How to Manage Fear on the Golf Course

How to Manage Fear on the Golf Course

What are your fears when golfing?

Do you fear that you will:

  • Choke under pressure?
  • Fail to beat a rival?
  • Not be good enough to play in college?
  • Never win a tournament?
  • Not be able to lower your score?

Have you been able to deal with those fears and perform at a high level, or have those fears dictated your level of play?

Performance fears create anxiety. When those fears are not adequately managed, doubt and distraction arise.

Think of a time when your anxiety was high. Maybe you were in position for your first top-10 finish, in a playoff, or had friends and family in the gallery. 

Did you feel increased pressure? Did you have trouble focusing? Were your muscles tight? Did you feel tightness in your chest? Did you feel the need to be perfect? 

Did you feel uncomfortable with your stance? Did you adjust your grip several times because it didn’t feel right?

Fear affects you physically and mentally. Overwhelming fear significantly impacts your stance, swing, ball-striking, follow-through, decision-making, and confidence. Therefore, unmanaged fear is your most daunting obstacle during a round of golf.

However, fear gets a bad rap. Every golfer experiences fear at times. Even PGA or LPGA golfers may have a fear pop up when they are staring down a 5-foot putt on the 18th hole to win a tournament. So, fear is not the issue, but the problem is unmanaged fear.

Peak performers can reel in their fears and anxiety. These golfers have learned strategies to deal with fear, block out distractions, and focus on the task at hand.

How do peak performers manage their fears?

First, elite golfers understand that fear is universal; that is, every golfer sometimes experiences fear.

Secondly, peak performers are aware of when they are experiencing fear by recognizing physical cues in their body (increased heart rate, uneasiness, tense muscles, etc.) and mental cues (negative thoughts, lack of focus, second-guessing their shot strategy, etc.).

Lastly, elite golfers feel confident in their ability to calm their fears because they have developed mental strategies and practiced implementing those strategies in the past.

These golfers are confident in their abilities to manage anxiety, maintain their focus under pressure, relax their bodies, and redirect their thoughts to enhance performance.

PGA golfer Camilo Villegas won the 2023 Butterfly Bermuda Championship. Villegas, 41, last won on the Tour in 2014. One week prior to his Tour victory, Villegas finished tied for second at the 2023 World Wide Technology Championship.

When asked about whether or not it was “scary” being back in contention, Villegas talked not about feeling fear but managing fear.

VILLEGAS: “Everybody feels fear at some point playing golf, playing competitive golf, playing against the best players in the world. It’s about kind of reshaping that fear just lowering the curve and just managing it.”

Since you cannot eliminate fear, knowing how to manage those fears is crucial for performing at your peak under pressure.

Identifying and understanding your fears will help you face them more effectively.

The more you’re aware of fears throughout your career, the better able you will be to shrink those fears and focus on playing your best golf.


Golfer’s Mental Edge 2.0

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Do you suffer from fragile self-confidence after missed hitting shots or making mistakes, playing with strict or high expectations that undermine confidence, or the inability to play freely and relaxed on the course?

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