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How Stress Affects Your Golf Game

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In my thirty-five years of coaching and teaching, I have seen and experienced my fair share of stress. From coaching in title games and preparing my teams, to preparing my students for benchmark exams, the stress level was always high.

When classroom teachers give students exams, they are not usually on public display. When coaching, the results of your work are on display every time your team takes the field or court.

Fans can be wonderful when you win, but brutal when you lose. It is the nature of the profession.

Stress Is Not Always Bad

Stress is not always a negative thing. I remember telling my coach before the state championship football game we played that I was nervous. His reply stuck with me to this day. He said, “If you were not a little nervous, I would be worried that you are not ready to play.”

He went on to explain that being nervous would make me more aware and attentive to details, and I would play better. He was once again correct.

While it is obvious stress can consume you and make you under-perform, when applied in the proper dose it can do just the opposite. 

Stress and Your Game

Many aspects of a person’s golf game are driven by preferences. Dealing with stress while playing is no different. It is important for each golfer to identify the edge of his/her ability to handle stress and not go over that edge.

Find the point where stress enhances your focus and helps to produce a positive outcome. When this becomes a regular part of your process, you will become a much better player. While it might not be easy, it will be well worth the time and effort.

A term I used while coaching to describe this is “mental toughness.” When my players and students became mentally tougher, they were able to raise the bar and go farther than they ever thought possible. What a great feeling!

Identify Your Stressors

In your golf game, you will find unique situations that affect your game. These are your ‘stressors’. Looking for them and finding them is essential. They must be managed.

Identifying your stressors allows you to develop a plan to manage them. You can’t keep doing the same thing when a stressor pops up on the course and expect it to just go away.

Find ways to put yourself in your stressor situations so that you become more calm and controlled in them. Do this repeatedly in the correct amount and you will program yourself to become stronger and able to handle the stressor when it arises.

Maybe it is teeing off of the first hole, or a four footer for birdie. Maybe it is playing out of a greenside bunker. It might be that your stressors only arise in tournament play. Whatever they are, identify them. Then start working on ways to manage them. Develop some “mental toughness.”



“Oenologists say that the very best Cabernet grapes are grown on hillsides where the correct compositions of terrain combined with scarce water and temperature extremes stress the grapes. Too much stress is counterproductive, but the right amount produces world class cabs.”


Apply this quote to your golf game. No one knows you like you. Trust yourself, apply the proper dose of stress when needed, and learn to manage your unique stressors. Your golf game will improve as well as the enjoyment it provides when you play this wonderful game!

Do you have a particular situation that causes you stress in your golf game? What have you tried to deal with that stressor?

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