17 Jun 2004
Performance anxiety affects golfers of all ability levels. Although you might think of it as a problem, it sometimes can help your game.
The extra energy that anxiety creates can help us have more intensity of focus which helps performance.
Think about one of your successful recovery shots. You hit an errant drive and need to hit your next shot through a very narrow opening in the trees.
If you can pull the shot off, you can reach the green, but a mistake will be costly. This shot often is one of the best of the day. You had extra intensity of focus for this shot.
The opposite is lack of intensity. After a perfect and long drive down the middle, with only a short iron left to the green and you miss the green entirely. Often because this shot is taken for granted, there is not enough focus.
Anxiety that creates tension is the kind which hurts performance when we get tense and play in a negative mode. You try to avoid mistakes instead of focusing on the results youwant.
I experienced this kind of anxiety in the last tournament I played in. I was not very confident about my game and found myself creating a lot of tension and worrying to much about errors.
In order to change my mindset, I did three things. The first two were covered in previous columns.
First, I made sure that my nutritional needs were taken care of so my brain had the necessary fuel to have clarity and my body had the necessary energy (May 27 article Fuel Your Engine). Next, I made sure to drink plenty of water and electrolyte replacements since this also leads to poor performance (May 20 article Quench Your Thirst).
Last, I made myself follow a routine that I have discovered really helps to get me out of the anxiety state and into a performance state. The routine is as follows:
· Get my target line from behind the ball fixed firmly in my mind
· Take one practice swing
· Take a deep breath and let tension out with it while exhaling
· Go through my setup routine which includes getting the target again firmly fixed in my mind
· Take another deep breath and start my stroke right after exhaling it
· Sing a song when I swing that helps me have good rhythm and tempo
Going through these steps each shot allowed me stop worrying about the results and focus on my routine.
Tour players know the routine is so vital to performance that they will start the whole process over again if something disrupts it or if they have left out a step.
Having a routine can help you as well.