Better Golf Through Awareness

Ezine #10, June 28, 2017—Most amateurs think the pros on TV are super chill, under control and thinking the right thoughts.

You would be wrong. They can be just as crazy as the rest of us. But the difference between the best and the rest is that elite players know how to deal with harrowing thoughts and feelings through awareness and process.

One of the best examples is the story of Jason Day during the final round of the 2015 PGA Championship. He came to the 18th tee with a three-shot lead over Jordan Spieth. The Australian was one hole away from breaking through for his first major championship, and here’s what he thought:

“’Don’t double bogey. Don’t hit it left, don’t double bogey”

Day told hiimself: “Hit it as hard as you can up the right side.” And he did.

“I was over the second shot, and I’m like, ‘Don’t hit it short in the water.’ It was a mile short, but I had 191 yards with a bit of wind into me. So all those things run through your head.”

Most every golfer is struck by similar self-induced warnings of misery, mayhem and woe. These thoughts are like voices in our heads, which tell us what looming disaster lays ahead, and how wer’re going to screw up. Unfortunately, most golfers succumb to these thoughts and voices. Not Day.

“That’s the moment … where you have to pull yourself back and say, ‘No, I’m not going to have that. I’m going to stamp my foot on that thought and move forward and try and grind this out and really work on the process of getting the shot right.’

“And both those times happened to me. And I fought through those negative thoughts and ended up finishing it off.”

First, he became aware of the thoughts in his head. Rather than react and get caught up in those thoughts, he noticed them and responded. He chose to do something else. That’s awareness. Noticing what you are paying attention to.

Day noticed his thinking and turned his focus to his process. Stamping on the thought was his way of making the thought go away. There are different ways to deal with intrusive thoughts, but the techniques are similar.

Day then went through his meticulous pre-shot routine. By becoming completely absorbed in his process, he kept his mind quiet, he hit solid shots and he won his first major.

There’s only a few folks who can belt a drive about 380 yards, but like Jason you can learn to deal more effectively with those inevitable demonic thoughts and make your day.

About Tim O'Connor

Tim O'Connor is a golf coach, an award-winning writer, and speaker. Tim takes a holistic approach, coaching golfers in the physical and mental aspects of golf. He co-hosts the Swing Thoughts podcast with Howard Glassman, and is the author of The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story. He plays bass in CID—a Guelph punk band!


  1. I comcentrate on my swing. The ball is secomdary on my mind.