Use these 4 keys to conquer your nerves on the course
Occasional nervousness and fear are a fact of life, and they are certainly a given whenever someone competes in an athletic event.
All golfers, from PGA Tour players to club pros to amateur golfers at the local level, experience some form of nervousness — the difference is in how we handle those nervous or anxious feelings. Improving the way you manage nerves can help you during your next competitive round. Here are four ways to start practicing this important skill.
Accept — and embrace
The first thing to know is that acceptance is key. You must accept that in competition you will feel nervous and try to embrace it. Nerves and anxiety are essentially the release of adrenaline into the body, which is a sign that your body is preparing to do something significant.
Proper preparation for any competitive event is critical; obviously, training must be undertaken well before the start of any competition, but the more you have prepared for a tournament, whether it’s a tournament qualifier or the club championship or a member-member event, the better you will feel. That doesn’t mean you won’t feel nervous; it simply means that you will know you’ve done all that you could to prepare for the event. Keep in mind that no one ever prepares as much as they want to, but whatever preparation you do undertake should help with nerves, knowing that you’re not going to the event completely unprepared.
Visualize the positive
Another way to battle nerves and anxiety is by controlling your thoughts and your thought process. This takes time and practice, but it can be done. Visualizing successful shots and outcomes is something that all great players do, whereas amateurs generally only “see” disastrous shots in their mind’s eye before hitting a shot, such as putting the ball in a water hazard or hitting it out of bounds. Negative visualization makes it far more likely that disaster will occur. Professionals have trained themselves to visualize their very best shots before they ever pull the club back. Again, this process takes time, but your PGA professional can help you develop this skill.
Establish a consistent pre-shot routine
Developing a consistent pre-shot routine is also a critical skill for competition. Pre-shot routines exist to get our minds in an optimal state for performance by eliminating extraneous (often negative) thoughts. If you don’t have a good routine, ask your instructor to help you develop one so that you can lean on it in times of stress. And remember, pre-shot routines may take a bit of practice to become a habit, and eventually, subconscious, but a good pre-shot routine can be a lifesaver.
Breathe with purpose
Finally, utilizing mindful breathing techniques is a great way to battle nerves and anxiety related to competition. An effortless technique such as taking two deep breaths before particularly difficult shots can help reduce stress tremendously, as it can quickly lower blood pressure and bring more oxygen to the brain. For those looking for more help in this area, meditation techniques can also be incredibly helpful.
I hope you try one or more of these techniques during this summer season to help you perform better under pressure.