How To Play Golf Under Pressure

While your ultimate goal when working on your mental golf game is to not feel any pressure or to use certain sports psychology techniques to get rid of pressure, you'll inevitably end up playing some rounds where you will still feel the pressure.  

If you watch the best pros like Woods, Westwood, Garcia, Els or Wei who have mastered their mental game, you'll still see them feel the pressure and get tight in key situations.

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But, what these players have learned is how to play under pressure.

The not so experienced golf players play really well when they don't feel any pressure-meaning they are not anxious, they're not afraid, and they are in the zone.

Everything works fine, and they accept those rare mistakes as part of the game. They have their game plan and they stick to it.

But, once they reach a critical point in the round like holing a putt to get into a playoff, or win the tournament, or to par the last 2 holes to win, their game falls apart.

The most common reason that I see, and the biggest difference compared to the real masters of the game, is that these inexperienced players do not adapt their game to the pressure situation.

And by that, I mean that they keep hitting their big shots close to the pins and stick to their game plan. What they don't realize is that if they do not manage to control the pressure and get rid of it, their mind and body do not function at peak performance!

It's like a radio that suddenly loses its clear connection with the radio station, and there's a noise present with the transmission.

The same thing happens in our mind when we're anxious. The clear signals of the mind of which tactic to play, and the clear signals to the muscles of the body, now become more distorted.

We're unable to make clean contact with the ball and time it well. Our limbs feel heavier, and we cannot move in the same effortless way as before.

As a result of all this, we now play less accurate golf and our swings are not as fast.

Most players are not even aware of the consequences of the pressure that you just have read about above. They do not understand that under pressure they cannot play as well, no matter how hard they try. They might get lucky on a few shots but in general, their performance drops.

Most players believe that they need to play the same type of golf all the time and that there is no solution to experiencing pressure and playing well.

The really experienced players think differently. They are aware of the pressure, and they are aware of its effects.

If they are unable to get rid of the pressure and the tension they feel through their mental routines, they ACCEPT the situation and try to make the best of it.

He plays high percentage golf and avoids taking risks. His game is still good enough not to offer up dropped shots the main difference is that the player just avoids taking any big chances.

Learning to Play Under Pressure

1. Your first goal in every golf round is to try to play shot by shot, focus on your strategy and never dwell on the outcome.

The outcome is out of your control, and if you do focus on it, you'll experience anxiety and feel the pressure. So, your main goal is to avoid getting into this state in the first place.

2. If you do experience pressure, your next goal is to get rid of it.

You do that by focusing on each shot, taking extra time to breathe, and performing your routines before you execute. When you get rid of the tension and clear your mind, you'll be able to play at your best again.

3. But, if you're doing the exercises mentioned above and the pressure persists, you need to accept it and ADAPT your game.

Realize that the extra tension you feel in your body will affect the coordination of your muscles, and your brain will feel like it is experiencing some extra noise. You are now unable to play your best golf.

But, that doesn't mean that you will lose! Your opponent is most likely feeling the pressure too, so it's now a matter of who makes the best of this difficult situation.

Start playing high percentage golf by keeping the same rhythm of shots (do not slow down your arms!) but aim further away from the pins.

Win the tournament by hard work and not by flashy shots. Don't panic if you feel the pressure, just accept it, find a way to play solid golf without making many mistakes, and see how that affects your position on the leaderboard..

You'll see that in most cases you'll edge ahead. If not, you'll have to start going for your shots despite feeling the pressure. Staying in the high percentage golf approach when it's not working is, of course, a bad idea.

Become more aware of how the pros adapt their game if they happen to feel the pressure, and work on becoming more aware of how the pressure affects you.

Know that all is not lost if you happen to feel the pressure in key situations of the round, and experiment with adapting your game in a way that still allows you to play solid golf and challenge your opponents to win the by playing aggressive shots.