The detailed investigation of psychological skill implementation in sport is a fundamental issue of study in sport psychology. The interest in the examination of the cognitive processes of professional performers has been growing recently. Golf is a kind of sport that has methodically been investigated by sports psychologists. This prominence might originate in the specificity of this sport: players spend a few minutes at making a hit whereas walking across the course and waiting to take the greater parts of the game duration. Psychological hallmarks are significant for the results of golf competition. During the competition, psychological hallmarks can to some extent compensate for any decay in physiques. These psychological hallmarks can be state-specific for the golf game or sports in general. Hence, professional golf obviously denotes an ideal activity to be examined by sports psychologists.
This paper examined the psychological hallmarks of professional golfers and its influence on golf performance. The main purpose of the paper was to contribute descriptive data on a poorly investigated theme: professional golfers and the way they are influenced by the psychological hallmarks.
Modern quantitative and qualitative investigations justified and supplied the elite sportsmen’ profile proving that Olympic / World championship contestants were characterized by many factors. The most significant are imagination abilities, intense self-beliefs, and extreme personal drive, pre-competition and competition game plans capabilities, strong task orientation, to concentrate on and to block distracters, to set purposes and to cope with and control anxiety. Outcomes concerning anxiety are not congruous in that some researches stated lower levels for the best succeeders whereas others noticed no differences.
Professional golfers are indicated by visualization, great mental arrangement featured by pre-game and pre-shot planning and repetition. They were also considered having a high level of concentration during the game, high psycho and motor automatism and logicality in the different facets of the game, and high levels of commitment to succeed in the sport. The professional golf players are considered to be less disturbed by negative emotions than amateurs. Consequently, these players are less likely to be neurotic or tense, disappointed or furious, and were less disposed to consider past mistakes, lost opportunities when performing in tournaments.
The recent studies in applied sport psychology have been addressed in efforts to train these hallmarks. There exist a great number of various methods of psychological hallmarks training. Among them, there is a model, which identifies psychological hallmarks training as one of the seven phases involved in performance enhancement. Before starting the hallmarks’ training, it presupposes the determination of goal and task, the estimation of the golfer’s hallmark level, and the profile of strengths and weaknesses is regarded in relation to the particular demands of the sport. Several techniques are then used to develop the psychological skills being aimed. These hallmarks are developed at practice before its realization in the tournament, and the final step involves evaluating the efficiency of the training program.
Numerous qualitative interviews justify that professional golfers have an extensive account of psychological foundations in common. Psychological foundation includes such general psychological variables as motivation, philosophy, and personality, which may have an impact on players during the game by influencing their states, skills, and strategies. An examination of the professional golfer’s psychological foundations is concentrated on personality. Personality is a concept, which evolves relying on the observation of an individual's behavior and permanence in behavior. It concerns features that make a person unique. The fundamental level of personality includes beliefs, attitudes, motives, values, and interest, which seem to have an impact on the role-related behaviors during the tournament. Skilled golfers suppose that in order to achieve good results and succeed in contests, motivation, desire, and attitudes are considerably significant issues. Such sportsmen are addicted to golf, have aims they try to achieve, make plans, estimate their performance and consistently train in order to develop their skills.
The study into the characteristics of professional golfers has produced doubtful results, but they were not considered helpful in the justification of significant psychological foundations. Trait scientists proposed that there is a necessity for multi-disciplined models, when examining the impact of traits, on the contrary to simple interdependencies between trait and one dependent variable, since a number of other interacting factors have influenced the results.
The effect of skilled golfers’ mood and emotions on game scores depends on the person’s character. Individual distinctions provide the explanation of the absence of a strong correlation of the mood state to golf scores. Traits, differences in psychological foundations, which produce different degrees of association between moods and performance, or emotions and performance, probably need further researches. There is a thought that there is no connection between the mood, which is measured several hours or a day before the tournament and performance. It would be significant, if possible, to measure emotions during the game, because they change several times and are the most valuable for the researchers.
While researching the hallmarks of skilled golfers, it is important to make a distinction between the time and content of the pre-shot period within and between contestants, techniques and perceived controversies. From the psychological point of view, the pre-shot period is characterized by extreme self-control, emotional control, and relaxation skills. For many golfers the most helpful at that moment are self-talking technique, they commonly use statements like “just stay confident”, “keep positive thoughts” or “just focus on now”, etc. At the same time, there is no evidence that the strict sequence of pre-shot time or behavioral content brings about an improvement in execution. Many training experiments on individual golfers with dependable and valid execution variables are necessary in order to research such causality. Changeability in pre-shot period can be a sign of a non-optimal period, which includes processes that are not automatically performed (specific and circumstantial considerations on technique choice, such as trying to predict the ball flight by steering the swing), or extreme incorporating with oneself (concentrating on thoughts and feelings instead of concentration on the aim). Thus, changeability may be cherished if there is a varied necessity for preparation, such as the difference in the time it takes to imagine a short putt going into the hole on the contrary with a long putt.
Relying on the numerous implemented researches, one can state some interesting issues. For the majority of skilled golfers unsuccessful first putt does not significantly influence the emotional state and thus, does not predetermine the failure of the second putt. Another research proved that professional golfers’ putt preparation time takes more than for amateur golfers. After the analysis of the control of task difficulty, it was found that athletes prepare longer for the long-distance putts than the short ones. Analysis of anxiety manipulation showed that extreme stress conditions make skilled golfers spend longer preparing than the low-stress condition.
Considering the main psychological hallmarks of the skilled golfer, it is logical to conclude that all players need motivation, aims, desire and persistent results comparison with their goals in order to succeed in professional sport. However, coaches have to understand that different player still require different approaches to training. Depending on different degrees of intensity, moods and emotions can be considered as functional or dysfunctional. Evaluation of each contest is significant for elite golfers to improve their performance. The activities, which intensify confidence and include positive imagery, would be considerably helpful for the skilled golfers training. A golfer should be concentrated on the present during the game ('playing one shot at a time') and execute automatically during the swing. Irregular pre-shot periods in time and may indicate non-automatic processes. The ability to concentrate, staying confident and goal orientation will surely lead to better performance. Knowing how to cope with various emotional obstacles, to plan and train for focus and refocus is significantly valuable. The psychological hallmarks necessary for skilled golfers have to be related to the physical, technical and game-statistical hallmarks in training and future research.