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Top 3 Breath Training Strategies To Play Better Golf

Breath training for golf

As golf professionals and mental coaches, we are constantly looking for ways to help golfers achieve their ultimate potential. There are so many ways to improve at golf. You can focus on the technical - your swing, your short game, your putting. You can hit the gym and improve your strength, mobility, and flexibility. You can work on your mental game, one of our specialties, and explore the many different options available when it comes to training your mind. 

But the simplest and most effective tool we’ve discovered, that can help with both the physical and mental aspects of golf performance, is breathing. Breathing, or more specifically breath training, can provide you with what you need to improve your practice, take control of your game, and perform your best on the course. 

By understanding the relationship between breathing and the nervous system, you can use different techniques and strategies to improve your game.

1 - Diaphragmatic Breathing

Using the Diaphragmatic Breathing technique, you can create a visualization session, where you can play the course in your mind before setting foot on it. This breathing technique focuses on using long deep breaths in and out of the nose to maximize lung expansion and movement of the diaphragm.

When visualizing a golf shot in your mind, try to bring in as many senses as possible. Don’t just try to see the hole, focus on the smell of the grass, the sound of the birds, and how the wind feels on your skin. Also, try to relive any emotions or physical sensations you’re used to feeling in those situations. Then, focus on your breathing and see yourself taking control of the moment and playing your best golf.

According to an article published in the American Journal of Multidisciplinary Research and Innovation (August 2022) - “Visualization can help athletes enhance their motor skills, self-confidence, attention, concentration, and anxiety, as well as their pain management, physical motivation, and performance. It also makes athletes calmer and more adaptable to tough situations. (Quinn, 2021).”

Just think about how useful all of that could be when you’re out on the golf course. 

Diaphragmatic breathing

2 - The Physiological Sigh

Using a breathing technique called the Physiological Sigh, you can take control of stress and high-pressure situations in the moment, with as little as one single breath.

According to research out of Stanford University, “One physiological sigh—a big inhale through the nose and then a second sharp inhalation through the nose, in order to maximally inflate the alveoli of the lungs, and then a long, extended exhale until the lungs are empty—is the fastest way to de-stress in real-time.”

The best way to use this technique, both in practice and on the golf course, is to make it part of a pre-shot routine. When a well-structured pre-shot routine, which includes strategy, visualization, and breathing, is used consistently, it can have a positive impact on your performance. But remember that for something to work on the golf course, it must first be worked on in practice. The driving range, or even your backyard, is a good place to start.

3 - Focus Activation Breathing

Most of the time, we’re looking to slow down and manage stress on the golf course. But some situations call for a different approach. Think about when the group in front of you is playing extra slow, and you end up waiting forever on the tee. Or, when you’re having a fun round with friends and you need to refocus before you hit your shot. In those situations, you may need a bit of an energy boost instead of slowing down.

In those situations, you can try a Focus Activation breathing technique. Quick science lesson: when you inhale, your heart rate speeds up, and when you exhale it slows down. Most of the time, we want our heart rate to slow down and calm things down, so we focus on a slower exhale. But in the cases we just described, we want our energy to increase, which means we want our heart rate to speed up. This breathing technique uses a longer inhale and a shorter exhale, helping to increase energy and focus.

So when you feel yourself losing focus on the golf course, before hitting your next shot, take a deep breath in through the nose, then quickly exhale through the mouth. One or two of these breaths should be enough to get you focused and ready to perform at your best.

There are many other ways these breathing techniques can help you play better golf: managing stress in high-pressure situations, releasing tension from your body for a smoother golf swing, and when you get really good at it, you can use it to trigger a flow state and get in the zone. 

To learn more about these breathing techniques and how to use them to play better golf, sign up for an upcoming webinar or check out our Breathe For Golf Performance coaching program. 

Patrick Sebastien

Performance Coach


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