The golf season is well underway with Pro-Ams and charity tournaments being held weekly. When you compete in these kinds of tournaments do you get nervous worrying about how you will play, how you will look to others in your group, and feel pressure to ‘play your part’ in the competition? When golfers are out of their comfort zone playing with expectations, they experience what is known as performance anxiety. It begins on the first tee.
“The First-Tee Jitters*
Do you feel confident hitting balls on the range and then become anxious and lose your confidence on the first tee?
It is likely you prepare for your shots differently in the two places, but expect the same results. On the wide-open range, most golfers are not concerned with the mental discipline for scoring. Then on the golf course the score becomes the focus, and the wonderful tempo and relaxed swing are left on the range.
Performance anxiety begins on the first tee when every shot counts. Anxiety about what might go wrong causes tight, tense muscles that often produce off-line shots. To be confident on the first tee, you have to be thinking positively, be relaxed, and trust your swing.
The most important things you can do to relieve anxiety are to stay in the moment and let go of the outcome of your shot. For example, if you are concerned with others watching you, know that they are only concerned with their own games. Keep your swing thoughts simple, and focus on your tempo. The less you have to deal with, the more centered and focused you will be.
Monitor the self-talk chatter in your mind. The banter on the first tee is an indication of the doubts going on in golfers’ minds. You have probably heard statements such as, “I haven’t played in a week” (so don’t expect me to play well), or “My handicap just went up” (because I am playing terribly).
This kind of negative self-talk will sabotage your golf game by raising your anxiety level. Instead give yourself permission to play well by doing the best you can.
Adopt the attitude that the tee shot is easy since you use the club with the biggest club head… and, you can tee up the ball! Affirm that you believe in yourself and your ability and that you are really going to enjoy hitting the first shot of the day.
Repetition is a key to removing anxiety. When you do the same thing over and over, it becomes a habit and you don’t have to think about it anymore. Then it becomes easy. Repeating the same preshot routine gets your mind and body ready without any anxiousness.
If you mishit your tee shot on the first tee, remind yourself that it is only one shot. It is not an indication of what the future shots will be like. Do what the pros do. Step to the side of the tee and swing your club until you regain your rhythm and confidence. You don’t want to go to your next shot with the mental images and physical feel of an unproductive swing. Make sure that the swing you do want is ready to be enacted on your next shot.”
*Excerpts are from Chapter 9: Performance Anxiety; “THE HEART OF GOLF, Access Your Supreme Intelligence for Peak Performances”
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