How to Regroup After a Bad Round of Golf

Sports Psychology Golf

How to Quickly Let Go of a Bad Tournament

Every golfer has “one of those tournaments” where nothing seemed to go right.

After a bad tournament, what you think often sets the stage for your next competitive round.

Some golfers tend to hold on to memories of past tournaments, reliving each mistake. 

As you replay the mental reel of mistakes, negative emotions intensify, and confidence drops. Low confidence mixed with negative memories keeps you stuck in a performance rut.

Resetting your mind for the next tournament requires letting go. Letting go is not forgetting a lousy day on the course.

Letting go is a three-step exercise:

  1. The Processing Stage – This stage is the feedback phase. In this stage, you identify what happened and the circumstances contributing to your performance, such as playing with new clubs, having a bad day on the greens, taking too many risks, playing with an injury, feeling too tense, experiencing increased stress, etc.
  2. The Learning Stage – Once you understand what went wrong, you can find ways to correct those parts of your game if possible. Corrective action could be working with a swing coach, changing your approach for challenging holes, rehabbing injuries with a physical therapist, working on your mental game, or learning stress management strategies.
  3. The Forward-Focusing Stage – In this stage, you move your focus off the past and focus on your present performance. Your current tournament is a new opportunity to apply the feedback from previous performances and showcase your skills.

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy applies an easy-to-use strategy for dealing with a terrible round; he “writes it off.” In business, a “write-off” is a loss you can deduct from your taxable income. Basically, a write-off protects some of your money.

In golf, your greatest asset is confidence. So, writing off a loss protects your confidence. McIlroy understands bad days happen. Sometimes, risks don’t pay off, playing conditions are less-than-optimal, or you just had an off day.

When you chalk up a bad day as a write-off, you will have more confidence in your mental bank account.

McIlroy had a rough start to the 2024 season. During the rain-shortened 2024 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, McIlroy finished tied for 66th, shooting 71 in Round One and 74 the next day.

McIlroy keeps his confidence intact by viewing these rounds as “write-offs.”

McILROY: “Pebble was a bit of a write-off. It was a very strange round on that first day, going from 6-under to 1-under really quickly.”

With a bit of effort and commitment to your mental game, you can keep intact your greatest asset, your confidence, and regroup after having a bad day on the golf course.

A poor performance doesn’t need to detract from your confidence. In order to regroup, remember to apply the three stages of letting go of a poor performance: processing, learning, and focusing forward.

Use every round, no matter how well you played, as an experience to advance your game. 

Related Sports Psychology Articles

*Subscribe to The Sports Psychology Podcast on iTunes
*Subscribe to The Sports Psychology Podcast on Spotify

Download a free sports psychology report to improve your mental game!

Learn more about our one-on-one mental game coaching.

Golfer’s Mental Edge 2.0

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Golf-Mental-Edge20-300.png

Do you suffer from fragile self-confidence after missed hitting shots or making mistakes, playing with strict or high expectations that undermine confidence, or the inability to play freely and relaxed on the course?

Successful golfers have learned how to perform with ultimate confidence in competition, so we’ve developed The Golfer’s Mental Edge 2.0 Workbook and Audio program to help you do this! 

The Golfer’s Mental Edge 2.0 program includes the top 11 mental training sessions I do with my personal students to help them boost their mental game and improve consistency on the course!

Leave a Comment