Mental Toughness Training
How to Close Out a golf Round
Do you start golf rounds strong only to bottom out over the last few holes? It’s frustrating to be on track for your lowest score ever for the majority of a round only to give all those strokes back on the last few holes. For some golfers, the inability to close out a round haunts them while they are playing. The final few holes become anxiety-ridden as they just wait for the bottom to drop out.
You are playing close to or under your handicap through three-quarters of the round… then you start “stressing out” about the last few holes. You feel the pressure coursing through your body. You can see yourself unravelling as you watch it play out in your mind. You tighten up and pray to the golf gods that you don’t mess it up. Your strategy is to just protect your score instead of going for shots. Dread fills your body and fear invades your mind. You desperately do not want to fail AGAIN! You think, “What if I don’t win?”… “What will the coach say?”… “What will my team mates think?” You try to focus back on your shot but you can’t stop thinking about the butterflies in your stomach, your heart pounding and… missing the shot?
Every golfer knows what they SHOULD do during those critical last holes; stay in the moment, focus on your shot, let go of results… But knowing it is one thing and applying it is another. When the round is on the line, it may seem hard to play freely and control your nerves. However, if you are going to play your best golf you need to be able to finish strong… You need to learn to become a “closer.”
Closing :mental toughness
- Can wrap up a good round by being consistent during the last few holes.
- Relish playing when everything is on the line.
- Are eager standing over a putt that could win a tournament.
- Love playing the game and enjoy the excitement of the moment.
- Are energized by the challenges unique to each round of golf.
Let’s be realistic for a moment… closers may still have a round where they unravel on the last few holes but they are able to leave that round behind as they look forward to the next round.
Closers may have moments where they may think ahead to the result of the tournament but that flash is a motivating force and the closer quickly is able to re-focus on the strategy for the next shot.
The closer may get nervous but they see those critical last holes or “crunch-time” as an opportunity to grow their game and display truly what that are capable of producing.
Closers: Nature or Nurture
Most golfers see closers as being born with a certain quality… a quality that they just don’t have. To make matters worse, these golfers feel if they weren’t born with the closer gene, there is no amount of work that can make it magically appear.
It’s true that nothing magically appears. Your golf game wasn’t something you were born with. You worked on it, you practiced for countless hours, you took the advice of coaches, you researched how to improve and you learned from early mistakes. You invested time and effort to develop your golf game.
Being a closer requires nurturing. Being a closer is within the grasp of every golfer who steps on a course… YES! EVERY GOLFER! Being a closer is not genetic; it requires work ethic.
Being a closer is a mindset and your mindset is under your direct control. Your mindset determines how you see events and how you react to them.
Improve your mental toughness training for finishing out a round of golf.
Jordan Spieth “The Closer”
No. 1 ranked Jordan Spieth has played the 2015 season with a “Closer Mindset.” Spieth won two major titles (Masters Tournament and U.S. Open), secured three other PGA Tour victories (Valspar Championship, John Deere Classic and Tour championship), had 4 second-place finishes won 5 tournaments and finished in the top-ten 15 times en route to becoming the ninth FedEx champion.
We can learn a lot about the “closer’s mentality” by listening to Spieth’s post-tournament insights.
Insight #1: Embrace the Moment
Spieth won his first tournament in 2015 at the Valspar Championship. During a three-way playoff, Spieth sunk a 30-foot birdie putt for the victory.
Spieth talked about embracing the moment during the playoff, staying focused on his game and trying not to project past shortcomings into the present.
SPIETH: “I tried to smile today, tried to embrace it, embrace the fact that I was in it… The easiest thing to do is get your mind around what the other people are doing, and having been in two [playoffs] before, I certainly can draw back on what happened mentally and how do I improve and not think about what other people are doing.”
Insight #2: Focus on the Process
Spieth won the 2015 Masters in impressive fashion by leading wire-to-wire while setting new 36-hole and 54-hole scoring records. Spieth made a record 28 birdies during the tournament and became the second-youngest person to win the Masters.
Spieth noted that the key to closing out a round is not getting wrapped up in what the results might be.
SPIETH: “There’s a lot of time to think. That’s the toughest part about a [final] round like today. When you’re in the lead by a few shots with two major champions, there’s a lot of time to think through scenarios and listen to the roars.”
Spieth stayed focused on his game by playing a mental game with himself.
SPIETH: “We [caddie Michael Greller and I] kept our heads down. We stayed focused. The way we did it was, the beginning of the day, I texted Michael and said, ‘Michael, I want us to get to 20‑under. I want to get to – 4 today. I want us to be focused on that.’”
Insight #3: Closing out a round is mostly mental
Spieth started the final round of the 2015 U.S. Open in a four way tie and pulled off the victory by one stroke over Dustin Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen. With the win, Spieth became only the sixth player ever to win the Masters and the U.S. Open back to back.
Spieth stated that closing out a tournament takes more than physical skills.
SPIETH: “Probably half [physical] and half or even more mentally. I think both have to be there . Your preparation, your mental attitude, you’re zeroing in on the target, and then the other half is execution.”
Insight #4: The mental game requires you to do more mental toughness training
Spieth played strong consistent golf with rounds of 68, 66, 68 and 69 to win the 2015 Tour Championship and clinch the FedEx Cup with his season-ending victory.
Spieth stated that he works on his mental game by evaluating his tournament play in order to improve his focus and decision-making in future rounds.
SPIETH: “I work on my mental game by taking situations from the previous weeks, dissecting them, figuring out what went right and what went wrong. Evaluating when I went on good stretches, when I didn’t bounce back from a bogey, or when I made a couple birdies and then made a couple bogeys right after. Trying to understand what mistakes I made in my game decision-wise and that is strictly the mental part of the game. It’s the decisions that you make.”
Developing the “Closer” Mindset
In order to be a Spieth-like closer, you need to be proactive to build your competitive mindset. Far too often, golfers ignore their mental game and are at the mercy of their emotions and runaway thinking.
The first step in pro-actively building your mindset is creating the image of the golfer you want to be. What would you look like during a playoff? What types of thoughts would you have when the round is on the line? How would you focus be affected during critical moments during the round?
The next step is to develop specific steps needed to develop your own closer mentality. Review past play, find trends and look for the reasons you haven’t performed at the level you desire. Then, it’s just a matter of identifying and applying specific strategies to develop your personal closer mindset.
ACTION DRILL: Building your “Closer” mindset
Embrace the Moment – Be excited to be in the position to close out a round. It means you are playing your “A” game. What you say to yourself in critical moments during a round makes all the difference. If you imagine failure, you will give that fear a life of its own and you will have no chance to succeed. If you are eager to face the challenge, you will be right in the thick of things with a chance to win.
Prepare for the moment – By preparing for closing out rounds you will help condition your response in real-game situations. To manage playing with a racing heart, run in place for 30 seconds prior to your shot in practice rounds. You can either learn how to perform well with a fast heart beat or you can learn relaxation strategies to lower your heart rate. Relaxation strategies such as deep breathing, tension-reducing shoulder shrugs, counting down 4-3-2-1 are proven methods to calm golfers prior to important shots.
Finishing strong or having the “closer” mindset requires that you perceive the situation differently. Fear will stop your momentum. Champions, like Jordan Spieth, are excited about the chance to challenge themselves, the opportunity to close out a round in convincing fashion.