Golf Mental Game Tips: Control Your Emotional State

Competitive golfers experience a lot of different emotions during their rounds. Sometimes those emotions can be overwhelming. Even the top players face situations that pull them away from playing their best golf (e.g., Rory McIlroy at the 2011 Masters).

As a mental performance coach, I help players develop the skill (yes, it’s a skill) to keep a calm, alert and focused state in tough conditions, and one of the most impactful is to manage certain aspects of our physiology.

One aspect is our breathing. It’s well documented that diaphragmatic breathing helps our nervous system to settle down in times of “stress”. If we exhale for longer than we inhale it will have a calming effect on our system (e.g., breathe in for 3 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and exhale for 5–6 seconds). Be sure to direct the air into the lower part of your abdomen, feeling both the lower and upper parts of the abdomen fill with air.

Another aspect is to release muscle tension. Many of us carry tension we are unaware of. We all have certain areas where we carry that tension, and the most common are in the jaw, face, shoulders, chest and the abdominal/pelvic area. Consciously tensing and then releasing these muscles has a relaxing effect on the body, which leads to calmer emotional states.

Doing both aspects together is extremely beneficial. There are several guided exercises available online such as this one https://youtu.be/1nZEdqcGVzo

If both of these are practiced regularly, it can really help maintain more stable emotional states in challenging situations.

Paul Dewland
Mental Performance Coach
BGGA