Charles Schwab Challenge

Colonial Country Club

React, respond

Are you a Reactor or Responder? A mental trick of the pros, explained


David Cannon

The separating factor at major championships, and the Masters in particular, has nothing to do with players' physical skills. Rather it's their mental ones—their ability to devise a smart strategy and remain disciplined enough to execute it. And then, when mistakes do happen (and they will), to have the wherewithal to limit them.

Karl Morris is one of golf's top performance coaches and the man behind Mind Caddie, an app that helps golfers think better on the course. He's worked with six different major champions, including Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and Masters runner-up Louis Oosthuizen, and says that the bedrock principle of a good mental game comes down to a simple concept.

"I ask them, 'Are you a reactor or a responder?' " Morris says. "It doesn't have anything to do with your ability. It can apply to every golfer, from the tour player."

Reactors vs. responders


David Cannon

The notion of reactors and responders is essentially reframing the different ways of thinking on the golf course, Morris says.

Golfers who think unproductively on the course are "reactors." They're the ones who hit a bad shot and won't let it go. They let a bad hole become a bad round.

"They're focused on things that have already happened and are out of their control," Morris says. "It can lead them into a negative spiral."

By contrast, "responders" are the productive thinkers who don't spend their energy looking backwards, but rather look ahead.

"Responders respond to a bad shot by thinking about what they can do next," he says.

Sure, they hit a bad shot, but they’re not fretting it because that's golf. Responders work quickly to leave the past behind them. They don't get distracted by what could've been. We should all strive to be responders on the course, channeling our energy into what happens next.