By The 2017 European Solheim Cup Captain, Annika

Time flies and we are now entering the second half of the year. All tours around the world are in full swing and, in the midst of major season, there’s little doubt some players are finding it hard to keep their energy and / or concentration levels high due to the hectic schedule.

It’s not easy balancing competition, practice and rest. Most of today’s players are physically strong and healthy, so the body will not necessarily wear down. However, it’s the mental aspect of the game that can suffer during a long stretch of events. I often ask young players today, “How much do you work on your mental training?” Most of the time, they respond with a confused look.

Well… here are a few reasons why mental training is so important:

· The mind can play games
· One must learn how to deal with nerves
· Trusting yourself isn’t always easy
· Focusing on the right things is essential to winning golf

We all want to reach our full potential, and with positive thinking it’s very feasible to find the “zone.” But it’s much harder to do so when we’re blaming others and using excuses like “My playing partner was so slow,” “The pin positions were too tough,” “I’m tired and didn’t sleep well because my hotel was noisy” or “My caddie confused me.”

Mental training teaches us how to focus on the right things at the right time. We can train our mind to fully concentrate and believe that we can achieve new levels and break records.

Players with the best swings, smoothest putting strokes or amazing feel around the green still need to have a strong mind as there’s more to golf technical expertise. As a matter of fact, players with a strong mind often do better because they are in the right frame of mind when they play.

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “The longest distance in golf is in between your ears.” It sounds funny, but it means that the mind – our thoughts and our mental approach – really matters. We should all spend time working on this important aspect of the game. There is no doubt that it’s the biggest difference between participants and champions.

For example, how many of you have striped it on the range, walked to the first tee and then something changed? All of a sudden you can’t see yourself hitting the fairway. How many of you have stood over a putt, doubted yourself and it led to you not committing to a line? Can you remember days when you have a hard time focusing and find it difficult to move on from a bad shot or a 3-putt?

I worked very hard on the mental side of golf. Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Lorena Ochoa, to name a few, also possessed a very good understanding of their games and their minds. They were almost always in control of their thoughts and created an environment in which they could thrive. Mastery of the mental aspect of golf kept their play at a consistently high level throughout the long season. And it will help you play your best, too.