How to control emotions when golfing

by Jordan on September 14, 2011

Forget about your past, live in the present on the course

Golf can be frustrating.

A bad bounce here or a flubbed chip there.

It’s a piss off.

But you can’t let this game get to you.

And that’s my goal with this post.

It took me 15 years to learn what I’m about to tell in the next 5 minutes.

Let me explain some easy tips to help you learn how to control your emotions when golfing

Think About Others

When you get pissed off on the course, you look like a fool to other people. They might say they it doesn’t bother them, but come on! Would you like to spend four+ hours on the course with a hothead?


Be respectful of other golfers and their experience. You’re not the only one out there.

Once I got through my “don’t give a s***” teenage years, it really struck me that was ruining others experiences on the course when I got frustrated.

If none of the following tips help, let this one stick, be respectful of others.

Now emotions are not only frustration but they can also be hidden. You know, negative mental chatter. I will cover all emotions and how to control them in a minute but I want to tell you about myself.

My Experience

Back in my junior days I was really good. And I could have been even better.

But I had a really bad attitude.

After poorly executed shots I would get upset with myself.  If I got a bad break, I would be furious.

I was wasting my energy on something that I couldn’t change. That was only hurting my mindset as I prepared to play the next shot(s). Stepping over a shot still pissed off about the last one was limiting my chances of hitting the next one well.

In golf you need to do whatever you can to hit great shots. After all this game is hard enough already. Fuming over past shots is not setting yourself for success.

It took me years to figure this out. But my experience will help you.

Dealing With Poor Shots

Ben Hogan, one of the game’s greats, said he only hit 3-4 shots a round like he wanted.

You’re going to hit bad shots. Accept it.

When you do hit a bad shot, try your best to keep the negative self talk or frustration to a bare minimum. The goal is to completely cut it out. But that won’t happen at first. If it does, awesome!

It’s not about limiting your mistakes but how you deal with a control reactions to those mistakes.

Dealing With Bad Breaks and Outside Issues

Now I want to talk about how to deal with bad breaks and outside issues.

Common bad breaks are:

  • bad bounces
  • lip outs
  • a ball lying in divot
  • a ball lying in a foot print in a bunker

Outside issues are:

  • bad weather
  • pace of play
  • a playing partner you don’t get a long with

All these items have one thing in common. 

They are out of your control. So my question is why are you letting them effect you? There is nothing you can do about them!

Focus on the things you can control like your pre shot routineyour preparation, the amount of practice you put in and the goals you set.

It’s like getting upset when it starts to rain. Sure clouds and rain suck and you would rather be enjoying sunshine. But there is nothing you can do about the weather so I let it be.

The sooner you accept things you can’t control the better.

What To Do

When you do hit a bad shot or bad break here’s what I want you do to:

  • Become aware of your thoughts and how your body feels. Take note of them and learn how to change the way you think and feel. Also keep notes of how your body and mind react on good shots. Match the two lists up and make the needed changes.
  • Concentrate on your breathing. Focus on inhaling oxygen into your stomach 20 times. Nick Faldo has some advice on breathing below.


  • Slow your walking speed. When you walk slower you tend to be more relaxed.
  • While your walking keep your head up and roll those shoulders back. Keep the confidence level high.
  • Go inside your body and start to feel your feet touching the grass as you walk. In doing so you’ll less in your head and more in your body.
  • Look a tree or up in the sky. I mean really look. Think about how beautiful it is to be outside playing the game you love.
  • Hum your favorite song, think of something that makes you smile or start whistling. You’ll amazed and how easy it is to forget about that last shot or bad break.
  • Grade yourself after the round on your reactions. Ask for grades from your playing partners to make sure you get an outside opinion.

I’ve loaded you with enough ammunition to control your emotions on the course.

Please keep this in the back of your mind. It’s going to be hard to completely clean up your anger or negative mental chatter. Focus on making slow strides. If you have a bad round, ask yourself at the end how you handled your emotions. It might not be a lost round if you make strides to control your emotions.

What Do You Think?

Is there anything else I missed that irks you on the golf course?


Jordan J. Caron is a former Canadian PGA Class A member who still wants to help golfers shoot better scores. He is also the President of Meaningful Marketing. In his downtime he likes to read, play squash and drink wine.

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