Nod if this scenario sounds familiar:
You’re on the tee of an insanely tight hole – water down the left side, sand and trees hard against the right. Maybe you’ve got a little something on the line with a playing partner; perhaps you’re competing in a tournament. Bottom line: You absolutely must get the ball in the fairway, which appears smaller every time you glance up.
It seems like you did everything right leading up to the swing. So what happened? Chances are, you gripped the club a little more tightly than usual and tried to steer the ball into the fairway. This tension inhibited your release just enough to prevent the clubface from squaring up at impact. Hello, right woods.
If you have a habit of pushing the ball in pressure-packed situations or on difficult holes, you’re probably guilty of trying to guide the ball to safety. It’s important to stay relaxed and make a full, free swing – you’ve got to trust your skill in these spots.
It may help to gear down a club or two – hitting a 3-wood or hybrid instead of a driver, for example. This will give you more confidence in finding the fairway, and it’s OK to trade a little distance for accuracy.
Next time you’re under the gun, make a few long, loose, easy practice swings before going into your regular routine. Make a point to roll the right hand over the left to emulate the release you want. Remember, the only thing you have to fear is fear itself.