It’s been pointed out that in golf, no opponent is going to tackle you, punch you in the nose or dunk a ball on top of your head. So what’s to be intimidated by?
If only the human psyche were so simple.
Anyone who’s played competitive golf has probably felt intimidated at one time or another. Usually, it’s fear of a competitor – maybe they’re ranked very highly, boast a big reputation or hit the ball a country mile. Sometimes, the course itself can scare us into cowering. Inescapable hazards, thick woods and ultra-fast greens are the stuff of nightmares.
But intimidation can creep up even in casual rounds. The root causes are often the same – a low-handicap playing partner and/or a difficult course.
Feeling inferior drains confidence, shifts our focus away from our own game, and makes us play defensively or “tight.” The anxious golfer rarely plays up to his own ability, reinforcing his belief that he’s not as good as another player or can’t handle a tough course.
How should you deal with these situations? The key is to focus on yourself and your skills – to play your own game, as they say. You can’t control what another golfer does or the punishment the course may dish out. So thinking about those things is a pointless exercise.
Let’s say you habitually underachieve when paired with golfers you perceive to be better than you. Maybe they are, maybe they’re not. But you’ll never get an accurate gauge if you’re worried about how they’re playing, or what they think of your game.
Know what else? They’re human, just like you. They put their pants on one leg at a time, and they’re just as prone as you are to bad shots, bad holes and bad rounds.
Instead of comparing your swing or scores to theirs, make a mental list of your strengths. Maybe you’re an extremely accurate driver or a lights-out putter. Those are enviable skills that give you a fair shot against anyone.
What if it’s not a fellow golfer, but the course itself that makes you lily-livered and weak-kneed? Again, the solution is to stay in the moment – don’t think about your score or the diabolical par 3 that’s coming up in three holes, but about the shot at hand. If it’s an especially tough one, focus like a laser on your target, not the trouble lurking off to the side.
The more difficult the course, the more important it is to practice positive visualization. Picture the shot exactly as you want to hit it – a little fade that splits the center of the fairway, or a towering wedge that settles next to the pin – then make it happen.
No matter what scares you on the golf course, there’s a way to talk yourself into a more confident mind frame. Develop this ability and you’ll be much closer to achieving your goals.