Why Do Some Pros Succeed On Tour While Others Fail And Have To Sell Golf Balls? Part 3 of 3

This is the final installment of this series on why some pro’s make it on tour and others don’t.  To see part 1 of this series click here and to see part 2 click here.

Tournament Evaluation

This study found that tournament evaluation was a critical element of success for the top tour professionals. All the top pros do some type of assessment and evaluation after every golf game they played. And they did this especially after a bad round as they often learn the most from these experiences. It was also found that after their evaluation, and pulling out the lessons, they are very quick to put the problems behind them and move on. Listen to what they had to say…

“My mental practice is pulling out the lessons, which often times serves me better than to go out and hit five hundred golf balls. I can’t practice the intangibles. If I could I would. Like when I hit a great drive, great second shot, hit the putt where I wanted, but misread it. The only thing I can do is read it more correctly.”

“I think I was trying today, but rather than using one finger to try and hit the panic button, I was trying to hit with both fists. I just couldn’t do it.”

“Mentally I’ve got this other person walking along talking in my ear. That probably has been the driving force. This other part of me that does step aside from the confusion and become analytical and become that coach or whatever it is. I try to learn from my worse rounds. I try and take a particular situation and remember it and say when faced with that situation again, hit the ball a little harder.”

“This afternoon, because of this morning’s round, I will sit down with my caddy and pull out what went well and set out a game plan for tomorrow. In my head I will recall what works well.”

“Qualifying or not, is not the end of the world. Pull out the positive and move on.”

“When I have a poor round like today, I set up a plan to rectify it. The plan is like a set of building blocks, one step at a time. I mentally practice that plan.”

“I do my own evaluating. I think about the round I’ve played and how I would do it differently, and I’ll practice mentally on the changes. I practice after I play and work on a few things and think about it for tomorrow. Then relax and stop thinking about it.”

“I evaluate each round at the end of the round and then I try to work a little bit harder on the weakest part of my game for that day. Unfortunately you learn a lot from misfortune and mistakes than when things are going great.”

“After a round, I think of what I could improve upon and go and practice that a little afterwards. Once I leave the golf course I try to forget it.”

“I do a certain amount of evaluation after a competition round, but it is always, what club didn’t I hit well? What aspect of my game didn’t go well that day? I just go for 15 to 20 minutes practice (the corrections), then I’m ready to go home and relax.”

Now let’s look at the differences top pros have found between a good and bad round.

The Difference Between A Good And Bad Round

When the top pros evaluate a poor performance all of them can tell you what was happening and some examples of this are becoming too uptight, lacking concentration, losing confidence, losing patience, lacking focus or vague imagery. Here are some quotes from the top pros on how they lose it and how they refocus to get back into the game when they think they’re beginning to lose it…

“When things are not going well and no matter how hard I try I can’t keep my mind on what I’m doing, mostly it is losing my patience. To refocus I have to work a little bit harder and be patient. Don’t give into it, you can still pull of a pretty good round.”

“During bad rounds my focus is uptight, nervous and nothing is clear. No target at all, just vague. Very clear differences between the two (good and bad round). If I stick with my game plan and do my best, that works.”

“My tenseness comes in my shoulders and I have a little refocusing deep breathing exercises to just try and feel my body relax. I try to focus in on my shoulders and just try to relax.”

“The major difference between a good and bad round for me is my concentration and a few putts and just flowing with the round. Making a few good putts, that’s the key.”

“I find when I’m playing really bad, the grip gets tighter.”

“When things are going less well I wasn’t accepting the fact that I would make mistakes and hit bad shots.”

“When my game is not going too good, to get myself out of a mental rut and start thinking positive, I play little games out there. I bet my caddy I can make so many birdies out of so many holes, things like that.”

“When I’m playing bad, the concentration is lacking in the short game. My imagination goes and my feel is bad. I can’t visualize hitting a drive, or making a birdie. I make a bogey and panic.”

“When I’m not playing well there are a thousand things running around in my mind and it is just a big mess. There is a big difference between a good and bad round – a big drop in confidence.”

“Playing well is literally one shot at a time. Sometimes I think I lose sight of that and I don’t channel all of those mental gymnastics that I go through into something basic, which is swinging of the club. I get caught into a position of second guessing myself.”

So What Are The Top Golf Pros Like?

The top touring pros that were interviewed were found to be very unique, self-directed individuals, with a very positive attitude and an incredible belief in themselves. The following quotes reinforce this perspective…

“I know me better than anyone else. I trust my judgment.”

“On a given day if I am not playing well, I will still find that there is a lot that is good, because other facets of my game could be very good.”

“Whatever happens during a tournament or a round of golf, I try to maintain a consistent positive attitude, and finish as high as I can, given the conditions, and get the most out of the week.”

“I think it is knowing that even though I may have a bad streak, if I stay patient, I will have a good one, too, you can count on it.”

“I am a very positive person and when playing I don’t try and fight my personality. I let it express itself when it has to. I enjoy myself out there and show it.”

“I never count myself out of any tournament.”

“For self-confidence, I concentrate on the good things that I have done and try not to dwell on the bad things.”

“The greatest realization is the necessity to go easy on oneself. Be aware of the situation and make the most of it and do the best you can on that day. With nervousness, learn how to control it and use it to your advantage. There are no miracles.”

“I’m always looking for the edge, I will try new things and throw away what doesn’t work for me.”

Finally here’s some qualities that all the top-touring professionals had in common…

  • They all had a big driving force to be a winner or to be the best they possibly can.
  • All the top pros knew they had the potential to be a top professional golfer early in their golfing career.
  • They all expressed how they love to play golf and how they desire to play every day. Having said that they all appreciated that they need time away from the game for rest and relaxation.
  • Only one of the top golf pros felt that their home/personal life didn’t have an impact on how well they played.

OK, let’s sum up the main success elements that all the top pros have in common and compare those with the mental approach club professionals use.

The Critical Mental Elements Of Golfing Success

From this study there were some common elements of excellence which distinguished the top touring pros from the club pros. Here’s a summary of these critical elements…

1. Commitment – It was found that the touring pros were totally committed to golf whereas the club pros were not nearly as committed to playing and/or practicing.

2. Quality Practice – It was found that the top tour pros practice with a purpose for the entire year and the club pros don’t.

3. Goal Setting – The top touring pros recognize and use goal setting regularly. Also, the top pros found that when they didn’t use goal setting their performances suffered. The club pros were found to only set goals occasionally.

4. Imagery Practice – It was found that the touring pros practice and utilize imagery on a regular basis i.e. daily, sometimes for seconds, sometimes for concentrated hours. They do this for every aspect of the game. The club pros also use imagery but they do not do it on a daily basis and it was not as highly refined as the top tour pros.

5. Practice And Tournament Planning – It was found that the tour pros have and follow very detailed individualized plans for practice and tournament play. Conversely the club pros have little structure or consistency to their preparation practices. But they do recognize the benefits of mentally preparing for their games but they simply don’t follow through on this.

6. Tournament Focus Plan – It was found that there was hardly any difference between the touring pros and club pros in their focusing plans during a round. But they found again, the club pros did not follow through and apply what they knew.

7. Distraction Control – Both the tour pros and club pros recognized the existence of distractions like slow play, leader boards, delays etc. But the tour pros showed a higher level of skill in coping with these distractions effectively.

8. Tournament Evaluation – All the top tour pros followed some type of individualized assessment procedure after every round. While the club pros also see and know the benefits in doing this they don’t do so with any commitment and consistency.

9. The Difference Between A Good And Bad Round – It was found that both touring pros and club pros have a clear understanding that they play better when focusing on a task instead of swing faults, but the top touring pros are much better at maintaining a focus on what is needed to perform well than are the club pros.

Now here’s a table that clearly shows the differences between top tour pros and the club pros.


Top Tour Professional
Club Professional
CommitmentIt was found that success in golf was partly due to the fact that golf was a top priority in their lives. The club pros were not totally committed to success in golf. In fact golf was third or fourth priority in their lives.
Quality PracticeThe top pros not only devoted many hours a day to improving their golfing skills but they also mentally prepared themselves for high quality practice sessions. It was found that club pros lacked both the quality and quantity of practice time compared to the top pros.
Goal SettingThe top tour pros set very clearly defined goals and this included daily goals, practice goals, tournament goals, yearly goals and long term goals. The club pros in general did not have clearly defined goals nor did they set any daily goals on a consistent basis. Also practice goals weren’t clearly defined.
ImageryTop touring pros used mental imagery on a daily basis for a variety of purposes. Some examples of this included preparation for practice, improvement of shot making, swing improvements, preparation for tournaments and for improving confidence. The club pros understood and recognized the value of using imagery but did not practice or utilize it on a daily basis. Also, they did not have the quality or control of imagery as did the top pros.
Practice PlanIt was found that the top pros had very detailed individualized plans for practice on days without tournaments. Also they had detailed plans to follow before and after competing on tournament days. The club pros lacked an individualized practice plan and had very little or no plan to follow for warming up or for tournament play.
Pre-Tournament Plan (Pre-Competition Plan)The top tour pros have a very structured pre-tournament plan. And this includes a plan for course management, shot making along with a time frame plan for the day e.g. what time they’re going to arrive at the course. How many balls they’re going to hit and when etc. etc. The club pros know the benefits of planning and mentally preparing for a tournament but AGAIN they did not follow-through on what they knew.
Tournament Focus PlanEvery tournament they entered was done with a success plan on how they could maximize their results. Also they knew the mental state they wanted to be in during the tournament, called “the zone” which for them meant total concentration and focus on each task (shot) at hand i.e. one shot at a time. The club pros again recognized and knew where their focus should be during a tournament round. And they could describe in detail focusing strategies but they rarely enter a tournament with that focus plan, practice it, or follow through and put it into action during a tournament.
Distraction ControlIt was found that the tour pros have developed effective ways to deal with distractions. But they need to be reminded constantly to stay task focused or to refocus, in order to deal effectively with distractions. The club pros were found not to be as skilled with coping with distractions as the tour pros. Once again they knew the importance of effective refocusing techniques but they never practiced or improved these skills.
Tournament EvaluationAfter every tournament game the top pros play they systematically go through and assess what went well and what needs improving. Then they pull out the important lessons and learning points from that game and go about improving the faults. They don’t dwell on errors but rather they work on improvement and then move on. The club pros are aware of the importance of self evaluation after a tournament game but it’s not done systematically or on a regular basis. When they do find areas of improvement they very rarely practice to improve for the next tournament.


OK, I hope you learnt a lot from this study. I certainly did. And one of the most important things that hit home to me was that the club pros knew basically all the same stuff as the top touring pros, it’s just that they didn’t follow-through and act on it.

Because of this I’ll repeat what I always say – information is useless without action. So now I’m going to point you to resources where you can learn how to implement these different success elements…

a) Total commitment – This is one thing you can’t really practice and maybe you shouldn’t. Let me explain. Commitment is all about priorities. If you had the choice to go to Disneyland on holiday with your family or play at Augusta National what you choose would be based on your priority structure. If your family is a higher priority than golf then you’d go with them. If golf is more important than your family then you’d choose to play at Augusta. Maybe I’m being a bit unfair in this analogy but I hope you get my point. Whatever rates higher on your priority scale will be where your commitment is.

If golf is not how you make your living then golf is probably not the highest priority. So the best that you can do if your time is limited is to make golf your total commitment when you’re playing i.e. don’t take your cell phone to the course, warm up before you play etc., etc.

Now if golf is how you make your living I still think you need a balance. Golf should be a top priority in your life but you do need a balanced life as well, otherwise you’ll get burnt out and you won’t enjoy playing golf like you should.

b) Practice with quality rather than quantity – I never recommend anyone hitting balls for the sake of hitting balls. What is the point?

c) Have clearly defined goals – Setting goals has been proven to separate the people who are successful from those who aren’t. And golf is no different.

d) Practice imagery on a daily basis.

e) Prepare detailed plans for practice and tournament play.

f) Focus totally on one shot at a time – How can you play one shot at a time? Follow the instructions in The Mental Game Improvement Program and create a mental pre-shot routine yourself. Once you do this, for the first time you’ll know how to play one shot at a time…everytime!

g) Recognize, expect and prepare to deal with pressure situations – Everyone feels pressure on the golf course, but by having a mental pre-shot routine combined with a physical pre-shot routine for every physical game of golf plus using the techniques in the Between Shots Article you’ll be ready for any pressure that comes your way.

h) Prepare and practice a plan to shift back to a task focus – for implementation in the face of distractions.

i) Practice refocusing skills when not playing up to expectations – Using the techniques in The Mental Game Improvement Program plus the Between Shots Article you’ll be able to live up to your potential more often even on the days when you just don’t have it. And we all have those days.

j) Evaluate the performance, pull out the lessons, practice that will help you learn from the lessons and gain from the experience – Use the information in the Post Game Article to guarantee you really improve the next time you play.

So that’s the finish of this article. I hope you enjoyed it and learnt as much as I have in giving it to you. But remember that this information is only useful if you use it. Don’t be like the club pros… use this information consistently to take your golf game to the next level!

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Jeff Richmond