By Cole Golden, USGTF Master Golf Teaching Professional
I recently had a student who was going to play in one of the largest amateur golf tournaments in the state. He had been working on his game and playing really well. He was excited and ready to show off his golf game. This was the biggest tournament and best field he had ever played against.
The evening after the first round, I received a phone call from him. He told me how nervous he was and he could barely breathe prior to teeing off. His hands were shaking and sweaty. He had a hard time thinking positive thoughts versus thinking only the worst. His first tee ball? You can guess it: he came over it so bad he barely hit the ball 100 yards to the left.
There were people watching; he felt like withdrawing right there. It was the worst drive he had hit in years. He was embarrassed, plain and simple. But heck, we’ve all been there. He finally got his nerves in check and finished with a respectable 75.
During our phone conversation, I explained that everyone experiences the same frustrations and challenges. No matter if you are trying to break 100 for the first time, break par the first time, win your first tournament or, for the pros, win your first major. Pressure is part of the game. You must embrace it and prepare to the best of your ability.
A lot of great athletes have said they want to feel pressure or nerves; it means they are in the hunt or in a situation they want to be in. The more and more you put yourself in pressure situations, the better your body will know how to act upon it or recover.
You can help your students with pressure by putting them in situations where they feel uncomfortable. That could be playing with a group of better players, playing for money, or making up practice games that apply pressure. The more your students feel the heat, the better they will handle stressful situations.