3 Steps to increase

your motivation levels


One of the most talked about topics in golf psychology during this time is that of motivation. We all have it. We have all been in situations when we knew we have it, or in fact we didn’t. But how do you actively develop it?

One of the most talked about topics in golf psychology during this time is that of motivation. We all have it. We have all been in situations when we knew we have it, or in fact we didn’t. But how do you actively develop it?

When our motivation levels are high, we tend approach challenges, persist in the face of adversity, apply ourselves with a high level of effort, and feel a sense of pleasure in the activities that we engage in.

In contrast, when our motivation levels are low we tend to do the opposite. We avoid challenging situations, by preferring to set easier or more manageable targets. When things get challenging or difficult, we tend to give up or give in quicker. Our effort levels are inconsistent or non-existent, and finally, we tend to feel enjoyment based purely upon what we win, or what we achieve, rather than the feeling of playing.

Unfortunately, it is not a simple as ‘switching on’ our motivation to get the positive behavioural outcomes listed above. Our level (like any other golfer) can fluctuate, and our motivation can move along a continuum of ‘an absence of’ (or amotivation), through external (extrinsic) to ‘internal’ (intrinsic) motivation.

The closer to internal motivation your level, the more outcomes above written in purple you are likely to experience. The closer to absence the more red outcomes you will experience.


You are able to influence your motivation level

The good news is that with some effort, targeting the right areas, your motivation level can be improved, changed or even maintained. Here is how…

All human beings share three basic psychological needs – competence, autonomy and relatedness. By ensuring that our winter golf (be it practice or competition) is tending to these needs, you are able to influence your motivation levels to good effect.

At any given moment, our motivation level is a reflection of how well we are meeting each (and all) of these needs. If you aren’t meeting them motivation = low. If you meet them all to motivation = high.

Grounded within Deci and Ryan’s Self Determination Theory, the three tips below will help you to hit the ground running this season and give you some ideas to help you top up, change, or maintain your motivation levels this winter. Each step provides a practice and competition example for your to implement in your own time.


Step 1- Developing feelings of COMPETENCE in your golfing game

This first basic psychological need is competence.

In short, to achieve a more regular internal level of motivation, you need a measure of success that related to what you are doing.

In short, a competence measure in every practice session or winter game (if considered carefully) with the ability to give you feedback, will help your motivation. This means it is important to follow aims in your practice, range sessions, and winter competitions with a feedback measurement.

Now before reading over this or jumping straight into setting goals straight away – be aware! Set a goal too challenging, or fail to provide feedback, you’ll undermine your motivation. In addition, set a goal too easy (or with limited or the wrong feedback) you’ll undermine your motivation.

Therefore, two things are key for you to consider 1) what you are aiming for and 2) how you provide feedback to yourself. Here are some possible ways to do this…

  1. On the range: choose a number of targets (flags / nets) to play shots to. Create a point based game that rewards you for finishing your shots closer to each target. Make a note of the rules (e.g. how close for how many points) and track you progress on the range. Use this score to plan your next range session, and track again.
  2. In competition – try taking simple performance statistics that give you the course specific feedback (e.g. where you miss fairways, left and right?). What does this tell you about your performance off the tee? Use it to inform your next practice session…

Golfshake have created stats cards which are great for both practice and playing. These cards provide clear and simple feedback on your performance – well worth a look!


Step 2 – Ensure that you are approaching your golf with feelings of AUTONOMY

This second basic psychological need is autonomy.

In short, it is important to have a freedom of choice in what it is you are doing.

If you are following a training programme through a book, a PGA professional, a coach, or an online plan, this (although well informed) could well be limiting your motivational level.

A lack of choice has the potential to lower your motivational level.

To boost your autonomy, great your own personalised training plan or strategy. Plug in the relevant information from blogs, articles, PGA professionals and online resources by all means. But the main point here is to personal it. Make it your own. Own your practice regime or course strategy.

  1. On the range: Vary your practice. Select the area of your game you feel needs the most work, or an area you want to work on. Have fun with the practice and find new ways to achieve the goal you want. For example, when practicing chip shots around the greens, take three attempts, with three different clubs. Closest to the pin wins. Which club comes out on top?
  2. In competition – Mix up your approach play. Rather than playing a 3 iron 8 iron (or your preferred approach) into a par 4. Swap this around. 8 iron off the tee and 3 iron in (or your version). The aim here is to find new ways to play your regular course. Create new ways to play it. Remember here we are looking at increasing motivation as an outcome (rather than course management).


Step 3 – Keep an eye on your level of RELATEDNESS

The third and final basic psychological need is relatedness.

This refers to the feeling of being involved in something with other people. Golf by its nature is a social sport. But all too often we can get caught up practicing on our own. This directly limited feelings of relatedness, which can lead to external or absent forms of motivation.

By practicing with others and mixing up with and where you play, you are likely to get different perspectives on the game, maybe some better banter, and overall an increase to your level of  relatedness (providing your pick your new playing partners wisely!).

  1. On the Range: Practice with others. And I don’t mean just meet others at the range, stand side by side and practice alone, include others within your practice. Share a bucket or two of balls, alternate between striking shots (if your session allows). Challenge each other to hit the same targets. Provide each other with feedback. Decide where the other will play their next shot / aim. The point here is that practicing with someone else will increase your relatedness.
  2. In competition – Change your playing partners or take part in different formats of competition. Foursomes is a great way to ensure you are interacting with other golfers during this winter season.


Go put this into practice!

There you have it – three steps to develop, maintain, or change your motivation level this winter. Give the tips above a go on your next round or practice session. Remember, just like the work you o on your swing, you can’t develop an ability to think clearly by reading alone.

Your motivation level is influenced by the total of all three basic needs (competence, autonomy and relatedness) combined. Therefore choosing to focus on just two, will enable  you to make a change or take steps to maintain your motivation.