Throughout my work as a mental coach to golfers all levels (and my own experiences as a player), I’ve found that whether you’re a weekend golfer playing for bragging rights with friends, or a Tour player playing for your living, we all feel some pressure to play well.
How you process this pressure will ultimately determine how well you play. If you fail to process it properly, you’ll end up with a broken swing and high scores. But if you are able to understand what pressure does to you mentally and physically and how to manage (and prevent it), you improve your chances of achieving the success you desire.
I’ve worked with plenty golfers over the years who complain of inconsistency on the golf course. One round they play great and then in the next they have little control over the golf ball. So what changes from one round to the next? Most golfers immediately think their swing is broken and try to fix things by consciously thinking about positions during their swing, which usually makes things worse.
Instead, we have to look at the source of the changes in swing mechanics. One of the main culprits of inconsistency from round to round is the amount of tension in the muscles. If we’re not aware of it, tension can change the timing and sequence of the swing. When your swing is fairly free of tension, you are able to use more of the bigger muscles and allow the weight of the club head to produce the swing. When there’s tension, the hands are too involved. This is also very important in the short game and putting where being able to feel the club and putter head is essential. The more tension you have the less feel you have.
In this article my goal is to help you:
- Become aware of any tension in your body
- Lower tension so you can swing freely
Why do we get tense?
Fear causes tension in the golf swing
We all want to play well on the golf course. That feeling of winning and being successful is one that we all want to experience as much as possible. We also want to avoid the feeling of playing poorly. The more we think about these possible outcomes – about getting (or not getting) that result, the more performance anxiety we will suffer. Tension in the muscles and hence tension in the golf swing is a symptom of performance anxiety.
Trying to control the swing causes tension in the golf swing
Ironically the more control you want to have over your golf swing, the less control you have of the outcome of the shot. Those rounds where you play well are usually ones where there are no swing thoughts and probably (something you are not aware of) low tension.
What does tension to do the golf swing?
Tension in golf swing destroys the fluidity and tempo of the golf swing and alters the whole sequence (movement of different parts of the body) that you are used to when playing without pressure.
How do we prevent tension in the golf swing?
- Staying more present
- Body scans and being more aware of tension
- Practicing with different levels of tension on the range
- Muscle relaxation techniques
- Breathing techniques
Put these techniques into action and I’ve no doubt you’ll stay free on the golf course and see more of the good scores you know you are capable of (without trying too hard to get them!).
Photo credit: Keith Allison