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Golf Instruction Article

Dealing with Nervousness on the Golf Course
How to Play More Relaxed


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"Stage fright" or nervousness is just as common in golf as it is in other sports and performing arts. It can affect thinking and the ability to perform physical skills. From what researchers (and experience) have discovered so far, getting rid of the nervousness completely is not the solution. A certain level of anxiousness or nervous energy is necessary in order for one to perform their best. So the solution is partly to realize that you can play just fine with the nervous energy, and begin getting used to it (this will probably take time).

Since this anxiousness or nervous energy never goes away entirely, another part of the solution includes important ingredients for handling it: preparation and experience.


Develop your technique in all areas of the game. Be well-prepared by

  • Understanding your swing and stroke (what the movements are, why they make sense, etc.)
  • Knowing whether you are actually DOING the things you understand (put in the practice time, with your focus of attention in the right places, to develop your awareness or feel of the things you understand)
  • Ingraining good habits - get the solid fundamentals and movements (that you understand and are aware of doing, from the two points above) so well-rehearsed that they become automatic or subconscious

As your technique improves so will your results and, therefore, so will your confidence. You'll commonly hear this referred to as "trusting" your swing or stroke. (Question: if a golfer was not sure of their technique do you think they would feel confident about their ability to execute a shot?) Being well-prepared and confident will help decrease uncertainty and anxiety, which will reduce tension and help you relax and play shots. Technique development is a long term process. That is why golf requires practice and that is why it doesn't happen overnight, or by discovering some "new secret." There is no shortcut or secret. You have to go through the process.

Ways to develop your technique


Play so many times (obviously, therefore, this is also a long term process) that you have both performed well and messed up a number of times -- particularly in situations that you have difficulty with (like playing in tournaments, or even just playing with people you don't know, etc.). You may mess up before you perform well. Learn from your mistakes. Only by repeated exposure to what causes you difficulty do you gain experience and expand your comfort zone; just as only by exercising can your body adapt and become more fit. Experience is a great teacher that will also help you to know your own game and become a better decision maker on the course... and this feeds right back into preparation.

Tip: remember to breathe deliberately when you get nervous. Your brain needs oxygen and when people get nervous they tend to hold their breath or breathe very shallowly or sporadically.

So if you want to play more relaxed remember that a certain amount of nervous energy is actually a good thing, be prepared, and gain experience. In the short term, while you are developing your technique and gaining experience

  • Remember to breathe
  • Play shots that you believe are within your ability as much as possible
  • Have a plan on each shot (choose a definite target line and have as clear an idea as possible of what you intend to do before doing it, etc.)

And keep learning, practicing and playing and enjoying the process of learning, practicing and playing. Best wishes for success with your learning, practice and playing. smile

The end

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Work on any part of your game with PGA professional Mark Blakemore, author of this website, in person at two locations in the east bay area of San Francisco. Or get the books...

For more golf instruction articles see my
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