Nerves in Golf: How to Calm Down and Play Better

Golf Nerves

The average golfer can feel many emotions when playing the game. For most of us, it’s usually a mix of nerves, excitement, anger, frustration, pure joy, and about every other emotion a human can feel. Dysphoria can be replaced quickly by euphoria.

If you’ve been playing the game for any amount of time, chances are you know that golf is a roller coaster. One minute you make birdie and the next you’re trying to find your ball in the woods and end up with a double bogey.

That’s just golf.

Although being nervous is normal, too much nerves can cause you to lose your game. In fact, you’ve probably asked yourself, “How do I calm my golf nerves?” 

If so, don’t worry because you’re not alone. In this post, I’ll teach you why nerves aren’t a bad thing and 11 strategies to chill out and have more fun each round.

Golf Nerves – 11 Ways to Calm Down and Start Playing Better Fast

Before I get into the best ways to calm nerves, let me address something important. So many players think that they’re the only ones that get hands shaking nervous on the course.

But it’s just not true.  

Nervousness is normal in any sport, including golf. It’s part of what makes playing the game so much fun. 

Nerves are what make you feel alive during the round!

Half the reason I participate in competitive events is because I love the feeling it gives me. It makes me feel like I’m about to jump out of a plane, go scuba diving, or some other extreme sport. 

Second, these feelings are universal. I don’t care what anyone tells you, everybody feels nervous on the golf course. Even the most accomplished players in the world have played for their entire lives.

Tiger actually said once that he still gets nervous. Imagine being the greatest player of all time and still getting nervous.

He loves it! In the same interview, I heard him say that he’s glad he’s nervous because it means he cares. And if he doesn’t ever feel those butterflies on the first tee, he’ll give up tournament golf. 

Hopefully, that alone will make you realize that you’re not alone. Now, let’s get into some strategies to reduce stress on the golf course so you can play better and have more fun. 

Reframe Nerves at the Golf Course

It’s okay to be nervous on the course, I want you to know. It’s completely normal and you need to learn how to welcome it instead of thinking of these feelings as a bad thing. 

Because here’s the thing, with a mental hack you can reframe your nerves to work for you… not against you. 

The brain expresses similar emotions when you’re nervous and excited. You probably know what I’m talking about… increased heart rate, sweating, and butterflies in your stomach. 

Instead of dwelling on how nervous you feel, try redefining your nerves as positive emotions. You can do this mentally. “I’m excited, I’m excited, I’m excited.” 

Since the emotions and sensation in the body are the same for both feelings, you can hijack your brain to think you’re excited. This will make it easier for you to swing like a normal person and use your emotions to benefit. 

Even though you might not always have control over your body, your mind can be controlled. Take a deep, slow breath and repeat. “I’m excited” when you’re feeling nervous. This one trick worked for me, and I know it can for you.

Get ready for the First Tee Jitters 

Even when you learn how to reframe nerves, chances are you’ll still feel those butterflies a lot on the first tee box. We often make them worse by thinking everyone is watching us and we have to hit a miracle shot. No matter what course or who you’re playing with, this is a shot that every golfer has some anxiety about. 

In reality, the first tee shot looks just like any other shot. We make it more difficult for ourselves by worrying about ourselves. 

Here are some easy ways you can reduce your first teejitters.

  • You can heat up if you arrive early. This will allow you to get enough warm up time, and not rush to the first shirt. Next, take a deep breath to ensure your brain has more oxygen and relax your body. 
  • Practice your first tee. After going through your normal warm up, hit a few shots and pretend it’s the first tee. Imagine the first fairway and use the club that you’ll use on the first hole. If you hit a great shot, make sure to end your round with that shot. 
  • Perform your pre-shot procedure. Don’t try to do anything out of the ordinary here. Pick your targets, set your routine, and get moving! 

These are just some tips for the first hole, but we have many more. You can read our entire post on first teejitters by clicking here. 

Adopt a Mindfulness practice

While the mind can ruin many of the best golfers, it can also make great players, and even extraordinary ones. The more you control your mind, the better golf you will play since it’s such a mental sport.

Think about these two examples and ask yourself who’s likely going to play better:

  • Player one: Pessimistic in nature, gets angry at almost any shot, gets flustered with slow play, and constantly curses the golf Gods if he doesn’t score well.
  • Player twoOptimistic, grateful to be on the course. Appreciates his good shots and quickly gets over the bad ones because he knows that’s just part of golf. Doesn’t let outside factors like slow greens, bad weather, or slow groups affect him. 

If they’re the same handicap, I bet golfer number two wins 99% of the time. Golf is too difficult to make more difficult by having negative self talk and a negative attitude. 

That’s why you need to study your mind and become more self-aware to master your mental game. Here are two strategies that can help you improve the most important part your game. 

Click here for more information about meditation in golf. 

Click here for more information about golf hypnosis. 

Follow your Pre-Shot Routine

Meditation and hypnosis are great tools for pre-golf, but we need more tools for the mid-round. It is best to relax your nerves during play by not fighting them and sticking to your routine. 

Your best asset on the course is your pre-shot routine. 

Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods are two great examples. They are the two players with most major wins. Both had nearly identical pre-shot routines, in terms of length, that were almost identical.

No matter the pressure, they didn’t let the moment go to their head and stuck with their routine. They know it helped them to stay relaxed, focused on the shot at-hand, and hit their best shots.

A bad routine can ruin your round. Greg Norman at the 1996 Masters is a good example. He lost a large lead on Sunday, which cost him the green jacket.

You can see his back nine routine getting faster as you watch the footage. Coincidentally, his game collapsed.

Learn your pre-shot routine and stick to it on the range. Even if you’re nervous, playing great, and feeling the spectrum of emotions. It will help to stay focused, overcome butterflies, and play your best.

Click here to find out more about creating the perfect preshot routine.

Deeper Breathing

Sometimes our breathing becomes uncoordinated and we get anxious on the course. This signals the brain to go into full anxiety mode.

As Healthline said, “Anxiety is your body’s natural fear response. This is known as the fight-or-flight response. Your body reacts in physical and mental ways to prepare you to either fight or run from the situation.

Shortness of breath is one of those responses. You may feel like you can’t catch your breath, tightness in your chest, or like you’re suffocating or hungry for air.”  

That’s why you need to make a conscious effort to keep your breathing as normal as possible. Otherwise, you’ll accidentally signal your brain into fight or flight mode mid-round, when in reality, you’re not in danger but just forgetting to breathe. 

The sameHealthline article recommends diaphragmatic breathing, the most efficient type of breathing the body has. They said: “When you’re experiencing shortness of breath, you’re generally breathing from your mouth or chest. Diaphragmatic breathing can be:

  • Slow down your breathing
  • Reduce your demand for oxygen
  • Use less effort and energy to breathe.”  

Quit Thinking About It Golf

Dr. Bob Rotella, a sports psychologist, was one of the most important lessons I learned. Not thinking about golf during the round. You have a finite amount of mental energy, so it is exhausting to try and focus on golf for five hours.

Instead, think about it when you’re walking to your ball. Between shots, don’t talk about the round, your golf swing, or anything else golf related.

Talk about your family and movies. This will improve your mental state and help you forget about performance.

Minimize swing thoughts

Swing thoughts can also be used to calm nervous energy. Instead, think about your preshot routine and perhaps one non-technical sway thought.

If you are unable to stand over the ball, the last thing that you want is a technical move in the swing. The key is to think about non-technical thoughts like “Nice and smooth backswing” or “Stay aggressive.”

This will allow you to be the best golfer that you can be at the moment.

Stay in the Present Moment 

Thinking too far into the future can cause nerve-wracking negative emotions. If you shoot a good front nine, it’s easy to let your mind wander and think about the back nine. Especially if you’re hitting it well and scoring better than ever.

Keep your eyes on the present moment, and not dwell on the bad shots you have hit or the future shots you might hit. With 100% intensity, focus on the club you have at hand and the current shot.

Focus on what you want

How many times have there been times when you thought and shot over water? “Don’t hit it in the water”? Then, preceded immediately to hit a terrible shot and watch your golf ball sink to the bottom of the lake?

Then your playing partners try not to laugh, you don’t know exactly what happened, and try to make sense of the poor shot. You will need to try again and take another swing at golf.

If you’re like most golfers, this has happened all too frequently.

The good news is you can visualize success and become mentally as strong as a tour-player.

Quit thinking about what you don’t want to have happen and instead, focus on the shot you want to hit.  This will help your mental game by signaling to your mind what you want to achieve, not what you don’t want to have happen.

You can visualize the shot you want with positive energy to get into a great state of mind before hitting the shot. Focusing on what you want will help your subconscious mind make it a reality.

Take a CBD Supplement

CBD can help you calm down when you’re out of your comfort zone and decrease anxiety and stress. According to Very Well Health, “Almost 62% of cannabidiol users say they use CBD to treat pain, anxiety, and depression.”

Plus, it can help when you’re golfing with some body aches and pain too. Even professional athletes and tour players use this to reduce muscle soreness and anxiety. While it’s not a

Visit a sports psychologist

Finally, don’t forget there are tons of other professionals out there who can help you with extreme anxiety. If you try all the above strategies and still don’t have more nerves than you are fun, seek out a pro.

Sports psychologists can use a variety of techniques to help you play better or calm your mind. This is why many professional golfers use them frequently.

Click here to find out more about working with a sport psychologist. 

Golf Nerves

FAQs about Nerves in Golf

Is golf good for anxiety or pleasure? 

If you’re an anxious person, golf might make you more anxious but it depends on the individual. I’ve seen non-anxious people get extremely anxious on the golf course so it really depends.

Unless you’re a professional golfer who is competing for millions of dollars, I don’t think a little anxiety will ruin your game.

How can you overcome frustration while playing golf?

Many golfers take the game too seriously, including me. In reality, we should all be grateful to have the opportunity to play golf.

All the tips will be helpful, but remember that golfing with family and friends is a privilege. The more you can focus on that and quit worrying about what other golfers think or what you shoot that day, the more fun you’ll have.

Why is golf so stressful

Because one moment you can hit a great shot and feel like you’re ready to compete on the PGA Tour. The next shot can be a knockout and you’ll question everything. The point is, golf is incredibly hard, but that’s why players of all calibers fall in love with the sport.  

The game is a challenge unlike any other sport. Steph Curry (who holds the record in 3-points) was asked recently if he would prefer to hit a good iron or swish three point shots. He replied with, “There’s no better feeling than flushing an iron.”

That’s why players from all professional leagues like to take up golf. The challenge brings people in and once they catch the golf bug, they’re hooked for life. 

Final Thoughts for Playing Your Best Golf

Getting nervous when you play golf is part of life, but that’s okay. These emotions are normal and should not be avoided. 

Instead, use your nerves to your advantage and remind yourself that they mean you’re excited about playing golf. 

Sure, you’re bound to worry and feel them more in competition, but it’s not the end of the world. Remember, it’s just golf!

To become a better player, you need to practice these tips and keep breathing. You can do it!

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