Knock Out Your Nerves —Turn Butterflies into Birdies!

By Doug Spencer
January 2, 2015


Whether you call it anxiety, stress, nerves, butterflies or jitters, we’ve all faced this feeling of dread walking up to the first tee. Our hearts beat faster and minds start racing, but our bodies freeze, leaving us wondering why we can hit it so beautifully on the range, but not on the course.

We must realize this is a normal reaction for someone getting ready to perform.  If you struggle with anxiety and this sabotages your round of golf, here are some helpful tips to practice smarter and change your mind set to turn the first tee from foe to friend…

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Practice with a Purpose: Taking the Course to the Range

  • Practice with structure breaking your time up into technical and randomized practice. Hitting ball after ball with the same club is not going to make you a better player on the course.
  • Technical means working on a swing thoughts or swing positions.
  • Randomized practice is more like real golf where we choose different targets and use different clubs on each shot.

Try these methods: 

  • Place your practice balls in small groups of three
    • Allows you to create practice stations
    • Keeps your mind engaged by continuously changing your focus
  • Play a course in your mind from tee to green changing targets and clubs on each shot
    • Think of your practice session like a dress rehearsal.  Don’t worry if you don’t hit the perfect shot every time. Stay focused, let that shot go and think ahead!

Turn Nightmares into Sweet Dreams

  • Go to sleep at night dreaming about what is to come.
    • Look forward to it!  Create your own golfing movie in your mind where you rise above the jitters and LOVE the challenge golf brings!
  • Play the course over and over in your mind.
    • Don’t perseverate on the difficult holes
  • Get ready for adversity by knowing it will happen.
    • Even the top players in the world have bad holes.  Move on and let it go!

The more we rehearse what is about to happen the more comfortable we become.  All of these pre course routines allow us feel confident in the moment because we have been there multiple times in our minds.

Game Day:  Handling the Stress

  • Play with an open mouth to relax your jaw not allowing tightness and tension
  • Put your hand on your stomach take deep breaths feeling your hand move up and down
  • Don’t allow your chin to drop. This helps to fight the negative thoughts and keeps you in the    moment.
  • Controlling the pace in which you move and walk can help lower your heart rate and slow your mind down, thus reducing the tension you feel in your body.
  • At the end of the round, focus on what you did well first.  Choose one thing you did poorly and make that your practice focus next time you are on the range.

Taking a real look at what is holding you back from achieving your best is key to either taking your game to the next level or simply just getting out and enjoying a day with friends on the course.

Is it really the technical aspect of your swing or is it your mind set?  By using some of these tools you can better prepare yourself for the challenges that lay ahead.

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1 Comment

  1. great stuff Doug !!

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