In her book “Golf: The Last Six Inches,” author Sue Wieger says that the longest distance in golf is the space between your ears.

Traditional golf instruction has been focused on the mechanics of your golf game. You have been working on your grip, stance, swing path, and so forth.

These elements are important, but the mental side is just as important. During these cooler days of winter into spring, you would do well to work on the mental side of your game.

The mental aspect of golf is vital to becoming a better player. Your state of mind is a matter of choice. You have free will to choose how to feel on the golf course. You can choose to be happy or miserable on or off the course.

Golf gives you the unique experience to learn so much about yourself. Knowing yourself and working on things that will help you in the mental game will help you every bit as much as working on mechanics.

Mental strategies include:

• Use positive self-talk.

• Develop an effective mental pre-shot routine.

• Use visualization to sharpen your focus.

• Resolve all indecision, such as club selection and type of shot, prior to addressing the ball.

• Focus only on things you can control.

• Remember a similar shot that you executed with great results. Describe the shot verbally to yourself.

• Use relaxation techniques to reduce tension over the ball. Breathing correctly is a must.

• Always stay in the present.

• Anchor positive emotions – such as a fist pump when you hit a good shot.

• Be your own best friend.

Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott have written a number of great books on golf psychology. They want you to learn how to control your emotional response to your shots.

You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how your react to what happens to you. Your post-shot routine is critical. How you react to a shot determines how your brain will store the memory of that shot.

If you miss a putt on the left edge of the cup, instead of saying “I can’t putt,” you need to respond with something like, “I stroked it solidly; I just mis-read the break.”

Your responses need to be positive, neutral or objective.

I suggest reading golf psychology books and train yourself to be a positive golfer. Authors I suggest are Bob Rotella, Nilsson and Marriott, Gio Valiante, Graham and Stabler, and Wieger.

Dr. Jean Harris is an LPGA Master Professional and teaches at local courses.;