Improvement - By Avoiding Self-Induced Pressure

Copyright © 1999 - 2035 Craig Townsend

A vast amount of the common problems in golf are caused by mental pressure (eg. playing a poor 18th, the yips, missing easy putts etc) - yet interestingly, probably the most common form of pressure is self-induced, or stress that we have placed upon ourselves to play well.

The good news is that this means that most golfers have an incredible scope for further improvement - if we can only reduce the amount of self-induced pressure which causes our game to self-destruct when the heat is on.

Of course, there are also pressures that are not self-induced - however it's better for us to focus upon those pressures which we can control, as this frees up our resources to deal with these other pressures.

Self-induced pressure can be applied in various ways, but mainly through the thoughts we think, and the words we use.

Some classic pressure thought examples are listed below - plus some possible positive ways of dealing with the same situation:

Pressure Thought 1:
"Now that I've birdied those two holes, I must stay in front and protect this lead".

(This is trying to protect a lead - which is focusing upon your playing partner's score - an uncontrollable - and trying to maintain instead of better your lead over them).

The Positive Approach:
"I'm going to continue focusing upon my own performance, and move even further ahead!"

(This is focusing upon something which is within your control ie. your own game - instead of the uncontrollable, your opponent's game).

Pressure Thought 2:
"What a shocker of a first hole, I've blown the whole round already!"

(Getting frustrated and mentally giving up after just one or two early bad shots - and continuing to focus upon those bad shots as you move further into your round).

The Positive Approach:
"That's just one shot - I'm not going to let it affect my entire round by focusing upon it - I need to focus upon my next shot instead".

(Reminding yourself that it is only one shot, and that in order to isolate the fallout from this shot, you must not dwell upon it any longer, but get on with the rest of your of your round and focus upon each shot as they arise).

Pressure Thought 3:
"I must birdie this hole if I'm going to shoot 80".

(Putting pressure upon your immediate performance, warning that it must be of a certain standard - and focusing upon the final outcome instead of each individual shot, a classic recipe for stress-induced failure and frustration).

The Positive Approach:
"I'm going to focus on one shot at a time, and the score will take care of itself".

(Putting focus back on the now instead of the final outcome - reducing the pressure placed upon each shot and allowing yourself to hit each shot more freely and in a more relaxed state).

Pressure Thought 4:
"You complete &*^%$ idiot, how could you possibly miss that shot?!!"

(Very emotionally rebuking oneself for a poor performance, and continuing to focus upon this shot for 5-10 minutes - increasing the pressure upon your future shots, and the likelihood that this one shot it will negatively affect the remainder of the round).

The Positive Approach:
"OK, that was a dumb shot! But I've got to let that go now - it's history - and focus upon each shot coming up, I can't afford to let this shot bother me".

(Admitting to yourself that it was not what you wanted - with a little emotional release which is fine, as long it is kept short and contained to that one shot - and not dwelled upon for longer than a few minutes, or carried into the remainder of your round).

These are just 4 of the more classic examples of self-induced pressure which get regularly applied each day on a golf course - there are plenty of other examples but these were just mentioned to highlight these important facts:

a) We do in fact put a great deal of pressure upon ourselves

b) We can choose to react differently and take a different course of action, and

c) We must constantly be aware of observing our thoughts, words and actions on the course, to ensure that we extract the utmost from our game by reducing these self-induced pressures.

So try the experiment of cutting yourself a little slack - you may be surprised at just how well you may play!


"The Mind controls the body, and the Mind is Unlimited"

The best of success, Craig Townsend


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