How to refocus after a horror golf hole

By Ian Hardie
NZPGA Professional

“Real golfers don’t cry when they line up their fourth putt” – Anonymous.

During one of my Practical Golf Psychology Workshops that I ran recently, one of the golfers asked a question that I’m pretty sure quite a few golfers would like to know the answer to: What do you do to refocus after a horror hole and continue on with your round of golf?

It was a good question, as I’ve observed over the years that regardless of your skill level or experience in the game of golf – we all get the occasional horror hole.

Holes that, for no apparent reason, sometime during a round of golf, something sneaks up on us from nowhere and turns our skills at the game of golf from whatever is normal for us to the skills of a complete and utter hacker.

The feeling of horror, after you have just hit three balls out of bounds from the tee, dunked a couple in the water, carved your way up the fairway, had three chips, six bunker shots or had to line up your fourth putt, is as you know, not very pleasant to say the least!

The challenge for the golfer of course is to be able to regroup, to be able play the next hole and the rest of the round while attempting to salvage what you can in terms of score for the rest of the game.

Assuming you haven’t snapped all of your golf clubs and gone home!

So, how can you refocus after a horror hole?

First – Set a time limit.

You need to actually allow yourself a small amount of time to dwell on the spectacular lack of ability you’ve just exhibited or the poor shots that you’ve just played.

Mainly, as we are human and although we all tend to react to something like that by calling ourselves names and berating ourselves internally after a horror hole, it’s really not useful. You seldom feel better afterwards and it doesn’t help get your frame of mind back to the task at hand.

On occasion it can produce in immensely long drive due to anger but mostly holding onto that anger for too long just destroys the round and the rest of your day.

So, as odd as it sounds, set yourself a time limit for being angry and thinking about what happened, say 30 seconds to a minute and go for it (internally of course).

Once that time is up – anger is done.

Second – Close everything.

Stand still or sit briefly, and close your eyes, mentally make the decision to shut off your anger and empty your mind as well as you can for 30 seconds or so.

Some golfers feel a little self-conscious about doing this but I can guarantee you, if your horror hole was spectacularly bad, your playing partners won’t be wanting to catch your eye at that point, or having done it themselves at some point in their golfing career, they will understand what you are doing.

Third – Breathe.

Get rid of any lingering tension by taking in slow deep breaths while your eyes are closed and then continue the same pattern until you feel calmer than you were.

Fourth – Time to reset.

At this point you need to reset your brain and attitude to continue the game.

Stare off into space (not at the last hole) and bring an image to your mind of a time you played a great shot or played a hole exceptionally well.

Hold this thought in your mind for 30 seconds or so and try and feel how good it was to hit that shot or shots on the hole.

The four simple little things above take no more than two or three minutes to do and are easy enough for anyone to do after a horror hole.

The really neat thing is how powerful they are in being able to help you refocus after that horror hole.

The hardest part is remembering to stop mentally beating yourself up and do them instead of keeping on reacting to that horror hole.

The main thing is to keep the sequence – allow yourself time to process the anger, then clear your mind, breathe, then reset by putting a positive image into your mind.

Once you have completed these simple techniques, get on with the next hole and the game as if nothing has happened and you might just salvage that round or score.

Let’s just hope you don’t have to use it too often!

Play well.

If you struggle to control your reaction to poor shots, holes or rounds of golf in general, I’d suggest checking out my Practical Golf Psychology Workshop at