Ask an Expert: Is there a benefit to ‘losing it’ on the course?

January 26, 2020
Tiger Woods tosses his putter at the Memorial Tournament.

GOLF’s new performance columnist Dr. Greg Cartin is the founder of GC3 Performance Consulting based in Belmont, Mass. He works with PGA Tour players and athletes of all levels and ages. Send your questions to [email protected]

Q: I’ve seen Tour pros beat up bunkers, toss putters and break irons. Is there any benefit to “losing it” on course?

—T. Stratton, Ft. Worth, Texas

A: “The best fighter is never angry.”

Obviously, Lao Tzu, the author of the above quote, never hooked his tee shot on 18 with two presses on the line. Advice here abounds. Many of my younger clients tell me that their coaches (and parents, of course) advise them to always keep a level head and to control their emotions when they’re competing. That’s fine, but, in my opinion, anger alone is never an issue when it comes to elevating—or hindering—performance.

Here’s a deep thought: The anger you feel after hitting a poor shot isn’t the anger that impedes your ability to access the skills (like splitting the fairway on the last with money on the line) you’ve practiced and honed over time. The real culprit here is the anger you feel toward yourself for getting angry in the first place. Self-judgment, not a head full of steam, is what ultimately gets in the way of performing at your best.

My advice: Express the anger you feel when shots don’t go your way, because if you resist the release you’ll create tension, and tension is the biggest impediment to free swings. Just don’t judge! And make sure the response agrees with your true nature. (Are you really the guy who curses and hurls clubs?) Live and compete within the rules, but never judge yourself for thinking or feeling a certain way. Once you give yourself the permission to get mad, its power disappears!

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