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How to Improve the Golf IQ

How to Improve the Golf IQ
David Wixson, PGA Master Professional
Golf Program Instructor
Keiser University College of Golf


To determine how one can improve their golf IQ we must first define “Golf IQ” as the term could mean something different for each individual.

Loosely defined, Golf IQ infers that one golfer is more knowledgeable about the game than another golfer. A higher “Golf IQ” can manifest in various forms: a golfer may know more about the mechanics of the golf swing than another golfer; a golfer may understand course management/strategy better than another golfer; a golfer may know more about the mind/body relationship than another golfer and how learning to control the mental aspect of golf can improve performance.

Many would argue that the all-time greats of the game (Nicklaus, Woods) had a deeper understanding of all aspects of golf than their competitors. For instance, some would argue that Bubba Watson had as much physical skill as Tiger Woods, but Tiger had the stronger mind and was/is a better course strategist. A similar comparison might be made with Jordan Spieth vs. Rickie Fowler (or even Justin Thomas). Of today’s younger tour professionals, Spieth is generally recognized as having the highest “Golf IQ.”

Regardless of the definition one chooses, anybody can improve his or her Golf IQ by developing a Growth Mindset, which simply means that each individual must first believe that improvement (in anything) is possible and then put in some hard work. Dr. Carol Dweck, in her book, Mindset, explains the difference between what she describes as a Growth Mindset vs. a Fixed Mindset. For golfers, the difference is that a golfer with a Fixed Mindset believes that good golfers are all just naturally gifted and became good at golf without much effort. Conversely, golfers with a Growth Mindset believe that all things golf related (swing technique, course management, mental skills) are learned facets that can be continually improved upon.

A great example of a Growth Mindset has been demonstrated this year by Francesco Molinari, who just won The Open. For most of Molinari’s career, he was recognized as an above average touring professional who perhaps had failed to reach his full potential. However, about two years ago he sought the advice of Dr. Dave Alred, a Performance Coach, who specializes in developing a Growth Mindset in the athletes with whom he works. Essentially, Dr. Alred fostered Molinari’s self-belief via a concept he describes as “ugly” practice. Molinari now practices golf more like the game is actually played – with some form of consequence or pressure on every shot. When you do something like this every day, eventually the actual playing of golf seems easy in comparison. Or at least easier. This year, the hard work Molinari has put in over the past few years has manifested in a stronger mental game and the ability to perform at his full potential in tournaments (at the time of writing, Molinari has finished 1st or 2nd in his last 6 tournaments).


Some might say this is great for a professional golfer, but how does this apply to an amateur? The same process applies to every level of golfer. Here’s a simple example: Joe, the amateur golfer, believes in his mind and says to anyone who will listen that he is a terrible lag putter and constantly three-putts. Using a Growth Mindset, Joe starts to tell himself that he used to be a terrible lag putter, but he is going to practice lag putting and try to improve. He watches some YouTube videos on “lag putting drills” and makes a real effort to spend some time lag putting as part of his practice regimen (in the past, he never practiced lag putting… why? He thought he was terrible at lag putting and always would be, so what would be the point of practicing? Fixed Mindset… get it?). Anyway, after a short while, he notices an improvement in his lag putting. He starts to believe that the practice is helping, so he practices lag putting even more. He continues to improve. Eventually, he becomes a good lag putter, and he even starts to say to himself “I’m a good lag putter.” Imagine if he took this process a step further and sought out a professional instructor to help him with lag putting.

Another great example is at the Keiser University College of Golf when I teach the Club Fitting and Repair class, and many students express initial apprehension about their ability to repair golf clubs or learn the skills required to be a good club fitter. Because I have the students as a captive audience (they must pass the class to earn their degree), it is easy for me to cultivate a Growth Mindset and convince them that anybody can become a club expert. As you would expect, by the end of the class, all of the students have vastly increased both their knowledge of club fitting and their club repair skills. So much so, in fact, that many of our students who expressed initial disinterest in the class have gone on to make a career out of club fitting and repair.

This process works with practically everything that an individual would want to improve. A Growth Mindset is the key to improvement and often the only difference between your Golf IQ and those whom you believe have a higher Golf IQ. Remember that one of the most powerful words in the English language is the simple, three letter word YET. Whenever you have a doubt about your ability to improve at something, just add the word “yet” to your self-talk: “I’m not a good golfer, yet.” I don’t know the rules of golf, yet.” “My Golf IQ is not as high as I want, yet.”

Hope this answers the question, and I would encourage everyone who wants to improve their golf (or anything) to read Mindset, visit Dr. Carol Dweck’s website, or search for her videos on YouTube. Another great website to visit for more information is “TrainUgly.com.”

Good luck getting better!

If you’d like to study with David Wixson and other PGA Master Professionals, contact The College of Golf today.