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 here will help you to deal with pressure better than ever before.

Pressure Lesson Chart

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.

In many ways, pressure is what makes golf so much fun. Without pressure, the game would be easier, of course – but it would also be pretty boring. The fact that you care about the outcome of your shots, and you feel nerves as a result, is what keeps you coming back time after time. Many golfers think of pressure in a negative light, but it is actually one of the best things about golf.

In this article, we are going to discuss the topic of pressure from a variety of perspectives. First, we’ll talk about what it is and why it can be a good or bad thing for your game, depending on how you approach it. Later, we’ll talk about things like how you can improve the way you handle pressure, how to find opportunities to play golf under pressure, and more. Once you gain an appreciation for the fun that comes with playing the game under pressure, you’ll likely want to do it time and time again.

All of the content below has been written from the perspective of a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

— Why Do Golfers Feel Pressure?

Golfers feel pressure for the same reasons that anyone else feels pressure in any walk of life. Pressure stems from the desire to do well – to succeed. For instance, you might feel pressure in a job interview, because you want to do well in the interview and be offered the job when all is said and done. Or, you might feel pressure on a first date when you are trying to impress the other person.

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No matter the situation, pressure can make things more difficult. During that job interview, you might stumble over your words or get confused while providing an answer, since you are nervous about the outcome. Likewise, you might struggle to present your ‘normal’ personality on a first date as you deal with the nerves that come with such a situation. It’s perfectly human to feel these emotions, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with them when they arise.

Getting back to golf, you probably know what it feels like already to be nervous on the golf course. In a pressure situation, your swing might feel different, your hands might be shaking a bit, and you may not have good touch on the greens. It’s frustrating to feel this way when you are playing an important shot or round, since you want so badly to do well. As a cruel irony, it is the desire to do well that is precisely the reason why you are struggling. In other words, you have to deal with the pressure in order to do well, but it is only because you want to do well that you are feeling the pressure in the first place. It’s a tricky situation, and for some players it can feel impossible to escape the grip of pressure.

Let’s take a look at a few of the situations on the golf course that can cause you to feel pressure –

Pressure Golf Lesson Chart

  • Other people watching you play. This is a common one for the average player, so it’s a good place to start our list. When you play golf, you are bound to have other people watching you hit shots from time to time – it’s just how the game works. For instance, if you are playing on a busy Saturday, there will probably be a couple of other groups near the first tee while you are getting started. And, most of those people will stop what they are doing to watch you tee off. Even if that doesn’t happen very often, you will still be watched by the others in your group, whether they are friends or strangers you’ve been paired up with for the day. Whatever the case, getting used to dealing with the pressure that comes with other people watching you play is something that is important if you are going to reach your potential on the links.
  • Tournament competition. It’s common for golfers of all ability levels to play in tournaments. Even if you aren’t a low handicapper who enters local and regional championships, you can still play in tournaments at your own club. Part of the appeal of golf is found in the ability to compete against others in your area. Of course, playing in a tournament does tend to bring on the nerves, so you might find it difficult to play as well in a tournament as you do under other conditions. If you don’t perform very well in your first one or two tournament experiences, don’t let that keep you away from playing more of them in the future. You’ll likely get better at it with experience, so stick with it and look forward to someday enjoying the satisfaction that comes with shooting a good score when the pressure is on.
  • Difficult shots. Sometimes, it’s simply a difficult shot that will cause you to feel pressure and get nervous on the course. For instance, imagine that you are playing a 175-yard par three hole with nothing but grass between you and the green. Most likely, you won’t feel too much pressure on that shot, because you’ll have a chance to recover for your par even if you don’t hit a very good shot from the tee. However, if you take that same 175-yard par three and add water that stretches from the tee all the way to the front of the green, you’ll suddenly have a much more intimidating situation. Most golfers would feel pressure when facing this kind of shot, as even a slight miss-hit could leave your ball in the water. Another one of the many pressure-related skills you’ll need to build in golf is the ability to make confident swings even when the course is presenting you with a pressure-packed situation.

In many ways, pressure is an individual phenomenon, in that it affects everyone a little bit differently. For instance, you might not care at all when other people are watching you swing, but you may tighten up as soon as you step to the first tee for a tournament round. The key is to learn what it is that seems to affect you on the course so you can take steps toward overcoming those nervous situations. In the next section, we’ll talk about some of the basics that go into playing well when you feel pressure.

— Playing Good Golf in Pressure Situations

For some golfers, it seems impossible to play well when they feel pressure. To those players, pressure is automatically equated to poor outcomes. They start to feel nervous, and they just assume the upcoming shot is going to be a bad one. Fortunately, even if that is how you feel at the moment, that’s not how it has to be forever.

In this section, we are going to provide some tips that you can put to use as you attempt to overcome pressure-related issues in your golf game. These tips might not work immediately but stick with them and you should start to see better results as time goes by.

Pressure Golf Lesson Chart

  • Keep things in perspective. This is one of the best ways to produce quality golf when you are facing pressure, although you will likely find it tough to implement at first. Basically, the idea here is to keep the game of golf in perspective in terms of your life as a whole. For instance, let’s say you are nervous about hitting a shot in front of a few people in the first tee. That’s perfectly understandable, and a pretty common issue. However, you might be able to settle your nerves by thinking rationally about the situation. So what if a few people see you hit a bad shot? Most likely, you don’t know those people, and may never see them again. Also, some of them are sure to hit their own bad shot when they step up to the tee. In the big picture, it just doesn’t matter much at all what some strangers think about your golf swing. Try reminding yourself of this simple fact and you may notice that your stress level goes down a notch or two.
  • Build a pre-shot routine. It can help tremendously to have a pre-shot routine to rely on when you get nervous. When in a pressure situation, it’s easy to get thrown off of your normal game as your mind races through the various possible outcomes in front of you. That’s where a pre-shot routine can be so useful – it can serve as a focal point to get your mind back on the task at hand. Instead of letting your mind race, you can ask it pay attention to the pieces of your pre-shot routine, such as taking a practice swing, looking out at the target, visualizing your shot, etc. Whatever routine you happen to use, going through that process can work wonders for calming your nerves and giving you something to focus on. It’s almost like a security blanket for a small child – once you are into the routine, you feel at home and more comfortable with the situation as a whole. Of course, you’ll want to practice your routine regularly on the range so you can easily repeat it on the course without any trouble.
  • Choose an easier path. This is a good tip for when you are facing a particularly difficult shot that is making your nervous. To highlight this tip, let’s go back to that discussion from earlier in the article about a 175-yard par three over water. There’s nothing you can do about the presence of the water, of course, but you can alter your game plan to make it less likely that you’ll wind up in the penalty area. For instance, you might use a club that can provide you enough distance to reach the back of the green, rather than trying for the front. Taking an extra club will give you some margin for error, so even a shot that isn’t struck perfectly might get over the water. And, even if you hit the club flush and send it a bit too far, at least you’ve safely made it over the water and can hope to get up and down for your par. Thinking strategically in this way is helpful under pressure because you will know that you don’t have to make a perfect swing to avoid the water (or whatever it is you need to avoid). With a little bit of room for error on your side, you may be able to relax and make a smooth swing that leads to a good result.

It’s extremely satisfying to perform well under pressure, but don’t expect it to be easy. This is a hard game anyway, and it gets even tougher when you start to feel nervous. We hope the tips listed above will help you improve your performance under pressure during an upcoming round.

— Watch Out for These Mistakes

There are plenty of mistakes you can make under pressure on the golf course. We can’t touch on them all, of course, but we have highlighted a few key errors below. If you are struggling with your play when you start to feel nervous, it may be that one of these mistakes is to blame.

Pressure Golf Lesson Chart

  • Rushing. Without a doubt, this is the biggest mistake that gets golfers into trouble in pressure moments. When the nerves set in, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and rush through the shot just to get it over with. No one likes feeling nervous, and the best way to get those nervous out of your system is just to hit the shot and move on. Unfortunately, rushing through the shot is rarely going to lead to a good outcome. This is where a solid pre-shot routine is so important. By sticking to your routine, you should be able to keep your timing roughly the same as it is during any other situation. Also, it’s worth noting that rushing isn’t an issue which only affects you when it’s your turn to play – you might find that you are doing everything faster during a pressure round. From walking up the fairway to talking with your playing partners, you might be in a rush from start to finish. If you notice that you are hurrying through everything you do, make a conscious effort to slow it all down and regain control.
  • Running away from the pressure. You can’t hide from pressure in golf. This is a game that delivers pressure in a variety of forms, as we have already discussed, and no one is immune to its effects. From the total beginner to a top professional, everyone feels pressure in golf – and that’s okay. One of the best ways to improve your pressure play is to accept the nerves that you feel as just being part of the game. If you are constantly trying to push them away, or pretend that they aren’t there, you’re only going to make things worse. It’s okay to feel nervous. You can still play good golf while you are nervous, believe it or not. The goal isn’t to never get nervous again on the course – the goal is to play well despite those nerves.
  • Swinging extra hard. Sometimes, golfers will compensate for pressure by simply swinging harder. This is a natural reaction in some ways – when you really want to do well, you are inclined to try harder, and you will feel like you are trying harder when you make an aggressive swing. But here’s the thing – those aggressive swings rarely pay off on the course. Most often than not, golf rewards steady, smooth swings. If you make a huge turn and swing as hard as you can when the pressure is on, it’s likely that the ball is going to sail far from your intended target. The urge to swing extra hard is one of the many pitfalls you need to avoid while playing pressure golf.

When you do feel pressure on the course, take note of how you respond. You could even make notes in a small notebook that you keep in your back so you can notice any trends that develop. For instance, you might tend to miss to the right of your target when you get nervous, or you might find that you hit your shots too far. Whatever the case, paying attention to your results will enable you to make adjustments and hopefully improve how you perform in the future.

— Where Do You Find Pressure?

To wrap up this article, we are going to discuss how you can find pressure golf if you would like to put yourself to the test in competition. While it might be a little intimidating at first, playing golf under pressure is actually quite a thrill – and it’s something you may want to do over and over again. Also, you don’t need to be any kind of standout performer to play in competitions, so don’t worry if you carry a high handicap at the moment. Let’s look at some options for experiencing competitive golf.

Pressure Golf Lesson Chart

  • Start at the club level. The easiest way to get started with golf tournaments is to join a local Men’s or Women’s Club. There are clubs like this at virtually every golf course, so you can pick out your favorite local course and sign up for a modest fee. Joining the club will not only give you access to their competitions, but it will also provide you with an official USGA handicap – which you will need to play in any kind of formal golf competition. If you have any questions about how the club at your favorite course works, just ask in the pro shop and they should be able to point you in the right direction.
  • City or county competitions. Depending on where you live, there may be city or county level golf competitions that you can enter. Some city amateur tournaments will only have a gross competition, meaning you’ll need to be a pretty solid golfer to compete. However, some others will have net divisions, opening it up for those with higher handicaps to compete and experience the pressure for themselves. Again here, you can ask at your local golf course for help in finding these kinds of tournaments, or you could search around online for a moment to find some info.
  • State golf association. Finally, your state golf association likely puts on a variety of tournaments throughout the calendar year. Although most of these are going to be for accomplished players with impressive skills, some state golf associations also host events with net divisions. Check out the website for your golf association and get familiar with the kinds of events they offer.

If you have never before played in any kind of tournament, stating with a club even is the best way to go. These will be relatively casual affairs that won’t put too much pressure on you – but enough to give you a taste of what it is like to try to play your best while feeling nervous. As you gain experience and confidence, you can start to look toward bigger and bigger events to continue testing yourself while having a ton of fun along the way.

There are few feelings quite as satisfying as hitting a great shot under pressure. Or, to go a step further, not much feels better in golf than posting a good score during a round where the pressure was on. It takes a combination of skill and a steady nerve to perform well under pressure, but it’s highly rewarding to make it happen after working on your game for weeks, months, or years. We hope you play well during your next pressure round, and don’t forget to have fun out there!