In spite of the glut of strategies, tools, techniques and theories that exist today, there is only one true path to understanding and then mastering the mental game in golf. And to all the young athletes and their parents out there, I promise that it’s not what you’re thinking. To handle the inevitable ups and downs of golf – and life – what you need to know is that a circumstance, such as a bogey, birdie, your coach, the past or future, cannot cause you to feel a certain way.

Your feelings are solely connected to your thinking. When your head is clear, you’ll feel good. When your head gets cluttered, you’ll feel bad. All circumstances are actually neutral. Never heard that before? Well, it’s normal for it to appear that a circumstance has the power to make you feel anxious, frustrated or even happy. But your mind, like the minds of all human beings, doesn’t work from outside to in – it works from inside to out. That’s why sometimes you’ll feel insecure when looking at the out-of-bounds stakes that line the left side of the 18th fairway, and at other times you won’t. Same stakes, same position as always. So clearly, the outof-bounds stakes aren’t driving your feelings; your thinking (clarity or clutter) is what’s doing this.

Finally, let me also remind you: Knowing that your thinking, not your circumstances, creates your feelings doesn’t mean that you’re capable of managing or controlling your thoughts. No one is that powerful. Yet knowing this will stop you from searching outside for causes and cures when bad feelings strike. And this allows what I call your “psychological immune system” to activate – as clarity of mind sets in and calm, confident and determined feelings arise without effort. When that starts to happen on a consistent basis, you have mastered the so-called mental game. I wish you good luck!

Garret Kramer is the founder of Inner Sports and the author of books about the mental game in sports and life. He has provided mental conditioning, performance consulting and crisis management services to hundreds of athletes, coaches and business leaders. Follow him, @GarretKramer, on Twitter.