The power of positive thought — and how it can help you play better golf

I came to golf late and managed, by hook or by crook, to improve at a rapid clip, eventually playing at a fairly high level. But the sad truth is I never completely fulfilled my full potential.

With the benefit of hindsight it occurred to me that my approach to improvement went from sound to off-the-mark in no time at all. And that watershed moment happened despite every good intention.

As a high school golfer, I basically learned the elements of alignment, rhythm, timing, shot-shaping, trajectory control and scoring and these led to significant success.

That brought me to an advanced level, and it was then I thought I would take the next step by “improving” my technique. I strode into a phase where I was continually tinkering with my swing and perpetually trying new things. Regretfully, all I ended up doing was spinning my wheels, becoming confused and losing confidence.

The path I chose was not the route to enduring success.

Golfer silhouetted at sunset

Indeed, that realization shaped me as a golf instructor and coach. Don’t get me wrong, I do focus on technique and improvements in areas that are lacking, but it is always a part of a completely holistic approach to instruction, coaching and mentoring.

“You are a human before you are a golfer and inasmuch as this may sound trite, it is important to comprehend and respect.”

Gary Player once said to me, “I always expect my ball to bounce out of the trees.”

To be honest I thought his observation was a little crazy at the time.

At a later date, during a low point in my playing days, I was prepared to try anything. I remembered Mr. Player and resolved to look for good bounces instead of only “seeing” bad bounces. Lo and behold I began to notice how many good bounces I did in fact get.

I took it further and chose to remember putts made instead of putts missed. The same result transpired. Long story short, my confidence percolated; my game turned around, and I won a significant College event shortly thereafter.

It turns out that the power is positive thought is very real, and it’s phenomenon based in neuroscience.

The human brain is astonishingly complex. In fact it is like your superpower as it can sift through billions of data points in the blink of an eye. Miraculously the brain by organizes every bit of information taken in with its Reticular Activating System (RAS).

The RAS is a bundle of nerves, at the stem of the brain, that acts as a filter for unnecessary information so only the important stuff can be used.

Examples of your RAS at work are: If you buy a red car and then “every” car you see after that is red, or if you are in a loud environment yet you are able to hear someone call your name. The Reticular Activation System takes what you focus on and creates a filter for it.

Much in the same way, if you continually harp on the bad bounces, missed putts or bad swings the RAS will filter those as important to validate your beliefs. As a result you will never notice the good shots or breaks, and the sad result is a downward spiral of poor form and “Bad Luck”.

Reset and reactivate your RAS and watch your luck and your form improve.

I wish I had known this many moons ago!

Onward and upward.

Good luck.

To receive GOLF’s all-new newsletters, subscribe for free here. Contributor

On-course announcer and analyst Mark Immelman is passionate about the game of golf. As a decorated instructor, award-winning NCAA college golf coach, and an accomplished golfer, Mark brings a robust knowledge and vast experience to his role as a television broadcaster and golf instructor. He is currently a Golf Analyst for CBS Sports HQ, and an Analyst and On-course Announcer for CBS Sports and Golf on CBS. He currently also serves as a Studio Analyst and an On-course Announcer for PGA TOUR Live  for PGA TOUR Live.

The older brother to 2008 Masters Champion, Trevor Immelman, Mark grew up in Somerset West, South Africa. After a successful amateur career in South Africa he was offered a golf scholarship to Columbus State University (Columbus , GA). He enjoyed a prolific collegiate tenure highlighted by his four-time All-America selections, two-time Academic All-America awards, and two NCAA Div. II National Championship victories. After graduation, Mark had a short season as a playing professional, but quickly turned his attention to his true passion – golf teaching.

As a golf instructor, Mark believes in cultivating ability and talent by providing comprehensive, holistic golf instruction that is easily understandable and of the highest quality to golfers of all abilities and skill levels. His passionate approach and keen knowledge of the game have led to him being a sought-after mind by leading Professional and Amateur golfers alike. Through his career he has taught and/or consulted to PGA TOUR and European Tour professionals and tournament winners such as: Larry Mize, Loren Roberts, Trevor Immelman, Scott Brown, Patton Kizzire, Louis Oosthuizen and Will Wilcox. He has been recognized as one of “Golf Digest’s Top 20 Instructors Under 40”, Golf Digest’s “Best Teachers in the State of Georgia” and Georgia Trend Magazine’s “Top 40 Under 40 – Georgia’s Best and Brightest”.

As a NCAA College Coach at Columbus State University (since 2001) Mark continues to coach the Columbus State Men’s Golf Team and his program is a perennial contender for Conference and National Titles. He is a two-time NCAA Div. II Atlantic/Southeast Region Coach of the Year, two-time Peachbelt Conference Coach of the Year, and the 2009 NCAA Div. II National Coach of the Year.

In 2019 Mark was selected as Captain and Coach of the (Arnold) Palmer Cup International Team. His team triumphed over the United States Team in the Palmer Cup Matches held at The Alotian Club outside of Little Rock, AR.

Mark’s additional broadcast duties include being a guest analyst on the CBS Sports “First Cut Podcast”. CBS Sports also uses Mark’s unique voice for audio and promotional PGA TOUR advertisements and promotional reads.

He has also served a 6-year tenure as a Play-by-Play Announcer for Sirius/XM PGA TOUR Radio.

Additionally, Mark hosts “On the Mark”, a PGA TOUR Podcast, which to date has been downloaded more than 3 million times in more than 125 countries.

He has also written golf instructional columns and articles for Golf Digest SA, Golf Digest USA and is currently penning instructional pieces for Golf Magazine. As an author, Mark has published two e-Books on golf instruction: “Scandalously SImple – The Easy Way to Accurate Golf Shots” and “Golf is a Game of Recovery”.

You can learn more about at