practical implications for both instructional and rehabilitative settings.

It provides many practical examples and implications for teaching, learning, relearning, and performing motor skills. This book will help readers better understand the effects that attentional focus has on motor performance and learning as well as the mechanisms underlying these effects. While challenging traditional learning methods, this book presents the latest research and demonstrates how changing one’s focus of attention can speed the learning process and lead to more effective performance of motor skills.

Get your copy here > Attention and Motor Skill Learning

Dr. Tim Lee


Motor Control in Everyday Actions presents 47 true stories that illustrate the phenomena of motor control, learning, perception, and attention in sport, physical activity, home, and work environments. At times humorous and sometimes sobering, this unique text provides an accessible application-to-research approach to spark critical thinking, class discussion, and new ideas for research.

The stories in Motor Control in Everyday Actions illustrate the diversity and complexity of research in perception and action and motor skill acquisition. More than interesting anecdotes, these stories offer concrete examples of how motor behavior, motor control, and perception and action errors affect the lives of both well-known and ordinary individuals in various situations and environments.

Get your copy here > Motor Control in Everyday Actions

Joe Bosco


Any player from beginner to aspiring tour player can improve in a much more direct and enjoyable way using a time-tested and results-proven method backed by cutting-edge research in human learning and brain function. It’s a technique used by the Marine Corps, Harvard Business School and the NBA. Unlike the dozens of other instruction books that come out every year, Real Golf isn’t a collection of mechanical adjustments, tips and drills.

It is a complete guide to sorting, evaluating and successfully integrating the instruction players are already receiving from a teacher, magazine, book or a video. It is instruction on how to use instruction. Using the sophisticated, personalized self-scrimmage strategies detailed in the book, players can make dramatic scoring breakthroughs immediately, and see massive handicap improvement in eight to 10 weeks.

Get your copy here > Real Golf: Taking Your Best Game to the Course

Michael Hebron


A must read for every serious golfer who wants a thorough understanding of the fundamentals of the golf swing. It’s one of the best books on the golf swing in publication and truly focuses on the motions and actions present in all sound golf swings. Explanations and the many illustrations are easy to understand. Hebron quotes Ben Hogan and Bobby Jones throughout the book. Originally his Masters thesis, now a classic in the industry. Third revision refines the book even more than prior editions.


Hebron’s efficient approaches to golf help players invent their swings, putting strokes, and tempos.


On the subject of learning golf comes a comprehensive study of how people learn the necessary motor skills plus a wealth of information on keeping the mind centered on the task at hand.

The quintessential manual for golf instructors, coaches and curious minds of any sport. This manual, filled with powerful photos and drawings, is a must for any serious golfer’s bookshelf. Each of the 3 sections is a manual in and of itself. Hebron shares a lifetime of extensive research on the sports mind and body, then relates the information to the golf swing. By understanding the roll of each moving and thinking part in a motor skill, readers are placed in a position to build a golf swing (or any motor skill) that is controlled, repeatable and permanently learned.


In the 21st century it’s unacceptable for students not to make progress at a reasonable rate when instructors and students could benefit from what science has uncovered about learning. Modernizing Approaches to Learning discusses research related to the brain as the gateway to learning. When taking a brain-compatible approach to learning, we can learn faster and retain information and skills longer.

The author discusses findings from neuroscience, cognitive science, physiological and psychological research about the brain and learning. He offers practical, modern ways to move from damaging educational approaches toward emotionally safe, self-discovery and self-reliant approaches. Approaches that are geared to help are not as valuable as those geared for self-help. Modernized approaches join the art of teaching with the science of learning where research demonstrates that we learn naturally through trial and error adjustments.

See and Feel the Inside Move the Outside, Third Revsion

Play Golf to Learn Golf

Golf Swing Secrets… and Lies: Six Timeless Lessons

The Art and Zen of Learning Golf, Third Edition

See & Feel the Inside Move the Outside, Third Edition – Full Color

Building and Improving Your Golf Mind, Golf Body, Golf Swing

Matthew Kluck & Dennis Sweeney


This is the central book of the series 101 Games for Golf that was featured by Martin Hall on the Golf Channel’s School of Golf. It is an essential golfing manual designed to help you to transfer the skills you get in a golf lesson to the golf course. It does this by showing you how to practice for improvement by playing simple games that range in difficulty from easy, for beginners, to difficult, for advanced players. Six companion games booklets are sold separately and describe the games in detail.

In addition to outlining the games, the book has chapters on setting game improvement goals, developing a pre-shot routine, choosing golf instruction that meets your needs, and managing your emotions on the course. Written by an applied industrial psychologist and a PGA Master Teaching Professional who has been recognized as a top teacher by Golf Magazine and Golf Digest, the book is a must for any golfer, from the novice to tournament player, who wants to maintain or improve his or her golf swing. PLEASE NOTE! The games are described in detail in the six companion game booklets. Each booklet has games for each key golf skill: putting, pitching, chipping, full swing, bunker shots, and on-course play.

Additional Supporting Books:

Putting Games – Flat Stick Magic! (Golf’s Missing Links)

Full Swing Games – Let It Fly! (Golf’s Missing Links)

Chipping Games – Lowering Your Score (Golf’s Missing Links)

Pitching Games – Up and Away! (Golf’s Missing Links)

Bunker Games – Up and Over (Golf’s Missing Links)

On the Course Games – Putting It All Together! (Golf’s Missing Links)

If you’re looking for more materials make sure to check out SEASON 1 of the Golf Science Lab podcast and the Motor Learning Masterclass

Recommended Books on LEARNING From Past Contributors
The Unknown Truth About Learning Golf and Motivation With Dr. Gabriele Wulf & Dr. Rebecca Lewthwaite Tue, 06 Sep 2016 15:55:52 +0000 Golf Science Lab The Golf Science Lab Podcast casts an eye over choice and positivity and their effects on learning...]]>

There are two critical factors in motivational learning that most people ignore. We’re going to address these two factors in today’s episode of Golf Science Lab.

We’re talking with two experts in the field of motor learning, Dr. Gabriele Wulf and Dr. Rebecca Lewthwaite. Both have extensive experience in this topic and have written some of the papers that have defined the field of motivational learning. You’re not going to want to miss this!

The Power of Choices

Anything you can do as an instructor to make people feel more confident, or increase their self-efficacy is beneficial for performance. Many studies have shown that confidence or self-efficacy is critical for optimal performance and learning. The other motivational variable that is also very powerful is learner autonomy.

Practice conditions that involve an opportunity to choose will support peoples’ need for autonomy. The choices you give to a learner don’t even have to be related to the task. You can give them an unrelated choice, such as which picture to hang in on the wall, and they will learn better.

It sounds kind of crazy, but totally unrelated choices support students’ need for autonomy and enhance their learning.

People like having choices and there’s also an effective component here that helps people learn. Positive effect turns out to be very important for learning. It tends to release dopamine, which is critical for learning, and so I think there are two things that play a role here.

One is self-efficacy or confidence being enhanced, and the other is the positive effect – the positive emotions that are associated with having a choice.

Be Positive (for better learning)

When we have three groups, a group that receives negative feedback, no feedback, or positive feedback.  Typically the negative feedback group, who  believe they are doing worse than their peers and the group that gets no information typically look like each other. Whereas the group that receives a sense of success or confidence tends to look different on those other two.

Whereas the group that receives a sense of success or confidence tends to look different on those other two. Studies have shown that the negative doesn’t appear to detract so much that the positive appears to enhance.

How you define success equates to how people derive a sense of success, and this has implications for how you learn.

It’s important that you interpret the action (the performance) in a positive light. This has implications for coaches and teachers; if they get too hypercritical too fast, then there is this dampening of the learning effect.

It pays to accentuate the positive. One approach is to enhance the sense that someone has been successful as you go forward, and the other is to provide people with opportunities to choose or to have autonomy in their actions. One way you could pair these things is to tell people early on that it’s quite good if you can hit this target or be close to it in this way, and provide them with positive feedback. As an example, “For that early trial, it was excellent.” And then the next thing you said is, “Let me know when you would like to get some more specific feedback”. This is an invitation to take a little charge of when you go into further detail.

One way you could pair these things is to tell people early on that it’s quite good if you can hit this target or be close to it in this way, and provide them with positive feedback. As an example, “For that early trial, it was excellent.” And then the next thing you said is, “Let me know when you would like to get some more specific feedback”. This is an invitation to take a little charge of when you go into further detail.

Further Reading

Self-Controlled Learning: The Importance of Protecting Perceptions of Competence

Choose to move: The motivational impact of autonomy support on motor learning

Gabriele Wulf on Attentional Focus and Motor Learning

About Dr. Gabriele Wulf

Gabriele Wulf is a Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition Sciences at UNLV. Dr. Wulf studies factors that influence motor skill performance and learning, such as the performer’s focus of attention and motivational variables (e.g., autonomy support, enhanced performance expectancies).

Her research has resulted in 175 journal articles and book chapters, as well as two books. Dr. Wulf has received various awards for her research, including UNLV’s Barrick Distinguished Scholar Award. She served as the founding editor of Frontiers in Movement Science and Sport Psychology (2010-2012) and the Journal of Motor Learning and Development (2012-2015). Currently, she serves as the Past-President of the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity (NASPSPA).

You can check out Dr Wulf’s book here: Attention and Motor Skill Learning

About Dr Rebecca Lewthwaite

Rebecca Lewthwaite, PhD is Director, Rehabilitation Outcomes Management, and Director of Research and Education in Physical Therapy at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center. She is also an adjunct faculty member in the Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy at the University of Southern California (USC).

Dr. Lewthwaite has an active research program at the intersection of movement and psychological science, studying motivation and motor learning. She received her PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles in (Psychological) Kinesiology. Together with Dr. Carolee Winstein, Dr. Lewthwaite designed the integrated approach to motor learning in clinical practice known as the Accelerated Skill Acquisition Program.

Dr. Lewthwaite is an investigator in the recent Interdisciplinary Comprehensive Arm Rehabilitation Evaluation (ICARE) Phase III RCT examining arm recovery after stroke, where she provided direction to the psychosocial content, measurement, and intervention aspects.

The Unknown Truth About Learning Golf and Motivation With Dr. Gabriele Wulf & Dr. Rebecca Lewthwaite
10 Ways to Aid the Transition from Amateur to Professional Player Thu, 07 Jul 2016 08:34:28 +0000 Dr. Brian Hemmings The transition from amateur to professional can be one of the biggest challenges for any aspiring player.]]>

A look at the world rankings at the end of 2000 showed there was only 1 English player in the Top 100 of the World Rankings (Lee Westwood), whereas at the end of 2010 this had increased dramatically to 12 English players.

Similarly, the European Order of Merit at the end of 2000 showed 20 English players in the Top 115, whereas at the end of 2013 the Race to Dubai rankings showed that number had increased 50% to 30.   Having worked with many of the players involved in this successful period in my role as England team psychologist for over 15 years, I observed many successful transitions, and unfortunately, many unsuccessful ones.

The transition from amateur to professional can be one of the biggest challenges for any aspiring player. A transition is defined as ‘the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another’, which suggests it is a process that takes unstated amount of time.   In my work with elite players over the years I have stressed that this process starts whilst they are an amateur, in that the preparation, work ethic, lifestyle and skills of the professional player can be actively worked upon before the decision to turn professional is made.

In combination with my observations and experience, I recently asked a number of England national coaches and professional English European Tour players to reflect on the transition process.  What emerged were very similar views and accounts.

  1. Get invites

Playing in professional events as an amateur before the decision to turn professional is made is vital.  A player must be able to see and feel that they can compete strongly in professional tournaments as soon as they turn professional.

  1. Invest in yourself

Players need to invest in themselves to develop their skills.  Investment can be in time and money. A player should start to carefully develop a support team around themselves that can elevate their performances.

  1. Become a ‘student’ of golf

In order to invest wisely players need to understand their game, their equipment, their statistics – what they need to work on and how to get better.  If golf is to be their career, players need to take an active interest in all things about themselves and their golf.

  1. Take on a professional lifestyle and work ethic

Ross Fisher, when in the England team in 2003, personalised the cover of his training diary to say ‘I must think and act more like a professional.’  Being a professional is not just about the opportunity to earn money through playing, it is also about possessing the character, attitude, competencies and work ethic to make the most of the skills a player possesses.  What Ross was referring to was that he needed to pay more attention to some of these behaviours whilst he was still an amateur.  He was amateur in name, but professional in his approach.

  1. Travel and play

One of the main adaptations in professional life on tour is learning to travel abroad and play.  This means coping with travel, fatigue and the challenge of getting sufficient rest.  There is also the challenge of learning to play in different climates and on different types of grass and courses.  In recent years through lottery funding in England, national squad players have had a huge advantage in this regard.   Any aspiring player would be wise to start this process in their amateur career.

Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship

  1. Are they ready?

Players take advice about turning professional from coaches, players, parents, friends, and often, management companies.  The message from successful players was to take advice but to make the decision to turn professional and start that journey when the player themselves feel ready.  Frequently a player may feel they get plenty of sound advice, but fail to remember that advice may not be impartial.

  1. Work with a coach who knows

As well as talking to players who are already professional about the lifestyle and challenges of tour life, working with a coach who has knowledge of the skills necessary to compete at the highest level is desirable.   Coaches who have experience through their work with other professionals can often spot when players are chasing rankings in tournaments and over-playing, rather than developing the necessary skills to compete.

  1. Learn time-management and self-management skills

Closely linked to lifestyle and work ethic, is the need to develop a greater awareness of planning ahead for practice opportunities, of minimising distractions off the course, fitting in physical conditioning work, and to work with a coach who may often also have a busy diary.   Establishing disciplined patterns of playing, practising, going to the gym, eating and particularly rest are vital to maintain freshness and desire.

  1. Can they shoot low regularly?

Too often players make the decision to turn professional based on their best golf rather than their typical golf.  Players that I spoke to expressed there was a need to be able to regularly shoot under par in consecutive rounds in tournaments as this was the likely scoring needed for success in tour life.  If you are unable to do this at the start of your professional life, it is not the place to learn.

Ray Floyd remarked that he was fortunate to have enough talent to succeed early in his career and then was able to keep learning and improving.  Many players turn professional without the skills to have enough initial success.

  1. A lonely life

Players would be wise to decide if the life of a playing professional is really what they want, as it requires immense resilience, financial risk, loneliness and ceaseless travel and airports.  Players I have spoken to talk of a tough, demanding, ruthless world where no one is particularly interested in you or your game.  As an amateur you may start travelling and rooming alone to acclimatise to these demands.

*Thanks to Stephen Burnett, Jonathan Lupton, Graham Walker, David Ridley, Seve Benson and Chris Wood for their help in the preparation of this article.

10 Ways to Aid the Transition from Amateur to Professional Player
“Barriers and Coping Resources: The Science Behind Taking Your Golf Game to the Next Level” – Ian Peek – A.S.K. Workshops Tue, 28 Jun 2016 15:05:45 +0000 Ian Peek PGA Professional, Ian Peek, explains why some athletes make it, and why others do not...]]>

PGA of Great Britain & Ireland Advanced Fellow Professional, Ian Peek, will speak at the 2016 A.S.K. Workshops in Hungary on 26th July – Here Ian explains more about his chosen subject matter…

Q: What is the similarity between someone winning a fortune in the lottery draw (lotto) and an elite amateur golfer turning professional?

A: Their sudden change of status means both undergo the process of ‘transition’ and managing that process well is easier said than done.

The challenge of  successfully ‘transitioning’ is highlighted by the fact that up to 70% of all major lottery winners worldwide end up bankrupt within a few years of their big win and less than 1% of elite amateurs make the ‘grade’ in big-time professional golf.

For my Sports Coaching MSc dissertation I was lucky enough to interview nine former elite male amateur golfers about their experiences following their transition to professional golf. My presentation at the first A.S.K workshop in Hungary will cover some of the findings of my research and possibly challenge those present to see the process of ‘elite players turning professional’ through new eyes.

‘Barriers and coping resources’ is an expression coined by Dr Natalia Stambulova, one of the world leaders in understanding why some athletes make the grade while most do not. It refers to Dr.  Stambulova’s ‘formula for success’ for elite athletes.

During my presentation I will draw on some of her research work as well as that Dr. Nancy Schlossberg; a leading authority of ‘life transitions’.

Suggested pre-reading for ASK delegates:

Stambulova, N., Alfermann, D., Statler, T., & CôTé, J. E. A. N. (2009). ISSP position stand: Career development and transitions of athletes. International journal of sport and exercise psychology, 7(4), 395-412.

Henriksen, K., Stambulova, N., & Roessler, K. K. (2010). Successful talent development in track and field: considering the role of environment. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 20(s2), 122-132.

For more information and to register visit

For more information about the 2016 A.S.K. Workshops visit, follow @PGAsofEurope on Twitter and search #ASKWorkshops, or like the PGAs of Europe Facebook Page.

“Barriers and Coping Resources: The Science Behind Taking Your Golf Game to the Next Level” – Ian Peek – A.S.K. Workshops
Breathe Your Way to Success – Golf Performance, Anxiety & Breathing Fri, 10 Jun 2016 07:24:42 +0000 Dr. Brian Hemmings Though I have never had the good fortune to meet Tom Watson and talk through his career, my guess as a psychologist is that the quote suggests in the early days]]>

Dr Brian Hemmings explains how breathing can be the key to controlling a player’s emotions and teaches you a technique for your students to help them control their anxiety and emotions when it counts…

“When I learned how to breathe, I learned how to win”

Tom Watson

Though I have never had the good fortune to meet Tom Watson and talk through his career, my guess as a psychologist is that the quote suggests in the early days of his career he often felt too uncomfortable on the golf course in winning situations, or let frustration undermine his game.

In my work I find that many players think the top professionals must be doing something unique mentally; which isn’t the case at all.  For instance, controlling breathing is one of the simplest, most efficient ways for all standards of golfers to self-regulate high arousal/tension on and off the course and is straightforward to learn.

“You have to control tension.  Just a couple of times I got nervous but I kept it under control.  We all get taught certain breathing techniques by the Swedish Federation to help keep calm, its basic stuff”.  Niclas Fasth

In my time at England national training over the past fifteen years, great emphasis has been placed on teaching individual players simple breathing skills.

For example, focused breathing is great in that it can act as a distraction from negative thoughts, lower heart rate, and act as a positive behaviour in pressure situations.  However, players must be aware that although breathing itself is a natural automatic process, as soon as we shift to controlling breathing it becomes an acquired skill that improves with practice.

To fully obtain the benefits of focused breathing you need to impress on players the need to practise regularly.  This technique involves counting breaths, which also prevent negative thoughts as the mind is occupied by the counting involved.  Simply inhale slowly (normally, not deeply) through the nose to a count of 4, and then slowly exhale through the mouth to a count of 7 – the longer outbreaths induce a more relaxed state.  This is also sometimes called ratio breathing and a player may complete several cycles of this to remain composed.

If practised, a player will soon become proficient at using the technique in pressure situations or when frustrated after errors.  I find that many players like this technique as it is very subtle, and will go unnoticed by playing partners.  Coach your players this technique I am confident they will benefit hugely.

Considering Your 2016 Coach Education?

Online Course now also available in German and Spanish

“This online course has to be the best value for money training I have seen from the PGA. I use the activities with my clients and have seen improvements in their game of golf. Working with players and …understanding now more about mindset makes it easier to coach and enhance performance….”

Phil Allen, PGA of GB&I Professional, Holland

Check out the fully online Golf Psychology Coaching Certificate course that is approved by the PGA of GB&I (135 CPD points) and the PGAs of Europe, and has been completed with great reviews by over 350 PGA professionals and coaches worldwide. Go to for full details.

The course is full of practical activities and information on assessing mental skills, goals and motivation, attention control, confidence building, and anxiety reduction techniques for the PGA professional to guide players through improving their mental game. The course is endorsed by some of England’s best coaches.  You can complete the course at home so you will have no travel costs or time away from your work.  All you need is a player to work with and the time to complete the course activities.  For a price reduction type in the discount code PGAE to reduce the price from £295 to £215.

This article originally featured in International Golf Pro News. Visit the IGPN Page to find out more and subscribe for free.

Breathe Your Way to Success – Golf Performance, Anxiety & Breathing
Learning – And How to Do it Better Fri, 06 May 2016 14:07:34 +0000 Train Ugly Brains, Skills, Learning & Lizards: The Definitive Guide to Becoming a Butt Kicker]]>

Brains, Skills, Learning & Lizards: The Definitive Guide to Becoming a Butt Kicker


  1. Our brains are built to learn the best when we’re operating at the edge of our abilities, outside of our comfort zones, and when we make a lot of mistakes.
  2. Understanding that we can improve our abilities (having a growth mindset) is the key to learning. The most successful people in the world have this all figured out. They’re master learners, or as we like to call them – “Butt Kickers.”
  3. Most of us struggle with learning because of our fear of failure, looking bad, and resistance to change. This mostly comes from a part of the brain called the amygdala aka “The Lizard Brain.” The Lizard Brain acts as an internal force driving us to have a fixed mindset.
  4. The Lizard Brain is the brain of a wild animal. It’s hardwired to seek safety, avoid risks, and to fit in. This protected us back in caveman times, but now it keeps us from learning as much as we could.
  5. As much as we would like to, we can’t kill the Lizard Brain. However, we can learn to dance with it and use it as a compass to show us we’re on the right path.


We would like to give a HUGE shout out to Seth Godin for helping us out with the interview. He’s been one of our biggest inspirations through all of this and it was an absolute honor to speak with him. Thanks Seth!

Also, he just published one of the most unique and inspiring books I’ve ever read. Grab a couple of copies of Your Turn HERE – You’ll absolutely love it!


Screenshot it, download it, copy and paste it – it’s yours! Use it as a reminder of how learning really works. Feel free to post on FacebookInstagramPinterest, and Twitter!

Learning Poster

Learning – And How to Do it Better
Common Barriers to Improvement in Players Fri, 06 May 2016 08:11:17 +0000 Dr. Brian Hemmings One of the major challenges facing the PGA Professional is to quickly identify changes needed in a player’s game, and to set a path of instruction to improve...]]>

One of the major challenges facing the PGA Professional is to quickly identify changes needed in a player’s game, and to set a path of instruction to improve skill levels. 

Whilst much more is now known about preferences in learning styles and how information is delivered by the coach and received by a player, often there are more simple barriers to improvement within a player that need to be understood if the coach is to be successful.

Here are 5 of the most common barriers to improvement from a psychological perspective and the teaching approach which needs to be taken.

1. ‘I don’t know what to do’ Information
2. ‘I don’t know how to do it’ Demonstration
3. ‘I don’t know why I should do it’ Education
4. ‘I don’t know when to do it’ Direction
5. ‘I can’t do it’ Persuasion

Guidance for the PGA Professional:

Listen carefully to the words a pupil or player uses to explain their needs during coaching sessions to best direct you to your course of action.  You will find players vary in their needs over time, and when working on different skills.   Also if you feel a player is not making progress, take time to consider if you have delivered your coaching message in a variety of ways to aid learning and development.

There are also many other barriers that may prevent your player from making progress in their golf game. In other words, they may know what they need to get better at, but prevent themselves from doing so in any number of ways. Many aspects such as poor practice habits might be modified with help and instruction, but often there are underpinning barriers that need to be identified and challenged.

Physical Barriers may be:

  1. Poor sleep habits
  2. Poor diet/hydration
  3. Poor fitness

Emotional Barriers may be:

  1. Low stress tolerance
  2. Being inflexible
  3. Frequent impatience or frustration
  4. Low motivation
  5. Lack of trust in others

Mental Barriers may be:

  1. Poor concentration
  2. Poor time management
  3. Slow decision making/problem solving
  4. Lack of discipline or follow-through
  5. Lack of time alone practising


Guidelines for overcoming barriers:

Often players can bemoan their lack of progress at golf, yet do not really tackle the barriers that really undermine their progress. In raising awareness of the barriers and agreeing on possible solutions, players can often begin to change unhelpful habits that block them moving forward. Many of the skills covered in my online course (see below) will seek to equip the golfer with new skills, but it is useful to simply talk through with your players where some simple changes might be made. Some examples might be:

Expand physical capability by:

  1. Keeping a good diet
  2. Avoiding late night eating or moderate alcohol consumption
  3. Going to bed early/waking up early
  4. Exercising daily

Expand emotional capability by:

  1. Socialising and having time with friends
  2. Having ‘down time’ from golf
  3. Thinking of others’ needs as well as your own
  4. Having other hobbies

Expand  mental capability by:

  1. Planning practice sessions
  2. Engaging in physical activity
  3. Keeping a practice diary
  4. Practising alone on some occasions

Considering Your Spring 2015 Coach Education?

Online Course now also available in German and Spanish

“This online course has to be the best value for money training I have seen from the PGA. I use the activities with my clients and have seen improvements in their game of golf. Working with players and …understanding now more about mindset makes it easier to coach and enhance performance….”

Phil Allen, PGA of GB&I Professional, Holland

In 2012 Brian released a fully online Golf Psychology Coaching Certificate course that is approved by the PGA of GB&I (100 CPD points) and PGAs of Europe, and has been completed with great reviews by over 350 PGA professionals and coaches worldwide.  Go to for full details.  The course is full of practical activities and information on assessing mental skills, goals and motivation, attention control, confidence building, and anxiety reduction techniques for the PGA professional to guide players through improving their mental game. The course is endorsed by some of England’s best coaches.  You can complete the course at home so you will have no travel costs or time away from your work.  All you need is a player to work with and the time to complete the course activities.   For a price reduction type in the discount code PGAE to reduce the price from £295 to £215.

Common Barriers to Improvement in Players
Dealing with Pressure Shots and Moments on the Course Tue, 08 Mar 2016 00:44:17 +0000 Dr. Brian Hemmings Golfers who stand up best to the pressures of the game face the same fear and doubt as you and me; the difference is they have learned mechanisms to deal with i]]>

Golfers who stand up best to the pressures of the game face the same fear and doubt as you and me; the difference is they have learned mechanisms to deal with it.  Here are seven ways to help coach your players in anticipation of when the pressure starts to mount.


There is a phrase in psychology called the ‘ironic’ process: it means we think about the things we fear most at the times when we least want to think about them.  It is important to realise this process is a natural one.

Golfers often think thoughts and feelings of doubt represent frailty in them in pressure moments; that they are not mentally tough enough.  That is not the case.  These processes are natural.  Accepting this is the first step to dealing with being out of a comfort zone.  Start to feel comfortable being uncomfortable.


Courses are often demanding in length and setup.  Accordingly, with sometimes adverse weather to deal with too, courses are mentally challenging and pressure is an integral part of the game.

In fact, these so-called ‘pressure’ shots and moments are what draws players to the game and are the focus of the post-round debrief.   Golf would be very dull if it were played across flat, open fields.  So instead of trying to play without fear, embrace it as an aspect of golf’s challenge, and one they can have enjoyment trying to meet.


Players who deal well with pressure experience the same doubts as those who do not; the difference is their focus then shifts to what the shot demands.  Even a Tour professional may think about how poor they would look if they missed a short putt – but they will then go through the process of what they need to do to hole it.

Refocusing on the process can lead you from feelings of discomfort.  So to cope with fear, stay with the shot at hand and not the consequences of what may go wrong.

Sweden's Annika Sorenstam, winner of the Dubai Ladies Masters European Tour event, takes her second shot on the 13th hole during the final round


Pressure builds when players’ develop unrealistic expectations about what they might be able to achieve.  Get players to make shots as simple as they can when in ‘pressure’ situations by choosing a realistic shot they know is within their grasp.  If Annika Sörenstam could not play a shot sixty percent of the time in practice, she would not even consider it on the course when under pressure.  Get your players to not try to play perfect golf.


On tough shots where the target is near, anxiety can cause golfers to ‘peek’ early at the target.  But early shifting of vision toward the target generally causes head movement, which contributes to shoulder movement, which generally causes technical problems and a poor strike/inaccuracy.

In pressure situations where players may be anxious about the shot outcome, get them to keep their eyes still, and the head will take care of itself and also stay still.  Focusing on one point on the ball – a dimple or part of the logo – is a great way to practise steadying the eyes.  Steady eyes mean a calm mind.


Many golfers think the 1st tee shot sets the tone for the round.  This cranks up the pressure on them.  Others do it by saying such things as “I need to be no worse than four over after six” to themselves.

This is very rigid thinking and is counterproductive.  Players need to be more flexible in their thinking and shift from “this must happen” to “I’d prefer it to happen”.  Tell them they can deal with a range of outcomes and situations. This thinking will improve their performance, their emotional state and also helps them recognise situations where they are getting on top of themselves and to take the gun away from their head.


Most people who do not handle pressure have an image of failure.  Because of this they rush to get the shot over with to get out of the situation as soon as they can.

The rushing is what typically causes problems.  Get them to think in advance of pressure shots and situations, and help them come to terms with these situations by staying with those images.

Get them to imagine looking around, developing a sense of the situation they are in, and gradually seeing themselves as more calm.  Tell them to see that even though they might feel uncomfortable, they are okay with it and they can slow down their thoughts and actions.

Dealing with Pressure Shots and Moments on the Course
Self and Peer Assessment in Golf Coaching Wed, 24 Feb 2016 20:08:24 +0000 PGAs of Europe The vast majority of golf coaches are extremely competent in coaching how to swing a club so that the outcome is to their pupil’s liking...]]>

The vast majority of golf coaches are extremely competent in coaching how to swing a club so that the outcome is to their pupil’s liking. However, how much attention do they give to how they are coaching their client? How often do they assess the effectiveness of their coaching style and ask themselves whether they could be even more effective than they already are?

It is in an attempt to provide answers to these questions that the ‘performance criteria for coaches’ in this article is offered for consideration.

Thirteen questions are posed and all are based on an analysis of effective coaching. In other words, if a golf coach could honestly tick ‘Yes’ to the four questions that require either a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer and tick the ‘Always/ Every Opportunity’ box for each of the remaining nine questions then he/she can lay claim to being a very effective coach.

The first two questions relate to the way coaches present themselves and their knowledge to their pupils in advance of a coaching session. Unfortunately, so many coaches take a booking from their pupils without discussing with them what they want to improve. Thus, the coach is now in the unfortunate position of having to ask the pupil to ‘play a few shots’ before they can begin the coaching session.

Now there is nothing wrong with this, except for the fact that the coach is left to identify a starting point for the session and thereby has no time to set a main aim and how the session is to be developed. Can you imagine a Football Coach or an Athletics Coach working in this way?

‘Preparation is the key to success’

The third question identifies a formal term, ‘Distributed Practice’, that has been proved to improve performance in every sport.  Basically, it means that the Main Aim is pursued in no more than three equal chunks of time during the coaching session.

So, after a warm-up (10% of the time available) the coach would pursue a practice, or a series of related practices, with the player for the next 20% of the time available. The coach would then insist on a short break (10%) during which they would ask the player to do something entirely unrelated to what was pursued in the first 20%. But, after the break, the coach would ask the pupil to return to the practice undertaken in the first 20% part of the session and repeat it exactly as before.

Once completed, the pupil would be asked again do something (10%) that is unrelated to the first and second 20% parts of the session overall. Finally, the coach would ask the pupil to repeat for a second time (third 20% part session in total) what was asked for earlier in the session and, for the final 10% of the session the pupil would be invited to practise ‘what he/she likes doing best’; to end in this manner represents what is known as ‘the recency effect’ – that which is practised last is best remembered.

Question 4 is about how a practice is developed and ‘Successive Approximation’ is the term given to the process by which the coach moves a practice on to the next level of difficulty.

If the coach thinks of a ladder with ten rungs then whichever rung the player is on in terms of their development as a golfer (a judgment made by the coach and pupil together), the coach should move up one rung at a time and never more. To jump two rungs in one go is to raise the probability of failure.

Question 5 is straightforward in that if a practice represents something that is NOT required in a competitive round of golf then it is nothing more than a ‘time-filler’. It is the coach’s role to explain precisely how and when the practice being undertaken is a behaviour that has to be demonstrated by the pupil at least occasionally when playing golf.

Questions 6 and 7 are related in that they need to be asked and answered before the player begins the first practice because they focus attention on precisely what is required and why.

Question 8 reflects the old adage, ‘A picture paints a thousand words’. It means that the coach should be able to physically demonstrate the coaching points being made and those that he/she wants the player to replicate.

If the coach cannot do this, then they need to find a golfer who can and ask the pupil to watch this golfer execute precisely what is wanted. If such a golfer is not available then a video recording of the desired technical points being executed to a high standard is the next best method and should be shown as soon as possible.

Questions 9 to 12 are self-explanatory but often abused. The recommendation here is that the coach should allow the pupil to play at least three shots before offering any feedback and, initially, should begin this interchange by asking the pupil what they thought of their own efforts before offering feedback. This gives the player an opportunity to think about what was achieved and, more importantly, why it was achieved.

The final question may be self-explanatory but it is extremely important that the coach is able to tick the ‘Yes’ box after the session. This is because the pupil must go away with a clear understanding of what they believe they achieved, what is needed to be worked on and what can be expected in the next coaching session.

Click here to download the ‘Performance criteria for coaches’ Document (.DOC 0.4MB)

Self and Peer Assessment in Golf Coaching
Effective Listening Skills & The PGA Professional (Part 2) Sun, 24 Jan 2016 14:20:14 +0000 Dr. Brian Hemmings In the second part of ‘Effective Listening Skills & The PGA Professional’ (catch Part 1 here), Dr Brian Hemmings explains how you can become a more effective li]]>

In the second part of ‘Effective Listening Skills & The PGA Professional’ (catch Part 1 here), Dr Brian Hemmings explains how you can become a more effective listener and how this can help your coaching…

‘Players need to know that you care, before they care what you know.’

Players like to know that the coach ‘cares’ about their needs and development.  I believe effective listening is the factor that demonstrates that a coach cares; that you care enough to listen intently even though you are busy.

I have met countless players who describe great coaches as those who are great listeners.  In fact, PGA Master Professional and world famous coach, Pete Cowen, once remarked to me that what set him apart from other coaches were two simple words: “I care.”

How do I listen more effectively?  Psychologists use factual listening.  This involves the application of a specific set of active techniques referred to as summarising, paraphrasing and clarification to gain accurate information, and importantly, to ensure a player feels they have been heard and fully understood.


Summarising is the skill of accurately and succinctly recounting the range of information presented by the golfer, highlighting the prominent features of their story, and stating this back to them.

It can enable the coach to gather and integrate various strands of information given by the player, which can then be presented back to them.  The process of presenting information back to the player provides the opportunity for both coach and player to confirm mutual understanding.


This is the skill of presenting back what the player has expressed be it in the same or a different order/sequence from the one given by the player.

Coaches can demonstrate that they have listened effectively by providing their understanding from what they have heard, which can be either confirmed and/or challenged by the player.  The different order of presentation of information by the coach provides the opportunity for players’ to ‘hear’ their own statements from an alternative point-of-view, creating the opportunity for the player to arrive at a new personal perspective and understanding.


Clarification is a process that the coach may use to ensure an understanding of what the player has disclosed in the way in which the player intended it.

This may include the use of paraphrasing and other specific questions to access the information the coach requires to ensure their own understanding is accurate (e.g. to fill in gaps about facts/events/shots from a recent round or tournament that you need as a coach to fully understand the player’s story).

You don’t need to be a psychologist to be a good listener.  The above fundamental techniques are the cornerstone of building effective relationships with players.

Albert Einstein once said he didn’t teach his students anything; he merely tried to create the right conditions in which they could learn.  Try and incorporate effective factual listening into your coaching and you will be going some way to creating great learning conditions for your players.  Listening intently is a clear signal you care a great deal.

This article originally featured in International Golf Pro News. Visit the IGPN Page to find out more and subscribe for free.

Effective Listening Skills & The PGA Professional (Part 2)
Golf Psychology Coaching Certificate – November Discount Code Mon, 09 Nov 2015 16:56:41 +0000 Dr. Brian Hemmings Psychologist Dr Brian Hemmings has worked with the PGAs of Europe across a number of years and we are very pleased to be passing on a fantastic discount that he]]>

Psychologist Dr Brian Hemmings has worked with the PGAs of Europe across a number of years and we are very pleased to be passing on a fantastic discount that he has made available for his hugely popular ‘Golf Psychology Coaching Certificate’.

Dr. Hemmings has provided a discounted rate for PGA Professionals that are members of PGAs of Europe Member Countries that enables them to get a substantial discount on the fully online programme that is available in English, German/Deutsche and Spanish/Español.

Information on the Programme, as well as the discount code for PGA Members, can be found by downloading the PDF Information document using the button below.

Download Information Document (PDF – 0.4MB)

For more information contact Dr Brian Hemmings at


Golf Psychology Coaching Certificate – November Discount Code
Louis Oosthuizen – The St Andrews Trigger Mon, 14 Sep 2015 16:38:55 +0000 PGAs of Europe Five years ago at the venue of this year’s Open Championship, Louis Oosthuizen secured his first major win. During his composed and clinical play commentators]]>

Five years ago at the venue of this year’s Open Championship, Louis Oosthuizen secured his first major win. During his composed and clinical play commentators noticed a small red dot drawn on to his glove.

Afterwards Louis revealed that it was in fact a trigger shown to him by his psychologist, Karl Morris, which enabled him to engage his pre-shot routine effectively throughout the tournament.

IGPN caught up with Louis ahead of his return to St Andrews to find out more…


Q. Can you explain a bit about the red-dot concept and what it was designed to do?

“I had it on my glove to have a focus point to start my routine.  It could have been any colour, but red we thought was like a stop sign; stop what you are doing and focus on the next shot.”

Q. How did Karl help you identify this and build it in to your game?

“I worked with Karl Morris for 1 or 2 weeks to work on a routine, nothing other than that, just on the routine side of my game.”

Q. How much do you think the idea assisted you throughout that week?

“Well I still needed to play well, but obviously that helped me get into the right frame of mind before I hit every shot.”

Q. Do you still use this concept or something similar when playing now?

“No I do not use that concept anymore, but I got myself into a routine after that.  I do not need the trigger as I know now before a shot to stand a few seconds to focus on what I want to do.”

Q. How do you feel about returning to St Andrews five years on from your Open Championship win?

“I’m really looking forward to playing a golf course I love at my favourite place in the world.  Hopefully the game is there and I play well this week.”


PING are Corporate Partners of the PGAs of Europe. For more information on PING visit


Louis Oosthuizen – The St Andrews Trigger
Golf Psychology Coaching Certificate – Dr. Brian Hemmings – CPD Course Sun, 24 May 2015 05:07:15 +0000 Dr. Brian Hemmings AN APPROVED ONLINE EDUCATION PROGRAMME OF THE PGAs OF EUROPE 2014 - NOW ALSO AVAILABLE IN GERMAN & SPANISH]]>


A  hugely successful online course for PGA teaching professionals accredited for 100 CPD Points.

This fully online course is packed with practical activities for the PGA professional to guide players through improving their mental game, and is endorsed by some of England’s best coaches. Coaches can complete the course at home so they will have no travel costs or time away from their work. All coaches need is a player to work with and the time to complete the course activities. The course takes on average 25 hours to complete.

Includes material and coaching resources on:

  • Motivation and Assessing Needs
  • Mental Skills for Golf
  • Techniques to Coach

Click Here to Download Information PDF (0.4mb)

Golf Psychology Coaching Certificate – Dr. Brian Hemmings – CPD Course
A Masterclass in Golf Psychology – CPD Course Tue, 13 Jan 2015 07:51:17 +0000 Dr. Brian Hemmings ‘Taking players and coaches from good to great’ Dr. Brian Hemmings & Dr. Richard Cox Wednesday 21st January 2015 Central...]]>

‘Taking players and coaches from good to great’

Dr. Brian Hemmings & Dr. Richard Cox

Wednesday 21st January 2015

Central Location: Holiday Inn, Rugby-Northampton, J18 of M1, NN6 7XR, United Kingdom

‘Approved by the British Psychological Society Learning Centre for the purposes of Continuing Professional Development’


‘Approved by the PGA of Great Britain & Ireland for 25 CPD points’

*Reduced Fees for Postgraduate Students/BPS Stage 2 Trainees/BASES SE Candidates/PGA Assistants*

Click Here to Download Information PDF (0.4mb)
Click Here For Full details and booking forms

A Masterclass in Golf Psychology – CPD Course