Fear is by far the worst thing that can happen to an amateur or professional golfer! It’s like a sickness that can creep into your head after, I can’t even say the word … a schank! Or a skull or chunk shot 10 yards from the green. Fear can happen at anytime and is a killer of your game physique and confidence.
Ben Crenshaw once said he was about five inches from being an outstanding golfer, “the distance my left ear is from my right.” That’s true on so many levels, but there are ways to help avoid the yeps and the fear that can cause mistakes. I’m not a professional, but I’ve studied this game for years and play at least two or three times a week. Just sharing what I’ve learned over 40 years while becoming a 2–3 handicap. Here are four things I try to keep in mind.
Create your own pre-shot routine
The first thing I strive to do is duplicate my pre-shot routine with every shot. That helps get my mind off thinking about that last bad shot or how challenging this next one will be. It works with putting, too. The routine is different when I putt, but I strive to perform it each and every time. The problem comes when fear has a chance to enter your head. Your focus will be on the routine. Not a bad thought. It helps with my confidence and speeds up play.
Focus on a dimple, then your ball flight
Most people really don’t know what they focus on just before they commit to the shot. I focus on a single dimple on the ball then imagine the ball flying to the green or straight down the left, center, or right side of the fairway, a four-step approach. Look at a dimple, imagine the flight of the ball, focus back to a dimple, and execute. The problem comes in when I do that one too many times or stall before I commit even for a second or two. You’ve got to commit to the shot and live with the results, good or bad. We all hit bad shots. The trick is to avoid fear that can creep in if you stand there too long and give in to a bad memory.
Many have said staying loose and having fun equaled a great round of golf. They didn’t even remember what was so different about that day versus a bad day except that it was a whole lot more fun. My guess is they did the first two tips I suggested and didn’t even think about it. Plus, they didn’t have a stranglehold on the club. Their hands and stress levels felt relaxed over the ball. I heard a comment from an announcer on last weekend’s Champions Tour that resonated with me. He said his golf coach told him never to take the club out of his bag until ready to swing it. At times, we get stuck behind slow play and start hitting broken tees on the tee box or start swinging a golf club, more than likely sapping strength from our real swing. Try not to do anything that would create a different tempo or swing thought prior to executing your swing.
Manage your game from tee to green
This is where I see a lot of my friends mess up. They’re always trying to hit it as far as they can on their second shot on a par 5, for example, not considering the ideal distance to the green after that shot or possible consequences if they don’t hit it flush. Give yourself every opportunity to hit a good shot by knowing your club distances and leaving yourself with full swings. You don’t want to end up with a three-quarters touchy-feeling shot that for us amateurs might welcome in fear! Know how far that bunker or lake is, and avoid swinging a club that will potentially put you right in it. Full swings without fear of hitting it too far or too short raises your odds for success. Play the odds in your own ability, and focus on the largest target area of the fairway or green. Chances are good that you’ll hit a lot more greens in regulation.
There you go: four tips to help you manage those two four-letter words, “golf” and “fear.” Give them a try, and please share your thoughts. See ya on the links.