How to Deal with Stage Fright
One of the readers of this site brought up an interesting topic that I would like to discuss.
He said that he sometimes experiences a bit of “stage fright” when playing with golfers that he doesn’t know. My response immediately was you’re not alone!!!
This is an area of the game that can plague golfers of all skill levels. There is nothing on this Earth that can make you look like a fool quite like golf. Dealing with the pressure of impressing our playing partners is a very real fear, and I can say that I have certainly experienced it myself. Everybody’s heart is always thumping on that first tee shot.
Unfortunately, when we let this fear overtake us, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you are too focused on not trying to make a mistake, then that’s exactly what happens.
There have been countless books written on the psychology of golf, and I’ve read quite a few of them. The advice is similar. Stay in the moment, focus on the shot at hand, and clear your mind of all negative thoughts. That’s a little easier said than done, but nonetheless it’s what we should all try and do out there.
Here are a few tips that have helped me deal with the pressure of playing in front of people over the years.
They are just as nervous as you are
Golf is a difficult game. You only get one chance to hit your shot.
Everyone knows this, and it’s why golfers can get so nervous. There isn’t a player on this planet that does not have some level of anxiety during their round. Realize that your playing partners are going through the exact same thing as you, whether or not they show it. That is the first step to conquering your stage fright.
Break the ice
I’ve always felt that golfers should try to enjoy themselves out on the golf course if they are not in a competitive situation. Throughout my life I have been paired up with several hundred random golfers. I have shared so many stories and laughs with these people, and made friends with complete strangers by the end of a round.
The thing about golf is that you are all out there in a battle. You’re battling yourself, and the course. It can be mentally draining, and sometimes downright infuriating to lose this battle. So why not extend an olive branch to your brothers and sisters in arms?
When you can get a conversation going in between shots, and shoot the breeze about golf or anything else, it helps calm everyone down. More importantly, it will help distract you from that terrifying fear of embarrassing yourself. If you establish a connection with them, they are no longer strangers that you are uncomfortable around.
The alternative is keeping to yourself, and letting your negative thoughts stew as you trudge around the course. Try chatting it up a bit!
My buddy Rusty, who is an up and coming golf writer, chimed in with this one. I am a strong advocate for all golfers having a pre-shot routine. A familiar process before each shot helps you focus on the task at hand, and clear your mind.
The (hopefully) brief time you spend preparing for your shot is your opportunity to clear out these fears. If the routine is completely familiar to you, then it will help calm you down.
You will never completely cure yourself of nervousness on a golf course, it’s just part of the game. My overall advice is to embrace it, and realize that it’s OK. Golfers will go through great lengths to pretend like they are not going through the same thing. I promise you, they are shaking in their boots just like you!