How to Optimize Pressure for Peak Golf Performance

How to Optimize Pressure for Peak Golf Performance

How Does Pressure Affect Your Golf Game?

Within every competitive round comes some degree of pressure:

  • The pressure of starting a round on a positive note.
  • The pressure of keeping up with the golfers in your group.
  • The pressure of making a crucial putt.
  • The pressure of winning.
  • The pressure of beating a rival.
  • The pressure of recovering after a bad shot.

While pressure is ever present, golfers have varying responses to pressure, which affects how they think, feel, and perform.

Pressure is personal. Each golfer interprets their circumstances differently depending on the circumstances.

For example, if two golfers face a 3-foot putt for par, one golfer may be anxious because of a couple of missed short putts earlier in the round.

In contrast, the second golfer may be excited and locked in for the possibility of making par.

In addition, your perspective impacts the intensity of pressure. If you are leading with three holes remaining, you may experience more pressure because you feel you “must win” or need to play each hole perfectly.

Ruminating about these thoughts increases the intensity of pressure and interferes with your focus.

On the other hand, when you view each hole as a challenge, you will feel excited and in control and experience a manageable, moderate degree of pressure. In this case, pressure is beneficial and works in your favor.

How can golfers optimize pressure?

  • Know the level of pressure where you perform best. Each golfer performs best within a certain range of pressure.
  • Learn specific mental strategies to regulate pressure into your optimal level for peak play. Relaxation and focusing strategies will help you shoot your best scores more consistently despite pressure.
  • Change your perspective about your circumstances. When you view your situation positively, you lessen stress and minimize mental distractions.

LPGA golfer Brooke Henderson has 13 Tour wins, including two Major Championships. Before the 2024 HGV Tournament of Champions, Henderson, the defending champion, highlighted a mental strategy she uses to manage pressure in tournaments.

HENDERSON: “I just try to use these situations as kind of a challenge and just try to see it as fun and as exciting, and just try to challenge yourself to be your best in every moment and every shot, every hole.”

Henderson’s ability to regulate pressure results from her mindset shift and reframing her competitive circumstances. This approach helps Henderson turn potential stressors into motivation.

HENDERSON: “Maybe when I was younger, I didn’t really think about [pressure] too much. I was just going out and playing my game [but] as you are out here longer on tour, you kind of have more time to think about stuff, the consequences. So I feel like definitely the last few years especially, I’ve just tried to really stay positive and change things if they’re affecting me negatively to change them to be a positive, just change my perspective a little bit.”

Shifting perspective is a powerful mental technique to reduce pressure and manage stress during competitive rounds. Rather than seeing pressure as a burden, consider it an opportunity to improve and grow your game.

Embrace the challenge as a chance to showcase your skills and become a better golfer.

View challenges as opportunities. The reason you play golf in the first place is the unique challenges of each hole, each course, against different opponents.

Instead of fearing the worst, get excited about the challenge in front of you.

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