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Interview with Sport Mental Coach Martin Schütt

We keep emphasizing how important the mental side of the game is. Many amateurs are aware of this, but where do you start and how do you measure your own progress? A slice can be corrected with the trainer through practice, but what about nervousness and self-doubt? We spoke to Martin Schütt, Golf Mental Coach and operator of the mentaltraining-golf.de website and asked him exactly.

BelowPar: Mr. Schütt, you are a sports mental coach with a focus on golf mental training. How did you get into golf and what fascinates you about golf?

Martin Schütt: I came to golf through my partner, who already played golf with her sister and pointed out a golf taster course to me. Of course, this was done with the ulterior motive that we would spend more time together in our limited free time 😉 What fascinates me about golf are the many facets of this game. I couldn't put my finger on a point that particularly appeals to me, except, of course, the mental side. Perhaps it is the opportunity to deal with things in a playful way. This game has a competitive and fun character at the same time and that in the great outdoors, in beautiful park-like facilities and occasionally (in Hamburg) in the best weather.

BelowPar: Golf is one of the few sports in which we players have significantly more time to think than to play. What we think has an enormous influence on the number that ends up on the menu, which is precisely why sports psychology is a popular topic, especially among golfers and increasingly also among amateurs. Starting to play golf is relatively easy. You grab a racket, get started and maybe take a coaching lesson. But how do you start with mental training? There is plenty of superficial advice on the subject, such as “you just have to think positively”.

Martin Schütt: In the beginning, books actually helped me to deal with the topic of mental training. Bob Rotella with the "15. Racket "(Link to the book) and Oliver Heuler's "Beyond the Score "(Link to the book) were my first works. These two books provide a very good introduction and make it easier to deal with the mental perspective, which unfortunately is often very neglected by recreational and weekend golfers.

There are so many golfers who I see coming from a round of golf frustrated and cursing and whom I would like to take by the hand straight away to show that you can spend your free time on the golf course so much more pleasant than snorting off the course leave. It helps to first approach the topic of mental training by reading and then look for a golf mental coach with whom you can work out your goals for the season. Just positive thinking is not enough, but it is a good first step.

BelowPar: As a beginner you will find at some point that the results are slowly but surely getting better. The handicap also falls. But how do you know that you are getting better mentally? Because there is no handicap and no score in the traditional sense of the word. Should you only rely on your gut feeling?

Martin Schütt: You realize it when you notice that you are reacting much more calmly than before to challenging or catastrophic game events on the pitch. Unfavorable ball positions are no longer a horror scenario with improved mental strength and water hazards that have to be played over no longer make your knees go weak. The pressure inside, the nervousness simply subsides. The whole body tension is not cramped when the thoughts in the head no longer do somersaults, but have become a slow, calm flow.

BelowPar: We have found time and again that the frustration tolerance of amateurs who take golf seriously and regularly play tournament golf is significantly lower than that of professionals. Is that something that you also noticed in the course of your work? In your opinion, what is the difference between a good player and a very good player - especially in the mental area?

Martin Schütt: I can clearly affirm this statement. Mental coaching or mental training is also less widespread among amateurs than among professionals and is still in its infancy. Many recreational and weekend golfers shy away from booking a mental training session and mistakenly compare that to “lying down on the psycho-couch”, which is really not the case.

If you manage to control your emotions and thoughts in a positive way and to use your full potential on the pitch when it is needed most, you are way ahead of your competitors. That's the difference between a good and a very good player.

Success starts in the head. Professionals recognized this early on and use the advantages of mental training for their game. There is still a lot of educational work to be done by us sports mental coaches for amateurs so that they too can become golfers who are slumbering in their subconscious.

BelowPar: Every golfer is very likely familiar with this one hole, one tee or one approach shot that suddenly makes us feel unsafe. Some speak of the “fear hole”, others simply speak of sudden self-doubt in pressure situations. How do you best deal with it?

Martin Schütt: There are a number of ways to face your fear. You can declare a trust club that you know will get the best results with that club whenever it has been difficult in the past. You can push yourself quietly or in a normal voice with motivating sentences to stop the negative thoughts or rely on a pre-shot routine.

Since every golfer has an individual character, it is of course only possible to find an individual solution for the respective player. What works for one does not necessarily have to work for the other. Here it really comes down to working out a solution for each individual.

What is important is a positive action or a positive anchor in the head that stops negative thoughts and thus stops the downward spiral of fear or prevents it from coming up in the first place.

BelowPar: In one of your blog articles on your website you address the topic of defeat and quote the following sentence, which we directly subscribe to: "Failure is the mentor of success." Failure is simply part of sport. In practice we are often aware of this principle. How do you manage to consistently implement this thought pattern in practice?

Martin Schütt: It is important to admit that you can and may fail. The fear of failure is so negatively anchored in our society that some people no longer dare to start something because they fear being laughed at and mocked. The thought of the negative consequences of failure paralyzes our own development. In development, mistakes show us where we stand, what we should think through and improve, because this is the only way we can successfully break new ground. Failure is a learning opportunity and we should understand it as such, in life as in golf.

Of course it is difficult for one or the other to put this into practice, but what happens if you don't get up again? They stay on the ground and do not develop any further.

A tip for practice after you have failed: Analyze why this happened and then think about the smallest possible step towards success.

BelowPar: Do you have a favorite method of mentally preparing yourself or your students for a tournament?

Martin Schütt: One method that I personally practice, among other things, is mentally playing through the field the evening before a tournament. I then go to a quiet place in my apartment and play the course through once or twice in my mind. Visualizing is a great technique to prepare for a competition. The power of inner images is an invaluable aid on the way to success.

BelowPar: One question that interests us is the topic of meditation. Meditation has been shown to make us happier, less stressful, and more relaxed (source). Do you think meditation and breathing are what fitness training was 30 years ago? In other words: in the next 30 years everyone will do it and if not, is everyone still aware that it is good for them?

Martin Schütt: Meditation and breathing exercises are part of the mental training and can be a good approach for one or the other to prepare optimally or to catch yourself on the pitch if the round does not go optimally. This will certainly not be right for everyone, but for many it can be a good approach. Who knows what will be in 30 years and what new developments there will be by then. Until then, everyone should find out for themselves and try it out.

Mr. Schütt, thank you very much for the interview. Where can we find out more about you?

You can either visit my website or contact me personally, be it via email or my Facebook account. But you are most likely to meet me on the golf courses in Northern Germany. I always try to play many different courses in a year and can therefore usually be found where the sun is shining in northern Germany.