Butterflys Golfer

Take a deep breath. We're going to discuss the keys to handling pressure on the golf course.

Whether it's first-tee butterflies, an attack of nerves when facing a shot over water, or a queasy feeling as you stand over a 3-foot putt, no golfer is immune to pressure. Experience is the most effective antidote, but trial-and-error is a never-ending process. There are several methods for dealing with stress that you can use here and now. Develop a consistent approach to anxious moments and adjust as your experience grows.

  • Follow a standard pre-shot routine:The process you go through before hitting a shot should be the same every single time. This will not only aid consistency, it will give you something to focus on besides whatever external factors are causing you to feel pressure in a given moment.
  • Use a process vs. outcome approach: This goes hand-in-hand with your pre-shot routine. Rather than worrying about what will happen once you've hit the ball, concentrate only on the aspects you can control – picking a club, aiming at the target and swinging. Focus intently on following your normal sequence and the result will take care of itself.
  • Proceed slowly: The most common physical manifestation of anxiousness is a quickened pace. Be aware of how fast you're walking, talking and setting up shots, and make a conscious effort to be slightly deliberate. This will keep your thoughts from racing ahead to the outcome and prevent your tempo from getting dangerously quick.
  • Practice positive visualization: As part of your pre-shot routine, always picture an image of the ball flying or rolling to your target exactly as you want it to. If the shot calls for a fade, visualize the ball's flight precisely as you plan to hit it. Banish negative images or thoughts -- like the ball splashing into a water hazard or onlookers snickering at your topped tee shot – the instant they arise.

Once you've had success in a pressure situation or two, you'll own positive images and feelings to fall back on in future rounds. You may even come to relish being under the gun.

Beating Golf's Pressure Packed Situations

Beating Golf's Pressure Packed Situations

When you think about pressure in golf, you probably think about tournaments you see contested on the PGA Tour. Those players are competing for millions of dollars in prize money, coveted trophies, and much more. To be sure, the top pros in the world feel a tremendous amount of pressure each time they step to the tee in a tournament. However, you don't have to be a pro – or anything like one – to feel pressure when you play golf.

In fact, one of the great things about this game is the fact that you can feel pressure just like the pros. When you see a professional golfer try to make a three-foot putt, you know exactly how it feels to be in that situation. That makes golf relatable to those who watch on TV, and it makes it all that much more compelling. The story is not the same with other sports. For instance, you probably don't know what it is like to face a 95-mile-per-hour fastball, or to get tackled by a linebacker. You can't relate to the player's experiences in those sports, because you haven't been there. You have been on the golf course, however, and you know how hard it is to convert challenging shots under pressure.

In this article, we are going to provide you with advice on how you can better deal with pressure on the links. Rather than just trying to pretend like pressure doesn't exist, the better strategy is to meet it head on. You are going to accept that pressure is part of this game, and you are going to have a plan so you know what to do when the nerves set in. All golfers are susceptible to nervous moments, so to pretend that you are somehow immune would be silly. Just like all of the other challenges you face in this difficult game, the best way to get over pressure is to develop a strategy and then use that strategy during each and every round.

It doesn't matter what level you happen to play at when you are on the course, all golfers can get nervous. Whether you are a scratch player or a high handicapper who is just getting started, pressure doesn't play favorites. As long as you are even the slightest bit competitive about your performance, you will feel yourself start to get nervous when the big moments arrive during a round. You might be playing in a competition when this happens, or you might be out on the course completely by yourself – it really doesn't matter. Pressure can strike at any time, so you need to be ready.

All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

The Sources of Pressure

The Sources of Pressure

Before we can properly equip you with the tools you will need to handle pressure on the links, the first step is to make sure you understand where pressure is likely to come from during a round. There are a few different causes of pressure, and each has the potential to throw you off of your game. For a better understanding of where pressure comes from and when it might arrive, check out the list below.

  • Nearing the finish line. One sure way to feel pressure on the course is to get close to the end of a round with a good score in progress. If you are playing well – meaning you are shooting a lower score than normal – you are sure to get nervous over the last few holes. This is particularly true if you have a chance to shoot your lowest-ever score for an 18-hole round. Most golfers know their record score off hand, and breaking that record is cause for excitement. Should you have a chance to do just that, you are going to have to deal with pressure along the way.
  • Any competition. Another way to find yourself feeling nervous on the course is to play in a competition. This could be something like a formal tournament at your club, or it could just be a friendly match against one of your friends. Either way, the feeling of competing on the course is unlike anything else. Suddenly, you will have other things on your mind, such as how your opponents are playing and what strategies you should use to come out on top. One of the great challenges that comes along with competing on the course is learning how to block out everything except that which you can control. Playing in competitions is actually a great way to learn how to deal with pressure, because you will usually feel the nerves right from the first shot on through to the last.
  • Easy shots. Surprisingly, you will likely get nervous from time to time when facing a shot that seems rather easy. The best example of this is the short putt. When you need to make a short putt on a flat section of the green, your nerves may kick in because you know it would be a big mistake to miss at this point. There is nothing wrong with missing a hard shot, so it is easier to relax and just do your best. On easy shots, however, you know there are no excuses for failure. Your mind is going to be expecting success, and your body will feel that pressure as a result. It is not uncommon to see a golfer perform well on difficult putts, only to struggle on easy short putts. This is a result of pressure. By learning how to beat the pressure you feel in these situations, you can improve your score by not wasting strokes on the easy shots.
  • Peer pressure. Even when not in a competition, other golfers can cause you to get nervous as you play. For some golfers, just having others watch while they make a swing is enough for the nerves to kick in and impact the outcome of the shot. You are probably comfortable enough with the players in your own group that you don't think twice when they are watching you. When others on the course are nearby, however, it may be a different story. This is often known as the 'first tee jitters', since it is common to have other people around when you are on the first tee box. It is frustrating to have your level of play harmed simply because someone happens to be standing near you, so getting over your pressure problems is desirable even for this situation alone.

In reality, the list of potential pressure sources on the golf course is endless. Each individual golfer will have his or her own reasons for feeling nervous, and something that makes one golfer anxious won't bother the next golfer in the least. The best thing you can do to get started in this process is to understand what it is that makes you nervous. Do you hate hitting shots in front of strangers, or do you lock up when trying to make an easy putt? Whatever the case, be honest with yourself and acknowledge when pressure has become a problem. Identifying your shortcomings in this area is the first step toward a resolution.

Some Basic Strategies

Some Basic Strategies

Assuming you have been a golfer for some time, you already know what it feels like to be nervous on the golf course. You may even have something of a plan for how to deal with these pressures. However, since you are reading this article, you probably aren't satisfied with how you have fared under pressure to this point. Hopefully, by using the advice offered throughout the rest of this article, you will be able to make progress in this area of the game.

The points below highlight some of the basic strategies you should consider using in order to play well while nervous.

  • Get lost in your routine. There is nothing quite like a pre-shot routine to negate the effects of pressure. When you are nervous, the natural reaction is to hurry up and hit the shot as quickly as possible. Your body doesn't like to feel nervous, so it just wants to get the shot over with and eliminate those uncomfortable emotions. By using a pre-shot routine, you can slow yourself down while taking your mind off of the pressure. Nearly every professional golfer in the world uses a well-established pre-shot routine, and you should do the same. Practice your routine on the driving range and then stick with it on the course even when you are feeling nervous.
  • Make smart decisions. This is a point which may be surprising to you. It is actually possible to reduce the amount of pressure you feel on the course simply by making smarter decisions. When you make a bad decision, you will tend to become more nervous because you know that the shot you are attempting is not a smart one. Playing safe as you move around the course is going to keep your comfortable, and you'll be more relaxed as a result. That doesn't mean you can never take a chance, but the gambles you do take need to be calculated and logical. Improve on your course management skills and the game will quickly look a little easier.
  • Maintain perspective. It is easy to make this game seem more important than it really is in the grand scheme of things. Do you want to play well? Sure – and there is nothing wrong with that. Is it going to ruin your day if you hit a few bad shots? Hopefully not. When you play golf as a hobby rather than as a profession, you can afford to hit some bad shots along the way. Try laughing about your bad shots, rather than getting mad. Remember, this game is supposed to be fun, and there isn't much sense in playing the game if you aren't going to enjoy it. By bringing a healthy perspective with you to the course for each round, the impact of pressure on your performance should be reduced.
  • Keep your thoughts simple. Trying to do too much with your swing or your game is a recipe for disaster when you are feeling pressure. Don't try to hit a complicated shot with a specific trajectory and ball flight when you are feeling nervous. Instead, revert back to the shots that you are comfortable with - meaning you should be hitting the shots that come naturally to you whenever possible. As soon as you start to feel nervous, think about ways you can simplify your approach and it is likely that you'll be able to work through this nervous patch without much trouble.

There is nothing too complicated about the standard methods to deal with pressure in golf. Make sure you understand each of the points listed above, and do your best to use them during upcoming rounds. The results might not be great at first, but stick with it and your ability to play under pressure should develop along the way.

Adding Pressure to Your Practice Sessions

Adding Pressure to Your Practice Sessions

You might think that you would have to get out onto the course in order to practice your performance under pressure, but that is not necessarily the case. You can design your practice sessions in such a way that you will feel some pressure even on the range or the putting green. And no, you don't have to be gambling with your friends or anything like that in order to find some pressure. You can create pressure even when practicing all alone, with nothing of value on the line.

The first way you can build pressure is to set a goal for yourself to hit a certain number of successful shots in a row. This is a commonly used tactic on the practice green. For example, you might decide that you are going to attempt to make 10 putts in a row from three feet. At first, you won't feel any pressure at all while rolling in the first two or three putts. That is likely to change, however, as the drill moves along. By the time you are down to the last couple of putts, you are going to get a little nervous while trying to finish things off. That is great experience for the putts you will face on the course.

This is a practice method that you can use on the driving range as well. You could decide that you are going to try to hit five shots in a row with a specific ball flight, such as a draw. Pick a target somewhere out on the range and work that draw into the target with all five swings. This kind of practice drill will both help you improve your swing and also help you play nicely under pressure.

Another option to add pressure to your practice sessions is to play an imaginary round of golf with a target score in mind. You can do this on the range by aiming at targets and grading your shots, but it really works best for the short game. One classic practice drill is to take a single golf ball and play 18 holes on the putting green. You pick out a hole, hit the putt, and then finish up if necessary. Continue on with that process of 18 holes until you have a total score. The par for this 'course' is 36, which is obviously two strokes per hole. The goal is to break par, which will only be possible if you can steer clear of three putting while knocking one or two in along the way.

It is possible to use this drill while working on your chipping as well. Instead of starting on the green, each hole starts off the green with a chip shot. You chip the ball up toward a target hole then switch to your putter to finish out. Repeat this 18 times, using a variety of holes on the green and placing your ball in many different lies around the side. You can again set par at 36 for this drill, although achieving that mark will be significantly more difficult. If you do get through a full 18 holes of this chip-and-putt game while keeping yourself under par, you should be quite proud of your effort.

These drills are going to help you perform under pressure because they add a goal to an otherwise ordinary practice session. You will have a target score in mind, or a streak you are trying to accomplish, and your brain will be aware of that goal as you go. When the goal comes close, you will probably feel some nerves as you try to finish it out. Place yourself in these kinds of situations as often as possible in practice and your play on the course should progress nicely.

The Positive Side of Pressure

The Positive Side of Pressure

When you think about pressure in golf, you probably think of it as a negative. There are plenty of downsides associated with pressure and nervousness, such as a decreased level of play. However, there are positives to be found as well. In this last section of our article, we are going to touch on a few of the positives that can come from running into pressure-packed situations in golf.

  • Added distance. Along with pressure will come an added boost of adrenaline in many cases. When that happens, you might actually be able to hit the ball farther than you can under normal situations. As long as you plan for it accordingly, this distance boost can be a great thing. Feeling nervous on the tee? You just might be able to blast the ball a few extra yards down the fairway. Picking up some extra distance is nice, but you need to avoid trying to intentionally swing harder, as doing so can mess with your timing. Just stay in your normal rhythm and the extra yards should come naturally.
  • Sense of accomplishment. There are few things in golf quite as satisfying as hitting great shots under pressure. Sure, it is harder to play well when you are nervous, but working through those nerves and getting the job done will provide you with great satisfaction. Do your best to play well in the face of challenging situations and you'll be rewarded with the pride that comes with overcoming a tough task. One of the biggest reasons it is so fun to set a new personal best score is the fact that you have to deal with some pretty serious pressure along the way.
  • Improved focus. It is easy to let your focus drift from time to time during an average round of golf. That is unlikely to happen, however, when you get nervous. While feeling the pressure that comes with facing a tough shot or an important situation, your mind will naturally focus in on the task at hand. This sharp focus should help you to play better, as you will pay attention to all of the small details that matter so much in golf. Some golfers actually find that they tend to play better when they are nervous, and this is likely a result of the improved focus they bring to the course during those moments.

Golf would not be the great game that it is without the presence of pressure. Sure, it might not seem like a lot of fun while you are in the middle of it, but golf without pressure could get boring in a hurry. Feeling pressure will cause you to do your best to rise to the occasion. The pressure might get the better of you in some cases, but you will meet the challenge on other days and you will feel great about your game as a result. We hope the advice we have provided in this article will help you to deal with pressure better than ever before. Good luck!