Golf Mental Tips

Stop Your Negative Thoughts By Putting Yourself In Time-Out

golf mental tips

Golf can be stressful as anyone who ever played the game can attest to.  A round of golf can take up to 4-5 hours to complete making it one of the longest events in sports.  Ironically, a golfer is actively engaged in striking the ball less than one minute per shot.  That leaves a lot of time for thoughts to wander and, often, those thoughts tend to meander over to the negative side.

I’m sure you can recall a moment when you flubbed, shanked or sliced a shot.  Your thoughts probably screamed in your head such as, “I can’t believe I miss that shot,” “I’m playing horribly today” or “What is wrong with me?”  Your negative thought crescendos until you experience that mental meltdown on the course.  It’s as if you can see it happening before it happens but there seems to be nothing you can do about.

Can you relate to this experience?  Did you feel helpless in stopping the downward spiral?

Is there really nothing you can do to stop that mental meltdown?

Let’s go back to the example… What caused the meltdown?  You may think the bad shot or a series of mistakes.  But what was the thing that immediately preceded the meltdown?  Aha, negative thinking was the culprit!

If you honestly evaluate the scenario, the bad shot merely happened.  Actually, bad shots happen to the best golfers in the world and many continue on with no ill effects.

Realistically, no one can stop negative thinking. Thoughts come and go throughout the day.  It is when you grab hold of those negative thoughts and focus intently on those unproductive notions, that the negative thoughts start to snowball.

But these thoughts do not have to grow uncontrollably.  There is a way to interrupt them and lessen their impact… TAKE A MENTAL TIMEOUT!

Best-selling author Peter Bregman authored the book, Four Seconds which describes how to stop counter-productive thoughts and get the results you want.

Peter suggests that you can halt your knee-jerk reactions to circumstances by taking a four-second timeout, which is the amount of time required to take a single breath.  That brief timeout or single breath can create that needed mental space between what you feel and what you need to do.

Think of when a basketball team starts to play reckless and allows the opponent to run off several unanswered points.  A coach will call a timeout to regain composure and refocus the attention of the players on their game plan.

Take your four-second timeout to collect yourself and refocus your attention on your next shot.


  1. Set an intention before a round to recognise when your thoughts start to grow in a negative direction.
  2. Take your mental timeout and breath deeply.  As you breathe, say the word,

“R-E-L-A-X” to reinforce a sense of calm.  This deep breath will help you relax and regain your composure. Try to make the out breath slightly longer than the in-breath.

  1. Change course by refocusing on what you need to do now.

Like focusing on the target or committing to your current shot.

Practice this strategy for 9 or 18 holes so you will be ready to combat those negative thoughts when they arise in tournaments.