How to Manage Pressure in Your Golf Game 

Golf Mental Toughness

What is Competitive Pressure in Golf?

The term ‘pressure‘ has been defined as “any factor or combination of factors that increases the importance of performing well on a particular occasion” (Baumeister 1984).

The concept of pressure is complex. Athletes recognize when they “feel” pressure because their heart is pounding, they are breathing faster, their stomach is upset, and their muscles are tightening.

In addition, when golfers experience pressure, they feel distracted, worried, tired, or emotionally drained.

Even though golfers know the symptoms of pressure, they may not understand the nuances of pressure. Pressure results from a golfer attaching a higher degree of importance to a shot or event.

Pressure starts in your thoughts, for example, “I have to sink this putt” or “I have to win this tournament.”

However, the actual cause of pressure comes from the implied meaning of those thoughts:

* “I have to sink this putt or…I will lose another tournament, be labeled a choke artist, and fall out of the Top 10.”

* “I have to win this tournament or… I will not get a college scholarship. I will disappoint my parents, and other players will think I have no talent.”

When caring about your performance turns into worry about your results, you ratchet up the pressure.

Caring is positive to a degree. When you care, you will work hard to improve your game. You will still become a little nervous when you compete, but those nerves indicate you are invested in how you play.

In other words, performing well matters to you. It’s the reason you spend time and effort working on your game.

However, when you care what others think or place too much importance on results, feelings of pressure build, and performance declines.

Heading into his last tournament of the year, World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler wanted to end the season on a high note and hold on to his top ranking. After three rounds at the 2023 Hero World Challenge, Scheffler had a 3-stroke lead. 

In the final round, Scheffler shot a 4-under 68 and won his third PGA Tour tournament to close out the 2023 season.
If Scheffler had focused on winning the tournament or maintaining his number-one ranking, he would have felt more pressure or feared that one bad shot might cost him EVERYTHING!

Instead, Scheffler focused on playing solid golf, not perfect golf.

SCHEFFLER: “I just tried to come out and make good swings like I did all week. I tried not to overthink things. I played solid golf today. No bogeys, so I felt like when I need to make some birdies on the back nine, I was able to do so. I played solid today and kept my distance from the rest of the guys.”

Since pressure starts in your thoughts, you can manage pressure situations by changing your thoughts. Once you are confident in your ability to regulate pressure, you will feel in control and less stressed throughout competitive rounds.

Tip for Managing Pressure in Your Golf Game

Examine the reasons you have felt pressure in past tournaments. What were you thinking at the time? What was happening at that time during the season?

Once you understand the sources of your pressure and confront those reasons, you will realize that reducing pressure is fully within your control.

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