Playing Golf Competitively Without AngerBobby Jones fought a nasty temper early in his golf career. So did Jack Nicklaus. Like most great golfers, they learned to remain calm amidst the most frustrating circumstances.

In golf, it’s difficult to channel anger into positive results. Agitation is the enemy of tempo and technique, two requirements for playing consistently well. Therefore, it’s best to deal with anger so that it doesn’t linger until the next shot (or beyond).

Easier said than done, especially during competition. If you tend to get rattled by bad results or lousy luck, try these tips to soothe your psyche: 

  • Take slow, deep breaths: Inhale and exhale deeply, five times, and close your eyes if it helps. 
  • Repeat a calming word or phrase: Ratchet down the heart rate with a go-to chant or mantra, like “relax” or “let it go.” No need to speak it out loud, simply hear the word(s) as you take those big breaths. 
  • Remove the emotion, analyze your mistake: So you screwed up. But why? Think about the poor swing or stroke you just made and determine where things went wrong. Perhaps you lifted your left shoulder early, or decelerated the putter. Vow not to do it again the rest of the round.
  • Remember, it’s just a game: Sure, we all remember pros who misfired under major championship pressure. (Ed Sneed, Scott Hoch, Jean Van de Velde…) You, on the other hand, aren’t playing in front of millions of fans with history on the line. It’s fine to take competition seriously, just keep things in perspective.