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Emotional Intelligence and Golf

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The long route of the golf course contains a trail that can last anything between 2–4 hours. While this is an incredibly long time for one to process and assess their game, it provides opportunity to emotional assessment. This assessment can depend on current emotional state. For example, success can lead to positive emotion. In contrast, failing to achieve targets can lead to negative emotion. Therefore, a round of golf can be subjected to numerous emotional experiences.

To manifest and regulate emotions, it has been suggested that emotional intelligence can be used to help facilitate opportunities. The use of emotional intelligence can at least enhance positive thinking and arguably increase performance levels. Mindset is largely a controllable factor when practised alongside other skills and techniques – if practised consistently and on a regular basis. But, of course, aside from mindset, other factors can also influence performance levels.

The principle of emotional intelligence can be related to key factors of self-awareness, self-management, motivation and relationship management. Throughout a golf round, golfers need to be self-aware of their thoughts, behaviours and emotions. Thus, identifying strengths and areas to improve performance levels. Remember that the mind is a complex muscle that contains a network of fibres. If these get confused or agitated, at any moment, they can influence your own thoughts, behaviours and emotions.

To facilitate this thinking, it requires golfers to develop and build self-awareness. Therefore, each shot (tee-shot, fairway, or bunker) must be assessed: What went well? What didn’t go well? What is the next shot? Using the ‘what system’ enables golfers to develop that self-awareness as they walk up to their next attempt. Golfers who utilise this practice are more likely to succeed than those who are negative in their approach.

Self-managing emotions is critical for golfers. The management of emotions is purposeful for direction and focus. For example, the golfer needs to make a better shot when attempting to hit the green with a poor lie in rough grass. Management of emotion would require using skills to determine outcome. It is what is called clearing the airways. Similar to using a satnav, a golfer should be assessing course of action through a purposeful and selective plan. The key here would be not to rush your thought process. Rushing thought processes increases likelihood of poor shot selection. Another in built feature should be the use of deep breathing. This method can occur on approach to the ball. Deep breathing, when practised well, is a useful technique that helps to control the emotional equilibrium in the mind. Deep breathing clears away the negative thinking and amassed cobwebs. A golfer should practice deep breathing everyday in different situations and even away from any golf range, equipment, course or competition. Given time, building into practice the use of yoga can also help with deep breathing.

Taken together, the technique for deep breathing is to breathe though your nose for three seconds and then allow it to leave through the mouth for five seconds. A key feature of deep breathing is to make sure that your stomach rises and not your chest. It is recommended that beginners start to practise deep breathing by lying on the floor in a quiet place. Once you are comfortable and able to breathe with the intended focus required then deep breathing can take place naturally and in a rhythm.

Motivation has both an intrinsic and extrinsic value to process focus and direction. Golfers should prepare for their round with set targets that are process and performance related. These goals can be reflected upon and modified according to state of play. Golfers are encouraged to associate goal setting within reason that is purposeful and beneficial for performance. Relationship management is important for golfers and the support team around them to facilitate and support the process. A critical aspect of relationship management is to maintain rapport and trust. This is especially true of the golfer and caddie. Building effective relationship management is possible through understanding each other and having the ability to discuss matters closely.

Emotional intelligence can help to facilitate golfing performance. A number of research has previously highlighted how emotional intelligence leads to productivity performance. There is no doubt that emotional intelligence can influence golf performance effectively.

Gobinder Gill is a Lecturer in Further Education who teaches on Psychology and Research Methods. 

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