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1. For the most part, golf is a mental game; how you handle and perceive your stress in these situations can dictate how you play your golf. My first tip is to focus on your breathing and swing tempo. Often when we get stressed, everything becomes heightened and we lose our natural rhythm. Focusing on taking slow, long breaths and counting during your practice swings will help to reset the tempo of your swing and overcome those nerves. Before you walk into your ball, breathe into your stomach slowly for 4 seconds and follow it with a long slow 6 seconds out through your mouth. When you take your practice swing and walk into the ball keep counting, then swing.
2. Next, is remembering what you are doing; be present and be aware of where your focus is. Are you focusing on hitting the ball or are you thinking about the people watching you and seeing where the bad places are to hit it? Is there a bunker you ‘always visit’? Let’s move this focus by first smiling - which helps trigger positive thoughts, followed by telling yourself what you want to do. There is no need to ignore your bad thoughts but instead, re-direct them. We all talk to ourselves, so you may as well make those thoughts useful. For example, I could hit the ball into the trees and be embarrassed, but what I really want to do is hit the ball straight down the middle.
3. What happens when you do everything right and you still hit a bad shot? My final tip is about setting our expectations before and during your round. Being prepared mentally that golf isn’t a game of perfection and that you will hit bad shots at some point during your game can help reduce expectations, so you don’t become disappointed and put excessive pressure on the shots to come. Whether it’s when people are watching or towards the end of the round, I know that at least 30% of my game for the day is going to be below-average golf shots. I know we all dream of hitting every shot perfectly, but when you know that some golf shots won’t work out as planned, it helps you to move on emotionally so you can refocus on the next. The aim should be, once you’ve hit the shot, you put your golf club back in your bag and at this moment you’re not talking or thinking about the bad shot that happened. Move on as quickly as you can.