So here is the question. Do you manage your emotions when you play competitive golf? Or do your emotions manage you? Not sure? You probably need only to look back as far as your last round to find the answer.
If you hit of any of your shots or putts angry, frustrated, fearful, impatient, desperately wanting to hit a good shot or putt—or even super excited about a preceding great shot or putt—your emotions probably managed you! And you likely lost a stroke or two (or ten) because of it.
Passion for the game is a great thing to have, but you need to know when to can and can’t let your passion take control. So what is a passionate player to do? Here are a couple of Quick Fixes that have been helping our pro clients in competition for over 3 decades.
Quick Fix for Managing Emotions #1: The Simple “2 Second Rule”
When he was playing his best on the Senior Tour, Dave Stockton became the self proclaimed “KING” of the “2 SECOND RULE”.
We incorporated the idea when he had his eye on becoming a top money winner on the Champion’s Tour—and on winning an on-going personal bet with a fellow Senior Tour Player that he could “best him” in birdies made each week.
When he asked for help, and I watched him in competition, it became evident that his competitiveness, passion and perfectionism were creeping into his play. And not in a good way. Frustration with shots and putts not hit to his liking were costing him strokes.
On really bad days it even cost him dinner. After a particularly bad round he would punish himself for poor play by not allowing himself to go out to eat.
Once he became aware of how a weakness in this champion trait was costing him, he turned his perfectionism to mastering emotions instead of the outcome of his shots.
He agreed to a new personal rule. He would give himself no more than 2 seconds to react to any “less than ideal” shot or putt. Only 2 seconds to release frustration then he would quickly take his thoughts to something he could truly control, namely his mental routine (rather than a past shot he had NO control over).
This paid off hugely for him. It helped him win 14 times on the Champions tour, including 1 exciting event when he came to 18 in the final round with a 1 stroke lead over Bob Murphy.
On national television he topped his tee shot and it went maybe 30 yards. Not to worry. Like a true champion, he managed his emotions. He took his 2 seconds to mentally let the frustration go, then he turned to his caddy Todd and joked that he was “just trying to get Murph to lay up”. He then approached the ball with the simple determination to make his next mental routine one of his best of the day. He did, he parred, and he won by 1 stroke.
The 2 second rule in golf is allowing yourself just that two-second window to release your emotions, and then quickly calming yourself down once again. This allows you to release your emotions, but allows you more control over when and how your emotions appear in your game. This is a strategy that can be effective for managing your emotions on the golf course right away, although it requires some personal discipline. If you set a personal rule of two seconds, stick to two seconds. If you’re struggling with this, push your personal rule to three seconds. Once you are able to succeed at a three-second rule, you can cut another second off.
Quick Fix for Managing Emotions #2: “Fake-It-Till-You-Make-It”
Here is another quick fix for managing emotions that might work for you in a pinch.
First, have you noticed that the best pro’s, when playing their best, do not give away the quality of their shot by their mannerisms? Just watching them, it can be really difficult to tell whether they hit a great shot or a not so great shot. They look pretty much the same after them all.
If your shots are telegraphed by your mannerisms, words, or actions, you are probably in need of strengthening this champion trait. While there is usually less harmful effects for those who show emotion after a good shot, it is still best practice to remain neutral after all shots. This will help you not react negatively when a poor shot does occur.
The quick fix to not telegraphing your shot: Your imagination! Here is the idea:
After EVERY shot or putt, turn on your very best acting skills. Pretend you are confident, cool and collected just like you may have seen your favorite champion do. Or like you yourself might have done when you were playing your very best.
Your first challenge will be to catch your thoughts before they automatically go to the drama of reacting to your shot or putt. If you can catch your thoughts, you can then switch your awareness from the inside to outside. In other words, instead of just unconsciously reacting, observe yourself reacting.
Then choose how you WANT to look. One way to do this is by imagining watching yourself on tv or video. Project the reaction you would like to have on the big screen, cool, confident, collected, walking and talking like a champion.
The more detailed your imagery the more effective you will be. Have fun with it and soon you will notice something start to change. The power of intention will take over and you will no longer have to fake it, you will be doing it authentically.
If you feel you need more than quick fixes to help with managing your emotions, get personalized recommendations from our Mental Game Builder Package or one of our weekend Mental Game Builder Schools. We have helped hundreds of competitive golfers improve their games, and we can help you too.