DONT LET STRESS
RUIN YOUR GOLF GAME.
Chances are you’ve experienced one of the following conditions during a round of golf: First Tee Jitters, Choking When Ahead or Quitting When Behind. Regardless of how we refer to them, they’re varying forms of stress, none of which are good for your game.
What can an otherwise good golfer do to keep stress from taking over and ruining your fun? Two things:
- Distract your Conscious Mind
- Educate your Subconscious Mind
If you’ve ever tried to think your way out of a stressful situation, you know how futile that is. Here are the two steps essential in controlling stress before it starts:
Distract Your Conscious Mind
It’s very important to get rid of that nagging mental chatter before it escalates and creates physical tension in your body. This can be achieved simply by humming or whistling a favorite tune, which is the preferred method of golf-great Fuzzy Zoeller.
Here’s another distraction technique: As soon as you catch yourself thinking “what a @@## shot that was…I can’t play this game for @@###”….before that stress takes hold of your body, take a deep breath or two and think the words: “Peace, Harmony, Relax, Relax.” If you catch yourself soon enough, this technique will distract those bad thoughts away and you’ll be back to neutral – ready for your next shot.
Actually, I suggest that my golf clients do this in their pre-shot routine -- especially to calm themselves down on the first tee.
First Tee Jitters
are one of the reasons so many weekend golfers need First Tee Mulligans. But if you’d rather play by the rules, here’s how to handle that early fluttering in your stomach before your first shot: Don’t fight it. Use the adrenal pump of energy to your advantage, just like Jack Nicklaus used to do.
Focus your attention on your target while you take a couple of deep breaths. You’ll find this will immediately calm you down. Got tension in your arms and shoulders? Do “gorilla arms,” which is the rapid shaking of your hands and arms almost as if you were flicking water off your hands. Then take a smooth practice swing towards your target. If you like it, say “just like that” to yourself. Step up to the ball, take another look at your target, burn that image into your brain, and swing.
Watch your ball sail out to your target. Sure, you can relax and enjoy the compliments. But mostly you feel good because you’ve learned how to manage those First Tee Jitters.
Remember, the key is to mobilize the anxiety that’s trying to take over. Take control of itrather than let it control you.
happens in every sport. In golf, fear causes tightening in the arms and shoulders, restricting a smooth flowing swing which in turn causes hitting fat, chunking, chili dips, worm burners and pulled putts.
And it never feels good after you quit mentally when stress causes these ugly shots. So don’t go there. Instead, use these techniques whenever you find yourself getting nervous. They’ll help you turn around your mood as well as your performance.
Here's the second step to control stress on the golf course:
Educate Your Subconscious Mind
Thinking is Conscious activity and usually the root of stress. For example, if you think, “On this water hole, I’ll use an old ball, so if I hit it into the lake, it won’t be so bad.” You know what happens next. Plunk!
Obviously, you didn’t want the ball to go in the water, so why did you hit it there? Because your Subconscious took over your swing.
Your Subconscious Mind doesn’t understand negatives like “not” or “don’t.” It functions through imagery and emotion. It sees the lake you’re gazing at, senses the emotion attached to it and obediently makes it your new target.
So in order to stay out of the water, you’ve got to concentrate on the positive. Focus on the target and visualize the trajectory of where you want the ball to go. This is a universal truth, and it works whether you’re driving, pitching or putting.
You’ll play better the whole round if you’ve educated your Subconscious Mind to respond the way you want it to. Obviously, you can’t do this on the golf course. It happens at home, in your office or anywhere away from the course where you can relax and learn the techniques of Self Hypnosis.
By the way, Self Hypnosis is safe, easy to learn and must be practiced on a regular basis if you want to let new positive suggestions sink down into your Subconscious Mind and Body. Today, many of the top PGA touring professionals use Self Hypnosis (including a golfer you may have heard of whose initials are TW. He learned it when he was 12 years old).
Once you master the skills necessary to Distract Your Conscious Mind and Educate Your Subconscious, you’ll be able to eliminate the destructive effects of stress, both on the golf course and in your everyday life. Then when your golf partner says, “Watch out for water on the right,” you’ll be able to reply “What water?”
Jennifer Scott, C.Ht., is a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist who practices in Scottsdale Arizona. Jennifer’s CD, “Own the Zone,” received the top review in GOLF Magazine and she is the only woman with a chapter in George Peper’s book, “The Secret of Golf.” You can e-mail Jennifer with questions or comments at
or call her at 480 483 6941.
"You'll never find a tougher mental competitor in golf than Tiger Woods" - a quote from his Dad many years ago.
This has been proven over and over again during Tiger's professional history, but it has never been truer than during this past grueling US Open championship.
We were all in awe of Tiger's superhuman ability to stay clearly focused on each shot - despite the pain he suffered because of recent knee surgery. So he had to adapt his game - his strategy - his choice of clubs.
He was probably playing his C game all 4 days, but he still came out tying with Rocco Mediate for the top spot on Sunday, forcing a playoff on Monday when he had to endure yet another day of pain. And what an exciting day it was! Rocco came very close to winning, but Tiger stayed focused and made his needed par on the first playoff sudden death hole. Tiger won his 14th major.
How does he do it?
Aside from Tiger's extraordinary talent and physical capabilities, his ability to focus intensely during his pre-shot routine comes from Self Hypnosis which he learned at the age of 11. He doesn't talk about this publicly, but we can see it in his eyes and in his ability to tune out everything and everyone as if he were in a protected bubble.
In GOLF DIGEST, Tiger describes this process by saying that "If you grab hold of your Mind, your body will follow." And that's exactly what Tiger did over this weekend. We could watch his focus intensifying and narrowing in on his target whether he was at the tee box, in deep grass, in a sand trap or preparing for one of his many pressure putts.
Tiger is an inspiration to all of us because he seems bigger than life as he executes miraculous shots.
So I invite you to be inspired enough to learn his mental secret of Self Hypnosis. It has to be practiced so you'll have it so well integrated in your Subconscious that it will always be with you and accessible on command.
Once you learn it, it will help you play in the Zone for longer and longer periods of time.
Here's a simple exercise you can practice to see if you can get that experience of Self Hypnosis with your eyes open:
Take a small houseplant or some flowers and place them in front of you while you're sitting comfortably at a table. Stare at a small part of the leaf or petal. Make sure you take deep breaths as you stare. You'll find yourself relaxing and becoming connected to that plant or flower much like you might on the golf course while focusing on your target.