How Top Golfers Manage Pre-Round Worry

How Top Golfers Manage Pre-Round Worry

What is the Primary Source of Anxiety for Golfers?

Anxiety is at its peak when golfers focus too much on outcomes and what those outcomes mean…

Certain factors are beyond your control in golf, such as other golfers’ scores, the start time of your round, the leader board, your group, gaining entry into a tournament, weather, delays, and course conditions.

Trying to control these factors is a losing battle and leads to feeling frustrated and anxious.

In our Golf Mental Game Survey, a young golfer asked the following question: 

“How can I stop worrying about my tournament placing before the match even starts?”

Worry grows from your thoughts, in particular, your thoughts about results or outcomes.

Before a tournament, many thoughts may pass through your mind that cause you to feel anxious

  • “What if I tank this round?”
  • “What if my putting continues to be a problem?”
  • “What if I miss the cut?
  • “This tournament has so many talented golfers. I probably won’t place high.”
  • “I’m going to embarrass myself playing with these top golfers in my group.”

Your thoughts trigger your emotions, impacting your performance. Anxiety builds when you focus on thoughts of failing or negative possibilities.

If you look back at past tournaments, you will probably notice that you never played your best rounds when you were anxious.

For many golfers, managing their thoughts is challenging. Since you cannot turn your thoughts off, learning to direct your attention elsewhere will lead to playing with higher confidence.

You can redirect your focus by:

* Sifting through your thoughts and shifting your attention from ‘what if’ thoughts to ‘what can I do now’ thoughts.

* Preparing for whatever may cross your path. When your mental and physical preparation is high, so will your confidence.

* Focusing outward when faced with internal distractions and negative thinking.

Externally focusing on your breathing, the feel of your club, and your pre-shot routine will alleviate your fear of outcomes and engage yourself in the moment.

* Staying in control by focusing on what you can control. It is crucial to understand what factors are within and outside of your direct control.

Anything that you cannot change, brush off to the side. Then, refocus your attention on what you can control (effort, focus, mindset, attitude, mechanics, strategy, reactions).

Hours before the 2023 Women’s Open Championship started, the USGA informed Amanda Doherty that a golfer dropped out of the field.

As a result, a spot opened up for Doherty, who was the first on the list of alternates. Doherty was physically and mentally ready for the opportunity and showed no signs of worry.

DOHERTY: “I was hoping I’d get in. I was thinking I’d get in. All you can do is be ready if and when it happens.”

You can minimize worry by:

  • Controlling what you can control
  • Staying mentally engaged in the moment
  • Preparing mentally and physically
  • Steering your thoughts in a positive direction

If you can master these mental aspects of performance, you will no longer WORRY about WORRYING.

Overcoming worry is not something you magically pull out of your hat before a round. Coping with fear of anxiety is a mental skill that requires as much focus, effort, and repetition as your putting skills.

One way to start training your focus is by delineating what you can and cannot control before and during a tournament.

Understanding what your ultimate fear is about–related to not doing well–will also help you to manage anxiety. And then, you want to rationalize: how bad can it really be if you don’t play to your potential.

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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?

Successful golfers have learned how to perform with ultimate confidence in competition, so we’ve developed The Golfer’s Mental Edge 2.0 Workbook and Audio program to help you do this! 

The Golfer’s Mental Edge 2.0 program includes the top 11 mental training sessions I do with my personal students to help them boost their mental game and improve consistency on the course!

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