Does your temper get the best of you after a poor shot or missed short putt? Does making a crucial par or birdie overwhelm you with excitement?
If either answer is yes, these reactions likely affect how you play the next hole, if not the remainder of the round. Golf is a game of highs and lows, and there are plenty of both in the course of a typical 18-hole outing.
Naturally, pro golfers are subject to the same emotional swings. The ability to handle ups and downs often separates winners from also-rans.
Why It’s Important
Whereas heightened emotion can boost performance in some sports, golf is best played with an even temperament. Anger can prove highly detrimental, especially when it’s allowed to linger. When negative feelings send the mind and body into overdrive, it becomes that much harder to execute a golf shot.
Some golfers go the opposite direction, hanging their head in defeat after a setback. This deflated state can wreak havoc on one’s game and set off a downward, bogey-filled spiral.
Positive emotions are generally less harmful, but can have unwanted side effects too. Excitement can cause you to think ahead – to the possibility of a career-low round, for instance – and lose focus on the task at hand.
Who You Should Watch
With a few notable exceptions (ahem, Tiger Woods), tour pros rarely exhibit extreme anger when things go wrong. Granted, professionals are apt to celebrate a crucial birdie, but they get it out of their system before setting up for the next shot.
Take Fred Couples, for example. He carries the same calm demeanor no matter what he’s just done, good or bad. The same can be said of stoic K.J. Choi, unflappable Luke Donald and ever-cheerful Matt Kuchar.
Pay attention to how pros react after a wayward tee shot or a poor putt. They’ll likely express outward disappointment, but only momentarily. Then they’ll assess what went wrong with a few slow-motion rehearsal swings, or a second try at the putt they missed. A brief chat with the caddie often follows.
In short, the world’s best golfers expect to make mistakes during every round. When miscues happen, they compartmentalize the error, analyze it briefly and then move on.
Apply It to Your Game
Anyone who takes golf with a hint of seriousness is subject to emotional swings. Here are some good ways to keep your cool when things go downhill (or you get a little too pumped up):
- Take a series of slow, deep breaths between shots.
- Repeat a soothing word or phrase (“Relax,” “Calm down” or “Let it go”).
- Switch off the emotions and enter analytical mode. Figure out what went wrong and how to prevent it from happening again.
- Fight, don’t fly. Instead of moping or giving up, resolve to give 100 percent to every shot the rest of the day.
- Focus on the process, not the result. Instead of thinking about what might unfold, stay in the moment by sticking with your pre-shot routine.
- Remember, golf is just a game. In the big scheme of things, the worst that can happen is not that bad.