The Emotional Challenge

by Michael Riggs

One of the greatest emotional challenges for a golfer is to remain calm and focused following a mishit or series of poorly played shots. It can challenge the most level-headed player when suddenly, out of the blue, his tee shot goes spinning off the club into the forest lined fairway. Anger and frustration can barge in like an unwanted guest.

“What went wrong?,” says the player, “I completed my routine, stayed relaxed and focused, and did everything as usual, but the ball had a mind of its own.” This occurrence can test even the strongest mind. Or, how about that simple wedge shot that only manages to cover fifty of the needed one hundred yards to the green, or that easy three foot putt that skims the cup and just keeps rolling - only to offer a nightmarish six-footer coming back. All of these real life course happenings challenge the golfer’s mind beyond belief. And, for some players, the emotional challenge is too great and their round takes a sudden turn... straight into the toilet. Yes, it is real. Yes, it happens to the best golfers. And, yes, it can be enough to want to quit golf and pick up tennis, or volleyball, or even, chess.

How can a golfer effectively deal with his anger and the emotional challenge of not letting frustration get the better of him on the course? Here are a few points to consider.

First, no one is a perfect golfer. Not Palmer. Not Didrickson. Not Sorentsam. Not Love. Not Jones. As difficult as it may be, every golfer must acknowledge and accept the fact that he is going to have off shots, off holes, and off rounds. That’s life. That’s golf.

When a player can truly accept that fact that imperfection is a part of golf, he begins to find himself becoming less angry – and more accepting of his game and what the golf course offers. Even touring professionals shank shots. So, if they do it, then the average golfer should expect that an occasional ball will squirt right and left out on the course. Following a mishit, learn to say to yourself, “That was a mistake. I am not perfect. I’ll just buckle down and do my best on the next one.” Is it easy? No. But, if managing the emotional challenge of golf were easy everyone would have a strong mental game.

Second, learn to rely more heavily on your pre-shot routine to flush out unwanted emotions and get ready to hit the next shot. Part of the job description of the pre shot routine is the quell emotions and let go of previously mishit shots. Remember that your pre-shot routine is designed to get you focused and mentally clear for the shot at hand. So, if you let the anger from a previous mishit control your emotions and cause you to hastily choose a club and just “take a whack” you’re increasing the odds of another poor shot. This will lead to more anger, and so on, and so on... The past is the past; nothing you can do will change it. So, take on the emotional challenge and put the poor shot behind you, go through your full routine, take a smooth swing, and trust for the best.

Lastly, let’s talk purely about the swing. We know that when you become angry and frustrated, your mind causes your muscles to tighten up, which, in turn, causes a tight, jerky swing. With that in mind, it makes complete sense to keep your mind from becoming anger-filled and frustrated so that your body can stay loose and fluid. This realization should offer you a clear reason to stay mentally loose so that your body can stay physically loose. A loose and comfortable mind – one that conquers the emotional challenge of not getting angry - is more likely to translate into a loose and comfortable body.

S² Tip

When you hit a poor shot, remind yourself that even the best players in the world mishit shots.


   Back to The Mental Game