Golf Nerves: 9 Ways To Conquer Them & Play Well

Golf nerves can be a real problem. What is it about this great game that makes us feel tense?

The situation doesn’t matter. Your weekend foursome, your club championship, a local amateur event, or the US Open. Golf nerves cans strike at any time.

Our favorite golf nerves quote comes from hall-of-Famer Lee Trevino. “Pressure is when you play for five dollars a hole with only two in your pocket”.

The reason you feel golf nerves isn’t the question. How can you deal with them and still play well?

We have some ideas. Ways for you to ignore or embrace those butterflies in your stomach.

Below you will find options. You don’t need to try all of them, but identify the ones that work for you. Learn to control your golf nerves and you will start to shoot lower scores.

Man hitting a golf ball into the distance.

9 Techniques To Control Your Golf Nerves

When do you get nervous on the golf course? On the first tee or when you are standing over a short putt?

All golfers feel the golf nerves at different times. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Try these techniques to conquer them!

#1: Just Breathe

It is a natural human response. When you start to feel golf nerves your breathing changes. You may hold your breath or breathe more rapidly.

In both cases, this will impact your ability to execute a quality golf swing.

If you start to feel the butterflies take a deep breath and try to relax.

Are you looking for something a little more regimented? Try a 2-to-1 breathing pattern when you are feeling tension on the course.

Here is how it works. Take two quick inhales via your nose and 1 long exhale through your mouth. This concept is also used in yoga.

Repeat several times until the golf nerves disappear.

Man and woman laugh together on the golf course

#2: Focus On Your Routine

A consistent pre-shot routine is something you will notice about every professional and scratch golfer.

This is important for several reasons, but the #1 reason is that it gives you a process to rely on when you are feeling the golf nerves.

You can design your pre-shot routine. You should have one for full shots and one for putts. Our only feedback is to keep them simple and efficient. Here is a great example:

Stand behind your ball and look at the target. Make a practice swing. Step in and hit the shot.

Once you define your routine use it for every shot. No exceptions. You should even follow it when you are practicing on the driving range.

A consistent routine will help you execute under pressure!

#3: Remember The Good Ones, Forget the Bad Ones

It happens to all golfers.

Certain shots or certain holes make us nervous. It could be a short putt for par or the tee shot on a tight par 4. Positive swing thoughts are a great way to eradicate those nerves.

Man hits a golf ball down the fairway

If you are standing over a 4-foot putt to save par and you start to feel the butterflies gathering in your stomach, think about a time you made this same type of putt.

Never let your mind drift to negative thoughts. Never think about the time you missed a short putt to lose a match.

To fight off the golf nerves you need to have a short memory. Exorcise those negative demons and execute the shot.

#4: Stay In The Moment

Some of the worst golf nerves come when we are playing well. You start to feel pressure when you are trying to break 80, break 90, or break 100 for the first time.

It is easy to let your mind start to look ahead. You are on the 13th hole, but you are already thinking about your final score or the tee shot on 17.

The smallest loss of focus can cause a poor swing. Ben Hogan famously said, “The most important shot in golf is the next one”.

Don’t get ahead of yourself. Stay in the moment and only focus on your next shot. There is time to think about your score on the 19th hole!

Two men approach their golf balls on the green

#5: Commit, Commit, Commit

We hate tentative golf swings. Tentative golf swings create duck hooks, shanks, and banana slices.

So what causes tentative golf swings? That’s right, golf nerves.

Being scared on the golf course is the recipe for a poor score. You must always commit to the shot and make a confident swing.

Feeling nervous? Keep it simple.

Get your yardage. Pick your club. Follow your pre-shot routine. Commit to the shot!

The ability to execute shots with butterflies in their stomach is what separates great players from weekend hackers. You can be a great player.

#6: If You Don’t Like It, Don’t Hit It

There are times you should listen to your golf nerves. They might be telling you something important.

Man walks away from from golf hole.

Let’s say you are playing a tight par 4. You step on the tee box and start to worry that your driver might slice the ball out of bounds.

You have a choice to make. You can ignore the golf nerves and try to make a good swing or you can hit a shot that you are more comfortable executing.

There is no shame in laying up. This type of course management can help you shoot lower scores.

Pick a club that makes you less nervous. Do you feel comfortable that you can hit onto the fairway with a 3-wood or a long iron? If so, go that route.

Why try to hit a shot that you don’t think you can hit?

#7: Keep Things In Perspective

Don’t take this the wrong way, but you probably won’t be playing on the PGA tour anytime soon.

Is today’s round of golf going to change your life?

A caddy helps a man with his golf swing

You may be feeling the golf nerves because you are putting pressure on yourself. Is your putt for birdie all that important?

Relax on the golf course. It is a great game, but it is just a game. No reason to get yourself stressed or upset.

Have fun. Do your best and compete against your buddies. Don’t build up a shot to be more important than it is. Enjoy your day!

#8: Create Pressure When You Practice

How do you improve your putting? What about your bunker shots? You spend time practicing.

You can do the same thing with golf nerves. You can practice executing under pressure.

Instead of just smacking putts on the practice green, challenge a buddy to a putting contest. The loser buys the first drink in the 19th hole.

Be creative. Find ways to create golf nerves during your practice and you will get extra reps dealing with them. Practice makes perfect.

Man in position after making a golf swing

#9: Play More Competitive Golf

Playing in a golf tournament is very different from a round with your normal weekend foursome.

You are paired with players you don’t know. There are no mulligans and you must follow all of the golf rules.

Nothing causes more golf nerves than playing in a tournament.

Don’t let this fact make you hesitant to play competitive golf. The more you compete the easier it will get.

You will feel heavy golf nerves on the 1st tee of your first event, but by your 5th event, it will become just a normal shot.

You will develop the ability to play golf under pressure and this will give you more confidence anytime you start to feel nervous.

It may sound counterintuitive, but playing competitive golf will help you beat golf nerves. Face your demons and you will come out stronger on the other side.

Up Next: Learn How To Improve Your Course Management

Ray Dingledine

Ray Dingledine

Ray has played golf for over 30 years and competed at the collegiate level. He enjoys growing the game of golf through coaching PGA Jr. and High School golf teams. Ray continues to play in local amateur golf events and currently has a +1 handicap.

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