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How to reset mentally after a bad shot, according to PGA Tour pros

February 5, 2020

Rarely during a round of golf does everything go exactly according to plan, but how you respond mentally is one of the things what separates the pros from the weekend warriors. It’s also what makes golf so maddening and addictive.

After a bad shot, it’s easy to lose focus, or maybe your brain goes into overdrive, replaying and dissecting your transgression until you’ve made it through a full 18 and your scorecard isn’t pretty. In other words, it’s extremely hard to reset mentally after a bad shot.

Overanalyzing your mistake to figure out what went wrong in the midst of your round is never a good idea. Neither is berating yourself over one lousy shot.

So what should you do when you top, shank, hook, blade, or otherwise botch a shot?

It depends on who you ask. For example, Patton Kizzire physically adjusts something on his person as a cue to reset mentally.

“Sometimes I take off my hat,” Kizzre said. “Maybe retie my shoes. Just kind of readjust.” This kind of physical reminder to reset and move on can be helpful if you tend to get in your own head about a bad shot because it forces you to focus on something else for a few seconds. Just long enough to help you (and your brain) move on.

For others, like J.J. Spaun, deep breathing does the trick. “It’s a deep breath in for three seconds, out for five,” Spaun told us. “I just try not to let it get to me really.” Again, all it takes is a few seconds to let go of what just happened and get yourself in the right mindset for the next shot.

If you need more than some zen breathing to move on, you can take a page out of Joel Dahmen’s book — “I say something mean to my caddie,” Dahmen remarked. “Normally, there is some hissy fit involved for 10 or 15 seconds.”

While we don’t recommend being mean to your playing partners, taking 10 seconds to process the bad shot and move on will be a boon to your game.

These Tour pros each use a different method to reset after a bad shot, but the important thing is that they all move on rather quickly. Dwelling on a poor shot will only make golf harder, so figure out a cue that helps you reset and when in doubt, remember that golf is a game we play for fun.

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