Playing your best golf under pressure
Pennant golf started in Melbourne yesterday. Pennant golf consists of playing a golfer of similar standard in match play over a neutral course. For amateur golfers it’s a rare chance to experience team golf, have a caddy and play in front of a (small) crowd.
The pressure is intense. Ryder Cup players say the pressure of that event steps up a notch or two, it’s the same in Pennant. The pressure and nerves are greater than most other golf that we play.
Learning to cope with the pressure is the difference between winning and losing. The best and most experienced players are able to manage the nerves, anxiety and fear and come out on top more of than not. I think this skill and ability is the ultimate one – more important than golf swing technique or a good putting stroke.
Learning to manage the pressure starts with an understanding of the automatic process. It’s like a 15th club or having an unfair advantage.
Standing on the 1st tee yesterday I could feel the nerves and the pressure kick in. Unlike in years gone by I did not panic. I relaxed, calmed my mind and got into the present. This enables me to control those uncomfortable feelings for the duration of the shot. I’m not thinking about the score, my swing or my opponent. I’m playing golf. And playing golf is all I can do.
When my first tee shot sailed long and straight a sense of relief and euphoria surged through my body. When my approach shot nestled close to the pin I had won the first hole.
I repeat the process shot after shot. This maximises my chances of playing my best golf. I have long since given up trying to make perfect swings. I let my subconscious take over as it knows best. I have learned to get out of my own way and go along for the ride.
When you hit a wonderful shot under pressure your confidence grows. When you keep doing it you will play your best golf. It’s like magic. Some people call it “the zone”.
Standing on the 9th tee I was 6 up. I had played faultless golf and my confidence and enjoyment where sky high. My goal in this situation is to follow the process. I wouldn’t change my routine for anything! This has been the hardest thing for me to learn. I don’t feel sorry for my opponent or think about the score. I keep playing. Playing automatically.
When I birdied the 9th and 10th holes I went to 8 up. I closed out the match shortly after.
Despite the nerves and extra pressure I had played a remarkable game of golf. I also experienced the magic and fun of the automatic process – and this is better than just about anything.
If you haven’t experienced remarkable golf, struggle under pressure or your game is stuck in a rut then I recommend you change your approach. What have you got to lose?
Learning to play automatically is not a trick or gimmick. It also doesn’t guarantee you’ll play your best golf, it just maximises it – but when you’re on you’re remarkable and remarkable golf is so much better than good. Remarkable golf is the opposite of good golf! Something to think about…