We have all had shots to make under extreme pressure.
The pressure can be different depending on the situation. For instance, the first tee shot in front of a crowd, an iron shot into a green with out of bounds tight on one side, a putt to stay in a match, or a two and a half foot putt for a potentially winning score on the 18th green in front of the clubhouse. When under pressure, regardless of the situation, changes occur in the body. The breathing pattern changes - shallower and quicker, muscles tighten up, hands begin to shake, the stomach churns and thoughts of failure are rife. How can we possibly cope with a putt when under pressure?
The key to pressure, in any situation, is routine. You may have heard of two terms - a pre-round routine and a a pre-shot routine. Professionals employ both to maintain their composure and reduce pressure in tournaments.
This is a routine that is the warm-up for every single round of golf that you play, whether it be practise or competition. If you have a pre-round routine for every single round, when you step on to the first tee you are fully prepared to play your best golf and over time, the nerves on the first tee will reduce as you treat it as just another round, whether it be practise or competition.
An example of a pre-round routine is as follows:
1 - 10 mins - arrive, sign in and sort equipment, food and drinks.
11 - 15 mins - short warm-up - brisk walk and stretches.
16 - 25 mins - 25 golf balls on the practice ground. 5 balls - PW, 5 balls - 7 iron, 5 balls - hybrid club, 5 balls - Driver, 5 balls PW.
26 - 35 mins - Practice green. 10 chips, 10 bunker shots, 10 putts from mid-distance, 10 putts from 2 feet.
36 - 40 mins - Check equipment and walk to first tee.
This is a routine for every single shot on the golf course. It differs slightly between normal golf shots and putts as these two types of shots have different requirements. We will concentrate on a putting routine which needs to consist of working out the line of putt, hitting it the correct distance and relaxing and trusting the putt. Here is an example of a Pre-Putt routine:
- look at the green from distance as you walk towards it. This gives a gut feeling as to the line of the putt.
- walk on to the green and mark the golf ball but do not replace it.
- walk up the putt to the hole end and read the putt from behind the hole.
- walk back down the low side of the putt and read the putt from behind the ball.
- pick a target to aim at assuming that it is not the hole on a breaking putt.
- set up your golf ball and aim the markings on the ball with your target.
- stand next to your ball and breathing slowly and deeply, take some practice swings while you are looking at your target. Imagine how far you need to swing to hit the ball that distance and with every swing relax the fingers a little more. Imagine the ball dropping into the hole and hear what sound the ball will make as it does so.
- when you are happy that you have the pace of the swing, step into the ball, line the putter up with the markings on the ball, take one look at the hole and pull the trigger. Do not spend much time over the ball.
These are two great routines to reduce pressure in golf. They do not work immediately and take practice to achieve, but be sure that if you put the effort into these two routines and keep them exactly the same for every putt, pressure will reduce which will allow you to play your best game.