How you practice influences your performance under pressure. Too many golfers train for the ideal game because it’s more fun. That approach is why so many golfers crack under pressure.
Too often I speak with golfers that do great on the practice green. But when it’s time to tee off then things don’t go as well. Sinking a 3-foot putt when your score counts is different, or so you think. The truth is nothing changed except for your perception.
To play well under pressure means you need to practice for pressure. It goes back to the old adage of hope for the best and prepare for the worst. You’ll regain your focus easier from the unexpected when you train for all possibilities.
Too many parts of the game are out of your control. So I encourage the golfers that I work with to focus on the things within their control. It’s a short list with only two things. Your actions and your attitude. That’s pretty much it. And planning for unusual circumstances that can happen improves your response to those crazy shots.
Think about the last time the unexpected occurred, taking additional shots for that hole. Did your focus unravel just a little more with each additional swing? My bet is that you were unprepared and didn’t have any prior experience to draw upon to get out of that situation.[subscribelocker]
Here’s how pressure affects your performance:
1. Composure. Instead of being calm you get upset. Your body then tightens. And that affects your grip and swing.
2. Concentration. Your lack of composure makes it difficult to concentrate. Racing thoughts on how to recover flood your mind. Here’s where the domino effect sets things in motion causing your composure to disappear.
It’s during these moments when you need laser focus. And there are mindset tools to help you with that. That’s why I show golfers how to practice for the unforeseen circumstances. You’ll recover more quickly by effectively using the time in-between shots to refocus.
3. Confidence. Anytime the unexpected happens it can chip away at your confidence. The challenge is to let it go for now and leave the last shot behind. It’s impossible to focus on your current game when you’re still recovering and wondering how you’re going to catch up.
I’ve got a lot of suggestions for blocking out pressure in the practice drills ebook.
4. Cadence. The next thing to go is your tempo. When your vibrancy goes then your edge becomes dulled. And now you’re in this hurry-up defense. This frequently leads to impatience or to mentally concede the game before taking your last shot.
All golfers experience bad breaks at some point. It’s not “if” it will happen because it will. The trick is to remember the two things you can control, your actions and your attitude. How you respond to those circumstances does matter. Imagine how it would be different if you didn’t have the racing thoughts and the loss of control.
The best golfers persevere when faced with adversity. They’ve trained their mental game to return to the moment. Don’t give up until you’ve hit the last shot in the game and sunk the ball into the cup.
Here are 3 tips to deal with the unexpected:
1. Return. After the game review what happened and see how you can learn from it. Make it into a teachable moment by seeking insight.
2. Replay. See if there was a different approach that would have worked better for that situation. Then replay that scene in your mind with the better approach.
3. Resilience. Working through tough challenges without giving up builds confidence. It gives you the tools to change your response the next time you’re in one of those unfortunate circumstances.
Prevention and preparation are priceless. That’s why I encourage you to practice for pressure. It sets the stage for those moments when it really counts. Follow these tips so the next time you’re in one of those difficult moments you’ll know what to do, stay focused and rise up to the challenge.
Challenge: Reflect on your golf game. Is there one time when everything fell apart and it continues to haunt you? Your response to upsets is important. Continuing to dwell on it erodes confidence. Return to that moment and replay it in your mind. Next think about how you would have done things differently if you could do it all over again. Now in your mind see yourself approaching that moment and replaying it with the new response. Doing this helps to let go of the mistake and turns it into a teaching moment. Using this approach leads to breakthroughs and builds confidence.[/subscribelocker]
Photo by Keith Allison