Nervousness on the Course? Mental Golf Tips to Help

How many times have you stepped up to the first, 2nd, 3rd…16th…18th tee and found you are so nervous you can barely breathe? Kevin Na during the 2015 Player’s Championship press conference says there are times he just can’t pull the trigger.

I had the yips. That is what it was. I still have 5% still in me.

Even the best in the world have ‘butterflies’ during the round and it takes courage to admit and address the issue. That is exactly what Kevin Na was referring to: Yips is equivalent to nervousness. He was so nervous at times during his career that he could not take the club back.

We can all suffer from various forms of nervousness at any given time and those nerves can present themselves in a variety of ways. Take it from me, there are just days that you don’t feel your best stepping up to the tee or any other shot for that matter. But how can we minimize the depth of the nervousness and take back control of our game?

Here are a few tips that may assist you in quieting those pesky butterflies, or at least teach them to fly in formation.


Jack Nicklaus once said,

The difference between being nervous and scared is being prepared.

But what does that mean? It means trying to do what you can to prepare before you ever show up to the golf course for your weekend match or qualifying tournament. I find that even if I hold a club for a minimum of 15 minutes a day, I feel like I am engaged with the game despite not being able to get to the course. Simply playing around with a club, setting your grip, taking a few practice swings or putts can increase your overall confidence and lessen the nerves. Let’s face it, most of us don’t have the luxury of playing every day to keep the game in check. This is just one way to feel just a little more prepared before tee times.

Another way to take down the nerves a notch is to have just a little more understanding of your swing and stroke. In other words, having some knowledge about your swing and what you can and can’t do with it. You’ll need to put a little practice in focusing on feeling your swing…not any other swing…your unique swing and how the ball comes off the club face. We all have very unique swings, so just getting a feel for your own turn at the ball will help elevate the nerves a bit. One quick tip here: close your eyes when you hit on the range and you’ll get great insight to how  your swing feels.

Mental imagery is spoken often these days and it can be of great benefit in taking those nerves down a notch. Taking a few minutes every day ‘playing the course in your head’ will take you a long way to reaching your goals and building confidence. Even if you’re at the office, take a moment to close your eyes, and ‘see’ yourself in your minds eye playing each shot to perfection on the next course you plan to play. The mind is amazing and if you constantly fill it with awesome shots, solid swings and ideal results, you will find that when you head to the course, you’ll bring with you a higher level of confidence and lower level of nerves.

Power of Positive Thoughts

Pull up Positive Experiences

Humans are great at dwelling on the past and reminding ourselves of the misses and bad shots. It is time to take back your game and brain and change the way you think.

In order to decrease the nerves you have building up inside, try writing down every good shot, experience, tournament, hole, round…etc. Remembering these positive images will replace the negative ones that are creating nerves.

I typically have those that I coach on the mental game take a piece of paper (or type into a computer document and save) and write down everything positive about their game no matter how menial. I ask each of them to write as much detail and then include every great moment in golf they can think of (the impossible chip in, hitting the green from behind a tree, making birdie on the hardest hole, breaking 80…you get the gist).

When we commit to allowing our mental game to come alive in a positive manner, you will find a change in confidence and a reduction in nerves.

Final Thoughts

You know the old saying, ‘You are what you eat’? Well, in golf and any sport, ‘You are what you think’! If you think you are horrible or aren’t prepared to play, then expect a not-so-good round. However, if you prepare prior to teeing it up and pull up every positive experience as mentioned above, you will find your nervousness will be less and you will feel better approaching the golf course and first tee.

Good luck! We here at Bunkers Paradise love to hear your feedback and want your game to be as enjoyable as possible.


‘keep smiling and always believe’


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