Relax. Take a deep breath. We’re going to discuss how controlled breathing can reduce tension and improve your game.
Everyone gets nervous on the golf course, whether it’s a pro standing over a putt to win a major, a low-handicapper facing a do-or-die shot over water, or a beginner teeing off in front of a restless audience. While butterflies take flight in the stomach, they’re born in the brain as the offspring of our thoughts and emotions.
When nerves strike, we tense up. When we tense up, we don’t think as clearly. We also grip the club a little tighter, swing with a quicker tempo and, often, hit a poor shot or putt. Then we blame ourselves for failing to handle the pressure, even though we did nothing to alleviate our jitters in the first place.
It may be a cliché to respond to someone under stress by telling them, “Take a deep breath.” But it’s really the best thing you can do. And it’s quite simple. Any time you feel nerves and tension creeping up:
1. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose, filling your diaphragm (belly).
2. Hold your breath for a couple of seconds.
3. Now exhale, slowly, through your mouth.
In fact, there’s no need to wait for a stressful moment. Work deep breathing into your normal pre-shot routine to release tension, and to prevent it from building up over the course of a round.
You can even practice deep breathing away from the course. Whenever you’ve got a few minutes to spare, take a seat and go through the above steps 10 times. Not only will deep breathing become automatic on the golf course, it’ll do your body good. It’s been shown to lower blood pressure, among other benefits, and anything that relieves stress is a major positive.