Go ahead. Pump iron. Do pilates. Just remember: A million crunches can't make up for a fragile mind. Call it mental fitness, a soundness of the psyche that's as vital to low scores as a flexible physique and solid fundamentals.
PILLAR NO. 1: STRENGTH
Nicklaus and Tiger are famous for it. Mental toughness: performing when it matters most. "It's having the strength to stand up to pressure," Parent says, and being comfortable in that spotlight.
EXERCISE: Don't give yourself gimmes
To get acclimated to pressure, embrace it. Put yourself under it. For starters, Parent recommends putting every short putt, even if someone is waiting behind you. "Act like the shot matters, and you'll be more ready to hit it when it really does."
PILLAR NO. 2: FLEXIBILITY
Your mind needs to be as limber as your body. The most successful players adapt to different courses and conditions. They think creatively and accept things as they come. When Vijay Singh was asked if an Augusta downpour bothered him, he replied, "Only if it's just raining on me."
EXERCISE: Reconsider your clubs
Mental flexibility means keeping your mind open. Or as Parent puts it, "Just because you're in the bunker doesn't mean it's a sand wedge." To cultivate creative thinking, take one club and work around the practice green, hitting many kinds of shots: high, low, soft, hard. The next time around, choose just one shot and practice hitting it with every club in your bag.
PILLAR NO. 3: BALANCE
One shot at a time. Stay in the moment. They're clichÃ©s for a reason: They work. "Not getting too excited, not getting too depressed," Parent says. "That's what mental balance is all about."
EXERCISE: Take stock of your thoughts
During your round, count how many times you find yourself dwelling on the past or pondering the future. Are you still simmering over that three-putt?