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Staying Loose and Relaxed on the Golf Course
Mental Skil

by Joe Gandolfo, M.A., LPC, CPT, C.Hy.

The more and more I watch the PGA professionals during the various weekend tournaments, the more and more these men and women amaze me. Whether they are on the teebox or green, the fairway, ruff, woods or bunkers, I am intrigued by their ability to stay calm, focused and relaxed. One example of how this is evident is by their ability to produce a fluid and rhythmic swing - which most always produces a magnificent shot. The kind of shot which all of us envy and dream to be our own.

How do they do that? Unbelievable! Look at that swing...beautiful. We think to ourselves or say out loud. There is so much time, practice, learning, developing, practicing, practicing and practicing that is involved for these pros - such commitment. There is also an ability to stay relaxed; to maintain a relaxed body and mind even under the most pressured filled circumstances and moments. They all share a tremendous ability to keep there body and mind relaxed. One of the results is a repeatable fluid and rhythmic swing.

For the rest of us golfers, maintaining a level of relaxation that will allow us to produce a superb swing comes and goes - and so does our superb shot. How can we as golfers maintain a more consistent level of relaxation in our body and mind? Is it even possible to stay relaxed for long periods of time on the golf course? The answer is YES. We as golfers can increase our ability to stay relaxed on the golf course, reducing the tension in our body and mind. If this allows us to save a few strokes here and there on the golf course, our confidence can only increase.

What follows is an exercise that can be practiced at home and brought to the golf course which will allow any golfer to increase their ability to reduce body tension - affording the golfer the opportunity to produce a more fluid and rhythmic swing. The exercise is called Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR).

The practice and development of PMR will increase one's awareness of tension in the body and allow the golfer to reduce that tension in a matter of minutes, seconds if practiced regularly.

Practicing at home: Get comfortable in a chair, find a quiet room, close both eyes and begin to breathe deeply. Extend both arms straight out and clench your fists...gradually increase the tension level until all the muscles in your fingers and hands are fully tight...then relax... let your arms drop naturally to your side. Become aware of the difference between feeling tense and relaxed. Take a deep breath and repeat.

Next, progressively repeat this procedure throughout your body. Your arms, shoulders, feet, legs, buttocks, back, stomach/chest, neck, face and forehead. This exercise will take approximately 10 minutes. Try to do the PMR exercise on a daily basis. Within 2-4 weeks you will have become proficient with PMR and your body and mind will have become more conditioned to the benefits of PMR.

Using PMR on the golf course: Some suggestions. Prior to a round of golf, use PMR to warm-up and relax the body and mind. Anytime you begin to become aware of body tension, use PMR briefly (10-20 seconds) especially before your swing or putt. Use PMR to reduce specific tension building up in certain muscle areas (neck, forearms, legs, etc.).

To your mental game,

Joe Gandolfo, M.A., LPC, CPT, C.Hy.
Sports Performance Specialist
Creator/Author of "Minding Your Golf Game"TM

Joe offers mental game consulting for golfers of all levels and ages and does workshops for various groups, golf facilities and the PGA Ga. Section. He can be heard every Saturday morning, contributing mental game tips, on "The Golf Show" 7 - 10 a.m. on CNN 680 AM. He has developed educational materials, "Minding Your Golf GameTM" which have been successful in helping golfers develop an improved mental game. To talk with Joe or to order the educational materials call 770-993-9911, toll 800-897-8434 or email at

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