by Deb Vangellow

Nervousness. It is inevitable. All the great ones have felt it…in every athletic endeavor that means something to them.  Champions learn how to deal with the effects of nervousness and may even be addicted to them.  If you can understand what is happening to your body during these times, you can make nervousness your ‘friend’.

us openIdentify and understand what happens to you when you suffer from nerves on the golf course.  Then, work on ways that you can combat these nerves…things that work for YOU.  Stress is healthy and nervousness is common and ‘normal’. Here are some ideas to help:

  • Slow down. The more you hurry, the worse it could get.
  • Keep it simple. Don’t overload yourself with swing thoughts or a complicated stategy.
  • Stay fit. If you are in shape, your nerves will be too.  Besides exercise, watch your eating habits and stay with what works for you.
  • Keep it predictable. On tournament days, stick you your usual habits and be yourself.  Following a set routine isn’t just a good idea for your daily regimen, it is ideal for every shot.
  • Rely on social support. Interaction with playing partners and friends may help you react better to stress.
  • Don’t think about consequences or outcomes. Think target rather than technique.
  • Think happy. Think only positive things, even if they are unrelated to the shot at hand.  A positive thing you can think of when playing is a successful shot…use visual imagery to “see this” perfect shot before you swing.

womens golfDr. Bob Rotella, noted sports psychologist says that the key is to “trust the human machine”—the built in responses your body makes when you feel the pressure.  Great players get nervous…their hearts beat faster and their hands shake just like everybody else’s.  It is the feeling of champions!

  • When things go bad, blame bad luck and get on with it. There is an element of luck beyond your control and those who cope best with stress know how to turn this into an advantage:  make a great putt, know it was a great stroke, miss a short putt, blame it on the spike mark.
  • Train your stress response. Know yourself and be your own best coach.  Learn to limit stress response to those moments immediately surrounding the shot.  Try to get “away” between shots and learn to turn sense of pressure on and off.  Many players use biofeedback, relaxation techniques, or meditation to control nerves.  Additionally, distract yourself between moments of stress by doing something irrelevant to the task at hand (looking at a note in your pocket, picking up a twig, arranging your bag contents) and this may have a steadying effect on your nerves.
  • Keep it all in perspective. If the pressure gets to be too much, tell yourself that what is happening   isn’t so important.  This is, after all, a game.  And, it is a choice to play this game.
Deb Vangellow

LPGA Master Professional Deb Vangellow teaches at Riverbend Country Club in Houston, Texas.  She is the 2012 LPGA National Teacher Of The Year, an LPGA and Golf Digest Woman “Top 50” Teacher, a Golf Digest and GOLF Magazine “Top Regional Teacher”, a US KIDS GOLF “Top 50 Master Kids Teacher”,and a GRAA “Top 50 Growth Of The Game Professional”,

Deb serves as the President of the LPGA Teaching And Club Professionals Membership and is a longtime lead instructor in the LPGA Global Education Program.  Deb can be reached at 281-277-4653 or followed online at www.debvangellowgolf.com and Twitter.