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  • Writer's pictureCarol Alford

Emotional Roller Coaster

How many of you out there play golf whilst fighting your emotions? You mis-hit a shot and the red mist ascends along with several expletives. Or you get super excited when you chip a shot out of the bunker into the hole. Positive and negative emotions impact our body, in that they both release chemicals which affect our ability to stay calm and remain in control of our game.

Negative emotions flood our body with cortisone which causes our muscles to tighten, making it difficult to create a fluid swing. We also lose the ability to touch and feel the shots around the green and our brain becomes busy making it difficult to think straight causing us to loose focus. When the game is not going to plan, we become annoyed and start focusing on the score trying to chase the magic number, only to find our game implodes.

Instead of taking the emotional roller coaster journey, you need to focus on the process and not the outcome, don't react to the situation, instead stay committed to the process.

What do I mean by process?  This is the routine you follow before taking each shot. Consider the shot to play, wind conditions and club selection and then visualise the shot, feel the shot and commit to it. The first 3 are analytical decisions (using your left-hand side of the brain) and the last 3 are creative ones (using your right-hand side).

When we focus on the score or swing mechanics, we are completely operating from the left-hand side of the brain, the analytical side. Operating from this side causes us problems, our emotions take control making it difficult for us to think clearly.  We become super critical when shots do not meet our expectations, which impacts our confidence and performance.

To play our best, we need to tap into our creative side, the right-hand side, which is where we play intuitively. Tapping into our senses such as touch, see and balance we can access the right-hand side of the brain. To improve our performance we must stop all the analytical thinking and focus on our senses as we prepare to take the shot.

Brooks Koepka has mastered this skill to enable him to remain calm, even after mis-hitting a shot. He has learnt to accept the result no matter what and then focus fully on the next shot. 

Dr Deborah Graham has worked with over 400 Tour professionals and talks about the importance of "feel the shot, see the shot and commit to the shot". In a recent interview she explained players these days, dedicate time to improving their technical and mental ability, splitting it 80:20. When on tour they give 80% to improving right-hand side development of the brain and only 20% to technique. It's only after the season has completed, when they have some downtime, that they then revert to 80% on technical aspects and 20% to the mental side.

So ask yourself are playing like a pro? Are you are focusing on using 80% of your mental ability when playing? If you're on that emotional roller coaster the answer will be no, you are instead focusing on swing mechanics and score - and as you know that's not getting you the results you desire. 

To get you started after a bad shot ask yourself these 4 questions

  • Was my tempo right?

  • Did I visualise my shot as well as I could?

  • Did I feel the shot?

  • Did I commit fully to the shot?

If you answered yes to all 4 questions, like Brooks just accept the result and move on to the next shot. Shit happens, even to the world number one player - the difference is he knows how to progress and stay in contention - do you?

If you would like to learn more about the mental side of the game please get in touch or check out our other blogs, there's something in here for everyone.


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