Characteristics of a Champion

Great golfers know how to control their golf swing and golfing mind. One without the other is not enough to reach your full potential.

At the Gary Gilchrist Golf Academy, we focus on training five areas: technical, mental, strategy, physical, and personal. As the Director of Mental Training at GGGA, my focus is on helping our golfers improve their mental game and develop a champion mindset on and off the golf course.

When training the mental game, it’s important to know what are the characteristics of champion. Knowing the mental attributes of top golfers provides a road map to mental toughness. It provides guidance for how to think and act on the golf course and during practice. While there are a myriad of mental attributes that top professional and junior golfers embody, we will focus on: motivation, confidence, and concentration.


Every great golfer in history has an amazing drive and work ethic for the game to do their very best. Whether it’s stories of Ben Hogan practicing until his hands bled or Lee Trevino hitting a thousand shots a day. Each of golf’s greats has a reputation of practicing from dusk til dawn.

In sport psychology, we call the desire to work hard and achieve your dreams motivation. There are two primary types of motivation always talked about in the science of golf psychology: intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is the internal drive of every golfer to improve and compete for their personal satisfaction. Extrinsic motivation is the motivation to practice and compete for external rewards such as: trophies, money, and recognition. While intrinsic and extrinsic motivators are both helpful, intrinsic motivation has shown to be more beneficial over time. It’s important for every golfer to focus on what they enjoy about golf. This will ensure that the golfer continues to stay motivated and has fun playing the game.


Confidence is essentially a golfer’s belief in themselves and their golfing ability.

Tiger Woods, one of the most confident golfers of all time has even said, “My mind is my biggest asset. I expect to win every tournament I play.”

All of golf’s greats believe in their ability to get the job done. Jack Nicklaus supports this notion, saying that, “Confidence is the most important single factor in this game, and no matter how great your natural talent, there is only one way to obtain and sustain it: work.”

While I agree with Jack Nicklaus, there are multiple ways to work. You can work hard, and you can work smart. You can work on your physical game, and you can work on your mental game.

The ultimate way to improve your mental game is to work hard and smart on both your physical and mental game. There are many strategies we employ with our students at GGGA, which include: goal setting, imagery, relaxation and activation, energy-tension regulation, and self-talk, along with many other tools.


Every golfer has the ability to concentrate.

It’s not if you can focus, it’s what you focus on. Great golfers and athletes have learned through practice and experience to focus on the right things at the right time.

Focusing on negative events from the past or focusing on future events that may never occur is not in a golfer’s best use of concentration and attention. Great golfers have the ability to shift their focus to what’s most relevant and important at that given time. While what to focus on can change from moment-to-moment, one aspect of concentration that is time tested in golf is being in the present. All golfer’s play better when they’re focus is in the present: the here and now.

The ability to concentrate and be in the present is one of the surest ways to shoot your golfing potential. It’s important to be in the right mental state to fully concentrate. Jack Nicklaus admits, “Whenever I am up for golf, when the tournament or course, or best of all both, excite and challenge me, I have little trouble concentrating. But, whenever the occasion doesn’t stimulate or challenge me, or I’m just simply jaded with golf, then is the time I have to bear down on myself with vengeance and concentrate.”

It’s evident from this quote that golf is not easy, but it is worth it and can be made simpler when your motivation, confidence, and concentration are working in your favor. There are a number of ways to learn and enhance these mental attributes. Mental training with solid scientific strategies is a sure way to enhance your mental toughness and develop the characteristics of a champion.