An expert’s simple tip to play more anxiety-free rounds (which might lower your scores)

We’ve all been there. You hit a decent shot off the tee, it trickles into the rough but you still should have a nice, easy angle into the green. What a calming, leisurely walk it is knowing your ball is safe from harm (and you from penalty strokes) — until it isn’t.

Suddenly your ball, which should have been just a foot or two off the fairway, is nowhere to be found. Your heart stops. Then is starts racing. Panic sets in. Your round is trending toward one of your best ever, and now you might have to take a penalty stroke for a ball you should absolutely find. This is a nightmare. But then, just when you are about to give up, you see your ball peeking through some thick grass. You must have walked right by it a half dozen times. Crisis averted. Onward.

But let’s take another look at that situation. You almost lost a ball and had to take a penalty, and even though you found it (this time!) you were still stricken with terrible anxiety. And we can all agree anxiety doesn’t help anyone, whether it’s on or off the golf course. So what’s the remedy?

Simple. Use a yellow golf ball, says Dr. Joseph Parent. Allow him to explain. A mental coach and the author of “Zen Golf,” Parent has worked with hundreds of pros and was with Vijay Singh and Cristie Kerr during their ascents to No. 1 in the world. He’s an expert, and a golfer, and this is why he recommends golfers use yellow golf balls.

“Try it, and see if you see your ball sooner,” Parent told me on a recent phone call. “We are hard-wired to reduce anxiety as quickly as possible, so if we see our ball sooner, it fulfills that need to reduce anxiety.”

Parent says if a yellow ball helps you spot your golf ball even 10 seconds sooner, it’s worth it. That’s 10 seconds less anxiety. And it adds up over the course of a round.

Parent mentions several factors that play into this anxious feeling. First off, golfers only have three minutes, no longer five, to search for their ball under the Rules of Golf. So there’s an internal clock of doom until it hurts your score. Every second is precious. Plus, having that foursome waiting on the tee — staring you down, waiting for you to get out of their way — only adds to the stress. Then you start thinking about your score if you have to drop. And then about your lie. Even if you find your ball, the lie must be bad since it’s this hard to spot in the first place.

“The unknown is more scarier than the difficult,” Parent says. “Once I know where my ball is, I’m less anxious, even if I find I have a difficult shot. The unknown is the difficult thing.”

So will using a yellow ball actually help you hit the ball straighter, farther, and make more putts? Not necessarily if it’s the exact same ball but just a different color. But how about this — wouldn’t most players agree that less stress equals better, more enjoyable golf?

“I’m not sure how much better it will make you play,” Parent says, “but if I offer you at the end of your round to have 10 minutes of anxiety or two minutes of anxiety, what would you choose?”

Good point.

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Josh Berhow

Golf.com Editor

Josh Berhow is the managing editor at GOLF.com. The Minnesota native graduated with a journalism degree from Minnesota State University in Mankato. You can reach him at joshua_berhow@golf.com.