Dealing with pressure...

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By Speedy

  • 21 Replies
  1. Speedy

    Newmarket, NH

    Well a first for me... Last week I played in a 2 day member/guest with my buddy. He was a member and I was a guest. It was at a course I'm very familiar with and hoping next year i'll officially be a member there.

    Anyways, a 2 day event; 27 holes the first day and 18 the next day. All match play. We were in a flight with 5 other teams, 6 total. The first 3 matches we played we both played well and finished the day in 2nd place but only a 1/2 point from first. We were excited.

    The next day we played our first match and did well again. Had some time to kill before our next/last match and I went to look at the leader board. We were in first by a 1/2 point and our last match was against the team that was right behind us, a perfect way to end the tournament. 1 versus 2.

    I get to the first tee and my mind started going wacky and my heart started racing. I couldn't calm myself down. Drove the ball well but for the life of me I couldn't hit my irons, putting was all over the place and just couldn't relax. I couldn't understand it. The first 4 matches, no issues. Last match, the important one, I lost it, buckled. My partner looked at me and asked me, "Did you look at the board?" I said yes.. THANKFULLY my partner stepped up BIG TIME and won the match for us and ended up winning our flight. But i still couldn't get the poor play outta my head. Why did i buckle like that? Surely doesn't take away the fun I had those 2 days and meeting some great people but just hated that i finished like that..

    Anyone else been in that situation before? Heart starts racing? If yes, how did ya relax yaself? My buddy kept telling me, just have fun and trust me I was trying but I just couldn't do it...

  2. Dale V

    Dale V
    Escondido, CA

    Yep, easier said than done. I rarely play in organized events anymore to avoid the same internal pressure. Last time i felt it was the St. Andrews Golf Week i did in 2016. They change the teams up every day so you feel pressured to help a different group each day. I loved the golf that week but never did get comfortable. Congrats on your win and sounds like even if you didn't have your best finishing round personally, you definitely were contributing.
  3. Frank P

    Frank P
    Port St. Lucie, FL

    Dale V said:

    Yep, easier said than done. I rarely play in organized events anymore to avoid the same internal pressure. Last time i felt it was the St. Andrews Golf Week i did in 2016. They change the teams up every day so you feel pressured to help a different group each day. I loved the golf that week but never did get comfortable. Congrats on your win and sounds like even if you didn't have your best finishing round personally, you definitely were contributing.

    Yeah, same here. I tried all the club events, Member-Member , Member-Guest, Presidents Cup, Club Championship, you name it. I could never get comfortable. My hat's off to all who compete. It's not easy at any level.
  4. Jerry M

    Jerry M
    Dallas, TX

    Next time you are in that position, you've got some experience to draw on and will know what to expect. You'll handle it better than you did the last time. Your buddy was right just have fun with it.
  5. Dwayne N

    Dwayne N
    Island, KY

    I think we all have experienced it at one time or another. Preforming under pressure is often a nightmare but I believe we learn from those situations. My first medal play two day tournament was awful it was so bad I almost decided to never play a medal tourney again but I now play that same event yearly and am in contention every year. And the experience has made me a better golfer all around I deal with the pressure pretty well now.
  6. Zangetsu


    I have the same problem, always tend to overhit everything when going on adrenaline. I nowerdays tend to focus on breathing and not focus on the game. Do more practice swings to lose the extra uncontrollable speed.

    This mostly helps. Try to avoid hitting shots with heart racing it never goes well
  7. When I find myself in these kind of situations I focus on making a complete practice swing in what feels like slow motion to me (especially with the driver in my hand) and I then step in and concentrate on repeating that pace of swing.
  8. Darryl M

    Darryl M
    Wichita, KS

    First Congrats on your win....When there is pressure the mind thinks you have to do something different to maintain what you have already accomplished to that point. IT'S A LIE!!!!! But your mind will over power logical thinking if you let it.

    Some people embrace pressure and others do not. I personally like it and embrace it, pressure actually makes me focus better than being casual. But I love to be challenged when playing sports it gets my blood pumping better. I used to always bowl anchor in leagues, I always wanted the ball at the end when I played basketball, I pitched when I played baseball in high school....

    I learned early in my life that if you do what you can do to the best of your abilities on any given day then there is nothing more you could have done and no need to stress out while doing it.

  9. I wish I could tell you a tried and true method to calm the nerves, for me personally it's mostly been practice and experience over time. I tend to focus on one swing thought, which is usually counting "one and two" to keep my tempo in check, and that way I'm also not thinking about anything else over the ball, and just focus on my routine each swing to keep things consistent. When possible I try not to know my exact score, obviously I usually have a good idea if I'm a couple under/over, but not having the exact number in my head tends to help, mindlessly write a number on the card and on to the next hole.

    Like Dale said, easier said than done, keep at it you'll find a way that works for you. Congrats on the win!
  10. Smokey W

    Smokey W
    Colorado Springs, CO

    Wow, good timing on this post... I was going to start a thread on the exact same topic. I am a newish golfer but was invited to play in a private scramble tournament on Monday. The foursome was myself, my boss, and two of our main customers. I played the worst golf I have ever played to date (I’m not exaggerating... I think my first game ever was better than this). Outside of chipping and putting, I topped or chunked the ball for the first 9 holes, everything from the opening drive to wedge shots on approaches and Par 3s.

    I was nervous and could not slow my heart rate down. On the ninth whole of play, my partners all hit bad shots and I somehow managed to hit a 160 yard approach pure and landed 5 feet from the cup (great shot for me)... and finally I started to relax a bit. Most of my shots from then on out were still mediocre but were my normal mediocre (e.g. sliced tee shots, misses left and right of the green, etc) but at least I was making contact with the club face and moving the ball forward more than a few feet at a time!

    I was so embarrassed. I’m not good by any means, but I’m not that bad either! I played like I had never swung a club, and even though I knew I needed to relax and have fun, I couldn’t do it. Even when I talked to my wife about it later that evening, my watch showed my HR increasing 20+ BPM. I have felt and handled my nerves before (lots of public speaking and performing) but I could not get these golf nerves under control. I played a par 3 course the night before the tournament with my wife and played beautifully... and warmed up well on the driving range that morning... so I went in with a lot of confidence. But something about having my boss and our key funding sources standing behind me on the opening tee shot caused me to dive into the most humiliating tailspin ever!

    Help! How do you all calm down and relax when you know you need to but can’t?
  11. My son is on his school golf team and we play more golf than we probably should. He got in a high pressure situation in a school match. He was in the lead but he was letting it get away from him. Between holes he said it was too much pressure. I told him you only feel pressure when you don't know what you're doing. He smiled and took a deep breath and closed it out!
  12. Hotsauce

    Georgetown MA

    Welcome to competitive golf Speedy! Having a reliable parter is always step one, in a member guest, but golf is an individual game and you can't always lean on someone.

    I can tell you the first time I was in the final group of my Club Championship was the first time I've been uncomfortable golfing. There were probably 20+ carts following us around and I had never played an entire round with an audience before. I usually love pressure, but this time I couldn't stop shaking. I asked the kid who was caddying for me if he noticed and he said no- but internally, I could sure feel it.

    I would say the best thing you can do is practice! How do you practice playing under pressure? Play for something meaningful. Be it cash or pride points, if you're not playing for something that matters, you'll never feel pressure.

    If you don't have an opponent, do drills where you have to achieve something or start over. For example- make a "fairway" on your driving range, and force yourself to hit it 10-13 times in a row. I'll line up 13 balls, and if I miss one, I'll start over. You'd be amazed how you'll feel that little bit of pressure creep in when you tee up that last ball. You can do the same thing with putting, chipping, iron shots- whatever gives you the heebie-jeebies when the match is on the line.

    Just like anything, the more you do it, the more comfortable you'll be.
  13. Rick D

    Rick D
    Weston, WI

    Our member-guest is similar, 3 matches on Friday, 2 on Saturday. The winner of each division goes into an alternate shot horse race. It's a gas! Everyone follows, a drink cart on each side of the fairway. Chearing and carts moving from hole to hole.

    A friend and I were runners up one year. At the horse race start he was so nervous friends of mine [who had bet on us] wanted to buy him a shot to calm him down. He was seen off to the side trying to work up spit, cotton mouth.

    Last year, with my brother as partner we made the horse race. We drew to tee off last. As my name was called and I teed it up I experienced an adrenaline rush like I've only had when in a serious fist fight. I hit a bomb, but blocked it right into rough. Set up my brother for a tough second shot. We made bogie and were eliminated. It was really, really weird getting that rush.

    I've been nervous, too. When I first started playing stroke play tournaments I made 10 on the first hole. The hole was like an out of body experience. Battled to make the cut, but just barely. Now I don't get so nervous. Having done it enough is the only explanation.

    We're flying to Scotland 24 August. 4 days in St. Andrews. 1 open day for me to queue up and try to get on the Old Course as a single. I can probably guarantee I'll be nervous on the first tee if I make it.
  14. Mark P

    Mark P
    foxboro, MA

    I believe a good cigar takes your mind away from the pressure.
  15. Hotsauce

    Georgetown MA

    Mark P said:

    I believe a good cigar takes your mind away from the pressure.

    Mark P wins.
  16. Paul B

    Paul B
    Porter, IN

    Lucky you! It's a great feeling.
  17. Bamarolls

    Westmont, IL

    I like quite a few responses above. My first most noticeable angst was on Tennis Court. Despite playing better than my opponent, I could not close out the match. First time I ever closed out a tough match was making my mind believe that the other guy was just as nervous so my nerves were better than his, and I could feel a wave of calm run through my big toe to cow lick. Next epiphany was from reading top athletes, Tiger, Serena, Davis Love III, all have gone through it and survived. So believe that my experience is but human. Deal with it in a positive way...divert it to a rythmic song in your head. That only works if you have a solid routine to fall back to. Routine = you do all of it every time.
    P.S. The routine of hitting consecutive shots in the defined fairway or green during range practice works with any number of significant target. I used to have toughest time with tenth ball until I increased by target to twelve shots. Now 12th shot became the toughest.
    Lest I forget, congratulations on finishing with a win. Let's build on that. Cheers!
  18. No'l

    Palmdale, CA

    Congrats on the win, Speedy!

    There's a lot of good solid advice up there for you. I've been in that position many times and made a mess because of it. But I could only say that at the times when I've played well are the times when (1) I try not to expect anything- no expectations to the thinking effect that I can't own the trophy while the game is still being played. That usually brings me back down to earth again. (2) I try and stick to my game- executing only the high percentage shots that I know of- and I know that I only have a couple of them. (3) Playing or enjoying the course layout and how it should play to my ability and not comparing shots with my opponent.. which is hard to do in a match, however, I just have to trust that.
  19. Tom B

    Tom B
    Northborough, MA

    WOW, was this a great thread this was eh? Outstanding answers from a whole lot of folks who've been there done that. All summed up simply by Hotsauce, who said perfectly welcome to competitive golf. The only other think I can add, is before everyone actually gets ready to hit, while on the tee, yuk it up, when the introductions are going on, tell a joke, make fun of yourself, a funny story maybe, but anything to try to make you feel like you're in your regular group with all your buddies and it's no big deal. But also take the advice to make artificial pressure when in reality it doesn't exist, in your regular rounds or matches. Lee Trevino always said, real pressure is playing a $5 nassau with only $2 in your pocket.

    BYW, I hope when you say "where you hope to be a member next year", that maybe you've been waiting on Portsmouth. Worth the wait. Good luck
  20. I am a big fan of focusing on tempo and balance in those types of situations. In my Preshot routine, I like to hold my club roughly in a position that rivals halfway where my follow through is (think of a clock, with the club starting at 9 o clock and 6 o’clock is where the ball is) and start my back swing from this position into a full swing. I’ve found that this really synchronizes my swing and balance and takes away nerves.

    Another thing to remember in pressure situations and this helped me tremendously is to focus on the shot at hand. I know that sounds cliche but I found myself focusing too much on shooting specific numbers and it was really hurting my performance. I know it’s very hard to prevent thinking about protecting your lead or gaining strokes on your opponents in the heat of completion but I just try to put all my focus on the current shot because that’s all I can really control in pressure situations.

    Anyhow congratulations on your victory!! There is no better feeling than besting the field!!
  21. For me, this is what it's all about. But let me first say, that's after years of playing golf. That little pang in your stomach, heavy breathing, feeling a little cold all of the sudden on a warm day that's pressure. As I'm sure you have heard it said, most Tour Players still experience it. EVERYBODY experiences it at some time or another.
    What has worked for me is rather simple: 1) What's the worst thing that can happen? You lose the match - not the end of the world. 2) Breathing slower and deeper and slowing your mind down help a lot. 3) Think of a confidence booster - Like your best shots in the last three matches.
    The more you go through it, typically the better you get at it. Oh, and a good partner also helps!
  22. vurich

    First Tee Box

    "There are only two types of player-those who keep their nerves under control and win championships, and those who do not." - Harry Vardon

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