Resilience is Your Super Power (Especially in your Golf Game..)

By Paul Monahan, GGA Mental Game Coach

College football is so exciting because you never know what is going to happen. You never know how teams will respond to adversity.

A while back I was watching one of the Marquee College Football matchups of the week – and can’t help but think about how well both teams responded to challenges and setbacks.

If you watched the Penn State vs. Ohio State game, you know that the Nittany Lions scored on the first play of the game, and added another touchdown only a few minutes later to go up 14-0 early in the first quarter. And they led until just under two minutes in the game.

Penn State has an incredible team, and you could hardly blame the Ohio State players if they felt a little deflated early on. I mean, how do you get back in the game when you are dominated so thoroughly and so soon?

What you may not know however is that the Ohio State team has a unique resource: a peak performance coach by the name of Tim Kight who teaches resilience – something I believe is a real Super Power when it comes to realizing your best performances. Kight’s goal: to help the OSU football players master a new language and produce supportive self-talk to navigate through setbacks successfully.

Kight’s work is not the only thing that determines the team’s results. And it doesn’t always produce the results they want. But more often than not, his work cultivates a performance dynamic for the players to operate from a productive mindset and play their best, no matter the situation.

Mental and emotional resilience – the capacity to bounce back from challenges, disappointments, and setbacks quickly – is such an essential part of golf as well.

In today’s column, I will present some concepts that may allow you to think differently about setbacks, and help you to build your capacity to be resilient while practicing and playing.

I believe that with some intention and awareness, you can build MORE resilience into your practice and play so that this single-plane-swing journey is a lot easier and way more fun.


First, we have to start with some basics.

There is only one reason why you experience adversity, but it’s probably not the reason you think.

Here’s how we often process challenges on the golf course our self-talk sounds like this:

Seems logical, but the truth is quite different.

You see, you’re not upset because you drove it into the trees, skulled a wedge across the green or missed that easy four-footer on the last green.

You’re mad for a much more fundamental reason.

That’s right. You’re upset because the REALITY you are experiencing does not align with your STORY about what you SHOULD be experiencing.

(Read that again. It’s super talented.)

You’re not mad because you drove it into the woods. You’re crazy because your STORY says you should be able to hit the fairway…or perhaps that guys like you don’t run it into the woods.

The stories you anchor in critical moments shape how you interpret each moment. And when your reality and your story are misaligned, it’s easy to understand any moment as bad, negative, disappointing, frustrating…etc.

If you played golf with me when I was 20, you’d understand why I threw my clubs all the time…or why I played the game so frustrated.

It wasn’t because I was producing terrible shots. (Though there were LOADS of those!) It was because my STORY and my reality were not aligned. My story was: “I should be able to produce great shots all the time.” And yet my fact was entirely different, and it was hard to be resilient.

So what to do?

I believe that there are three easy ways to build more resilience in your golf game.

  • Be more aware of your internal mechanics:

Awareness is both a skill and a discipline. When you bring knowledge of your own mental and emotional state to the golf course, you can improve how you play and experience the game.

But you need to work at it…and be intentional about it.

Your brain is continually monitoring your environment looking for nominal conditions. And when situations fall outside of theoretical – when reality and story are not aligned – red flags go up, and your emotional intensity rises.

But missing a four-footer just means that you lost a four-footer. The event itself is neutral. It doesn’t say anything until you – guided by your internal mechanics – decide it does.

So pay more attention to your internal mechanics…the part of your brain that signals potential danger – and that can take you out of productive thinking if you are not careful.

And when you are facing adversity ask yourself: Is this a disaster …? Or is this something more benign?

Take a few moments the next time you show up to practice or play, and try and assess your own mental and emotional state. And work to be more aware of when your internal mechanics are trying to hijack your game.

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