Emotions on the Golf Course


By: J.L. Lewis


October 2009



Emotions have an impact on performance. Focusing on the positive and putting your attention on success will lead to positive results. More times than I can count over the years, good rounds of golf have been altered or ruined by a poor shot or bad hole.  When golfers become upset with themselves or others before or during a round of golf, it can affect their game and score adversely.  When bad shots happen, the reaction to the shot can determine how the rest of the round will play out.

There are great players who rarely become outwardly upset; players like Vijay Singh, Fred Couples, Davis Love, Jeff Ogilvy, Jim Furyk, and Kenny Perry.  These players are able to stay in the present moment allowing them to focus their attention on playing the next shot well.  The ability to stay in the present is a key to success on and off the course. 

The first step in controlling emotions on the golf course is becoming aware of the emotions and how they affect your actions.  Decide if the emotions and corresponding actions are beneficial or detrimental to your golf game.  The key here is to have conscious awareness of your emotional responses, so that you can make a conscious effort to change the non-optimal behavior.  

Acknowledging and fully experiencing unwanted emotion will allow it to dissipate so that you can quickly become present for the next shot.  Be willing to acknowledge the emotion as it arises.  Tiger is a master at this.  He does not stuff his emotions, and he easily releases the emotion so that he can masterfully hit the next shot. 

Another way to let a bad shot go is to immediately replay the shot in your mind’s eye with perfect execution and finishing on the intended target.  The subconscious does not differentiate between the visualized shot and a shot hit physically, so always finish with the perfect shot in mind.  This will refocus the attention back to the positive and will anchor the intended outcome.

Focusing on the positive is an excellent way to reduce negative emotions on the course and improve scoring.  Acknowledge every good shot.  If you hit a shot that didn’t hit the chosen target, find something about that shot that was performed well.  It may be that you hit your chosen line, or the shot was the right distance. Keep the focus on positive results. Benjamin Disraeli once said, "Nurture your mind with great thoughts, for you will never go any higher than you think." A sure way to success is to practice this exercise until it becomes a habit. The golf course is an excellent place to practice handling emotions. Creating positive habits on the golf course will transfer to other areas of life, improving scores and results on and off the course. 



October edition of News from J.L. Sports, LLC