Manage your Emotions on the Golf Course

The mental game and focus of a PGA Pro can mean the difference between a tie or solo finish.

Some of Professional Golf’s greatest performances have come from a player’s ability to master the mental side of their golf game. According to Jack Nicklaus, the mental side of the game accounts for 50% of a golfer’s success.

Some believe it is more than that, while others still feel it is the physical aspect of the game that is superior. Once you have the basic skills of golf, the mental part of the game plays an even bigger part in shooting a low score. Keeping your emotions in-check while staying focused on the present shot is the best way to play and score well. When you can’t stop thinking about your bad shot that lead to a double bogey on the previous hole, having negative thoughts only increases the difficulty of your next shot. The key is to let it go, stay positive, and stay focused.

So how can you strengthen your mental golf game? A solid pre-shot routine is a good start. Use a maximum time of 30 seconds to keep yourself in the present and avoid giving yourself too much time to think about your swing mechanics. Any time you spend too much time focusing on the mechanics of your swing, its fluid motion disappears. What you must remember is that you need to do what you want, not what you don’t want.

Many players talk themselves out of a shot before they even hit it, and their monologue usually goes like this: “ Don’t hit it in the bunker and don’t hit it in the water.” They are strictly focusing on what not to do, when in reality they need to recognize the trouble and then focus on what they want to do with their golf swing, like hit it down the right or left side of the fairway.  

If you think about this negative mentality in the context of a normal life situation, this way of thinking is actually ridiculous. Let’s say you go to get ice cream one Sunday afternoon. You wouldn’t order what you don’t want; you would tell them what you really want.  


A child would never dare order the flavor of ice-cream that they hated. Rather, they would salivate over the cone of Superman Ice-cream that they really wanted.  

So the next time you hit the links, recognize the trouble but focus on what you want. Focus on hitting the fairway or green, then make your swing. Whatever the result is, accept it and don’t worry about it until you get to the ball and have to hit your next shot. Then, choose what you want to do next and reward yourself with some ice cream after you played a great round of golf.

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