Tips from a Pro: Here’s How to Play “Brain Smart” Golf

How do you feel when you get the chance to play a round of golf?

If you’re like most golf enthusiasts, you’re excited beyond belief! The butterflies in the stomach and the anticipation of a great round with friends, hosting the low round trophy, or perhaps being the envy of the entire club or your peer group.

You’ve worked hard with your coach, endless hours of lessons and drills and work on your swing. You’ve prepared well technically for the best golf of your life, but when you get to the first tee, you may be nervous, unsure, and edgy.

As the round gets underway, your confidence begins to weaken and anger and stress sets in. You’re defeated and can’t seem to change the pattern or get to a “positive place.” You just want the round to be over. You wonder if all the hard work was worth it. You may even, God forbid, have a few choice words you want to direct at your coach/teacher. Much of the feeling is disgust and embarrassment. How could someone who works so hard, play so poorly?

I’m here to tell you golf is an incredibly hard game! Golf is the only sport where the training field isn’t the playing field. Think about that. We practice adjacent to where we play the game. It’s a miracle anyone can take skills from the practice area to the course and do well.

The 4 Buckets Approach to Golf

Brain Smart Golf 2 To be our best, there are “4 Buckets” we need to work from as we learn to play the game well. These buckets are physical, mental, technical, and tactical. Many teachers and players focus only on the technical aspects of the game, so the players are incomplete and naturally get exposed when playing. If we only work on one area, we’re deficient in three areas that are just as critical to our success.

In my initial assessment of players I ask, “What have you done for your mental game?” Most say “Nothing,” or they have no idea what I’m asking. Our mental game, a.k.a. our brains, are as important if not more important than how far we hit our driver or our spin rates with a wedge, because all we do comes from the brain.

We cannot visualize or make decisions without our brains. We cannot have recall, good or not so good, without our brains. Without our brain we cannot perceive ourselves and our confidence level on a skill (internal influences) or perceive the environment around us (external influences) like danger or safety. Our responses to internal and external influences can make or break the day, so mental game work is critical to success.

Beyond Technique

As a coach and competitive player, I know from experience that we can work on our technique all we want, but we need to also add a physical and mental component to our training as well.

  • Yes, I mean the gym and the creation of habits that help you function and move effectively, but also help prevent injury and assist in recovery.
  • Yes, I mean proper hydration and nutrition and avoiding substances that prevent you from playing your best like caffeine, alcohol, and sugary foods/drinks.

If you really think about it, many of the “things” we consume hurt our clarity and decision-making ability on the golf course and accelerate a surge of cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine, which are our body’s three major stress hormones.

Isn’t golf supposed to be relaxing and fun? It is, if we do things right.

Play “Brain Smart” Golf

I’ve seen so many players inflict harm on themselves either through substances, thoughts, or self-talk. It’s important that we play “brain smart” golf by understanding our brains and how we can care for them.

As for me, I’ve had 5 TBIs (traumatic brain injuries) and have done many things over the past few years to learn how to control my mood, stress level, and breathing off and on the golf course.

I was introduced to BrainMD by a long-time student and friend who played 9 years as a center in the NFL. I took a simple brain quiz online and was encouraged for my best health to take daily supplements (my bundle is Brain & Body Power MAX, ProBrainBiotics, Serotonin Mood Support, and Magnesium Chewables). I do all I can to create a positive brain environment, for example, not consuming substances I know are irritants and cause edema. I try new and exciting activities to challenge my brain and create neuroplasticity.

I also recommend these practices to the students I coach as this journey of golf is for a lifetime and we’re on it together; we need our brains to be healthy for life and golf. I coach for the brain as well as the player’s technique and tactics and my players not only take care of their brains physically, but we also play thought-inducing games and randomize practice, so we’re always taking an acquired skill and placing ourselves under pressure.

When the real pressure is present in competition, or on course play, my students notice that they have proper placed perception and resilience and know they’re going to respond well to a variety of stressors. This develops confident, competent, and happy golfers!

Know Your Brain Type

My advice is to take the Brain Health Assessment and find out where you are on the spectrum. Get the supplements going, find a coach who challenges you in the 4 Buckets I’ve outlined, and get out there and play your best golf!


Brain Smart Golf 3 Brian Jacobs is a MS ED and PGA Professional. He’s a Lead Coach for Golf Channel Academy, a 2-time Golf Digest Best in State Teacher (NY), a multiple PGA section award recipient, and a 2-time PGA Magazine Top 100 Growth of the Game Professional. He has been Golf Channel Coach of the Week and appeared on that channel’s “Morning Drive” multiple times.

His partners include Callaway Golf, Bobby Jones Golf, Flightscope,, and Club Champion.

Brian can be contacted at


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