The perils of pressure—Part Three

Following Monday’s and Wednesday’s posts that looked at how young university golfers melted down at the Ontario championship and the common reasons why, I conclude this thread with thoughts on how you can keep it together both on the golf course and off.  

October 27, 2017—So how to do you stop yourself from getting to the point that you might break a psychic gasket?

The following are techniques that will help during a round when you start giving yourself a verbal whipping and feeling this close to helicoptering that misbehaving putter.

  • When you notice that your thoughts are running away with you, just look up into the trees and sky. This dis-engages you from the verbal part of your noggin.
  • Focusing on your breathing keeps you in the present moment, and it is calming over time. Unlike your mind, your body doesn’t time travel so it’s always in the present.
  • When you feel yourself getting angry, release it. Squeeze a golf ball in your hand. Feel as if you are pouring all your anger into it, and then just drop it to the ground and release it. No one will know you’re doing it.

These techniques can help you stay calm under pressure, but the most important work starts with doing some self-discovery to identify the ways in which you get hopped up in the first place.

If you’re genuinely interested in playing better golf and learning how to manage yourself emotionally, you’ve got to go a little deeper to find out what’s really going on. You’ve got root around in your unconscious. That’s where your belief systems, stories and shadows reside that spark your emotions under pressure.

If you don’t look under your psychic hood, you will be unaware of what’s down there.

This often requires the help of a coach trained in facilitating that kind of work.

You can also do some of this work yourself. One way to start is to seriously reflect on every significant round you play. I don’t mean to just think about it on the ride home, but to do some writing, specifically journaling.

There’s no right or wrong way to journal. Just start writing and keep going without judging or evaluating. It’s like your thoughts flow uncontrollably out of your pen or on the keyboard.

Writing about the things that happen on the golf course—or anywhere else—is a private and effective way to pull things out of our unconscious that could be affecting you. If you keep at it, you might be surprised at the interesting things that you find and figure out. You start to see patterns and connections–especially to past behaviours.

Surprisingly, giving voice to what goes on in our heads and guts can be freeing.

And it begins the process of learning how to manage our emotions so that we can deal more effectively with pressure and stress on the golf course, and more importantly, in the rest of our lives.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to manage your emotions, thinking and how to improve your performance on the golf course and life, I encourage you to contact me. I’m a performance coach and trained facilitator.

The first session is always complimentary. If it appears that we’re a fit, we can talk about a formal coaching arrangement. I also do workshops for groups and teams. 

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. Good advice. Of course, this golf counsel applies to everything else in life. Why? Because golf is life! 🙂