Your local club is holding its annual golf championship and your palms have already started sweating. Your friends and family tell you that you have no reason to worry - you’re a great player, and your strokes are a joy to watch. But you know better. You know that on the day when you most need your skills, you somehow always fall short.
Call it performance anxiety, call it nerves, call it a case of bad luck - it doesn’t change the fact that you often don’t play as well as you should particularly on tournament day. Why is that Don’t people usually say that being nervous is a good thing
In this case, not so much.
Golf is as much a mind game as it is a physical sport. And to succeed and become a great player, controlling your mind is as important as controlling your muscles.
Common factors that contribute to a golfer’s stress include missing the putt, using the wrong club and worrying about scores or about people watching and judging your strokes.
So you try harder, try to change the way you’re playing the game, and it doesn’t work out as well as you’d thought.
The truth of the matter is that coping strategies must be effective and a golfer can only be successful in the long run if they learn to cope well with stress. Some of the world’s greatest golfers, other than having perfected their technique, are mentally strong and have learned the art of focusing on their game to the exclusion of all else.
One of the most effective ways of doing well is to stick to playing strategies. You do not want to try something new in the middle of a major game. Strike the ball like you did during practice, rely on both muscle memory and your mind to gauge how far you need to swing for a stroke.
Staying positive and building concentration is just as important. Letting anxiety or frustration get the better of you is a recipe for disaster. The key is to focus on your present shot and trust yourself. And focusing on your present shot means having a clear positive vision of where you want the ball to go. Develop a feel for the green and trust your instincts. Ensure the last thought in your mind before playing the shot is a positive one, rather than something negative. For example, if there is a water hazard or a sand bunker between you and the hole, don’t focus on that and say ‘don’t hit the ball in the bunker’. Your focus will then shift to the bunker and you may find that you eventually hit it in the bunker instead of avoiding it. Learn to rule out distractions.
If a stroke does not work out as planned, do not dwell on it and allow the anger or disappointment to colour your next stroke.
Another oft-neglected practice is talking to the caddy. They may know the course better than you and may be able to offer valuable advice.
Challenge yourself daily by playing under different conditions and on different courses. Becoming complacent about having mastered a skill-set is never a bright idea. You must consider the possibility of unfavourable environmental conditions during a tournament.
And finally, play to win - not just to play a ‘decent’ game.
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