How do you prevent a bad round from getting worse? An LPGA pro shares her strategy

Lindy Duncan of the United States plays her shot from the fifth tee during the second round of the JM Eagle LA Championship presented by Plastpro at Wilshire Country Club on April 26, 2024 in Los Angeles, California

Lindy Duncan has advice for what to do when a round goes south.

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Anyone who plays the game knows that a round of golf is a marathon, not a sprint, and playing well requires patience and mental fortitude in spades.

While golfers can practice putting, chipping and hitting shots on the range, one part of the game that is difficult to cultivate is a player’s own threshold of resilience — that is, how you react when things aren’t going your way. That requires some hard-won experience. Most golfers have a story of a round going sideways, never to be recovered. But the more you endure trying circumstances on the course, the more you can learn about how best to combat them, and hopefully, turn them around.

At the recent LPGA Ford Championship in Gilbert, Ariz., I asked LPGA player Lindy Duncan for her best advice on fighting round-killing meltdowns.

“Slowing everything down. That would be step one,” Duncan said. “Walking a little bit slower, just taking things a little bit slower. Because when you get off to a bad start, you start panicking and everything gets rushed.”

Once you regain your sense of rhythm and pace, Duncan says it’s time to think about getting back to what’s comfortable.

“No. 2 would be just going back to a familiar swing thought that maybe you weren’t exactly paying attention to like, 100 percent. Just trying to go back to some simple feel and maybe exaggerate it,” she said. “For me, if I’m getting quick at the top and I’m off to a bad start, then I’ll take some pre-swings where I just totally stop at the top. So I’m exaggerating a feel that I know is going to help my swing.”

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Basically, take something you know works, Duncan says, and dive into the simplicity of that one thought to give yourself a solid focus. As it turns out, Duncan said she had to put these strategies into practice during some recent difficult days on the course.

“I got to such a low point, I was like, OK, good. I’m glad this is happening because this is where I need to figure out what to do. And that’s kind of what I did,” she said. “I just went really simple and sort of just tried to start over a little bit, you know, as best as you can. It’s so much easier to say these things than to really do them, when you’re feeling certain ways and when you’re a little bit off and it’s just a tough day, things just magnify themselves. So you have to put it in perspective. That helps. To kind of be like, OK, this is what it is.”

Ultimately, Duncan appreciates the way she’s been shaped and sharpened by the adversity she’s faced.

“I was glad that it was happening because I knew I was going to learn something,” she said. “Things started to kind of turn around for me and I was playing really well all week. So I was like, this just sucks and I’m gonna have to figure it out. And that was it.

“You kind of get to those low spots and I really think that’s where you can learn the most,” she continued. “The more you embrace that cruddy feeling, the more you can pull something good out of it. That’s a belief that I’ve gained over the last couple of years.” Editor

As a four-year member of Columbia’s inaugural class of female varsity golfers, Jessica can out-birdie everyone on the masthead. She can out-hustle them in the office, too, where she’s primarily responsible for producing both print and online features, and overseeing major special projects, such as GOLF’s inaugural Style Is­sue, which debuted in February 2018. Her origi­nal interview series, “A Round With,” debuted in November of 2015, and appeared in both in the magazine and in video form on