The only thing we have to fear is fear itself – Franklin D. Roosevelt. We have to ask ourselves the question, why do players have fear when they play golf on a golf course. The answer would be the worry about what other peoples perception is of them when they miss that easy two foot putt, have a wild drive off the tee or dare me mention the dreaded shank which comes out of nowhere.
Most golfers face a very common situation. They can’t seem to hit the ball on the course as they usually hit it on the driving range. At the range you’re hitting shots from the same spot repeatedly at the same target. If you miss a shot you can just simply hit another one. Many people hit shots off line and never realize it because they really didn’t have a small enough target picked out.
In contrast, at the golf course it’s uncommon to hit with the same club twice in a row from the same spot. You are under greater pressure with every shot, and your targets are smaller. This will highlight two aspects within your game. It shows the flaws in your swing that will show up under pressure and it shows your miss hits are more apparent because one is aiming to a smaller target.
Imagine you are standing on the first tee, dressed in your favourite golf attire with your buddies to the side of you and three four balls waiting to tee off behind you. You have to make a good impression or lose face. Your palms start to sweat; you have butterflies tangling with knots in your stomach and the thought of a fresh air shot is enough to make you give up then and there.
The fear of making an error introduces tension into the game of golf. We do not feel tension on the range. Whereas the tension of not meeting our own expectations interferes with our mental golf tempo and the freedom with which we swing on the golf course. Every golf athlete therefore needs to develop golf mental toughness.
I would therefore recommend you try the following:
- Take your time hitting your shots on the range. It’s not how many balls you hit but how well you hit them.
- Treat every ball on the range exactly as if it were on the course. This means lining up to your target from behind the ball, walking forward and taking your setup as though you would on the course
- Pick the smallest target possible, everytime. This means a tree branch, a flagstick or a pole on a distant fence. This will really hone your sense of exactly how off center your hits are.
Engage in competition on the range whenever possible. Have pitching contests, closest to the flag contests, long drive contests; hit the cart ball machine more times contests… anything to get your swing under some pressure while practicing.