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Hazards Needn't Be So, Well, Hazardous:

Hazards needn't be so, well, hazardous
By Joan King, Sports Hypnotist

Do you have trouble being calm on the first tee when people are watching you hit?

Do you panic when you have to hit a shot over the water?

Are you frightened by out-of-bounds? Bunkers?

Do you mentally give up at the sight of a "fried egg" lie?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you have experienced fear while playing golf.

Since not everyone has the same fears, it is evident that you have created yours. If you have created it, you can create the release of it.

Fear is a negative emotion resulting from your past experience. It begins when you replay and relive past poor shots. Fear can also be brought up by self-doubt. When you entertain these thoughts you give your energy to the emotion of fear and give away your power.

Fearing bunkers, hazards, trees, fast or slow greens or deep rough takes away your enjoyment of the round.

The more you believe in what you are afraid of, the less you will believe in yourself and your ability. Fear is your teacher. Courage is your assignment. Confidence and self-respect are your lessons.

There is an element of failure in every golf shot, but it is your mental outlook that causes the fear. You have been taught to fear the hazards. You think about steering away from the out-of-bounds, avoiding the rough, trying to get over the water.

You wind up not only afraid of missing the shot, but afraid of missing the next one. You are then playing golf based on your fears, not your chances for success. When you visualize these bad outcomes, they are more likely to happen because your brain is no paying attention to the possibility of a good outcome and how to make it happen.

Here are seven ways to beat fear on the golf course:

  1. Don't prejudge the outcome. The difference between pros and amateurs is that amateurs fixate on the trouble to hit into. The amateur rushes the swing trying to get it over with, or thinks so much about his mechanics that he freezes over the ball.
  2. Create your own success. The golf course is not the source of your problems. The way you perceive the golf course is your problem. When Morgan Pressel played in the LPGA Women's Open for the first time at age 13, she perceived the gallery lining the fairways as silent trees that would not distract her. See the bunkers as defining the boundaries of golf course for you, not as hazards that are going to "trap" you.
  3. Take the time to prepare yourself to hit the shot. Create your reality by visualizing your perfect swing and telling yourself to trust your swing. Allow the swing to happen instead of making it happen by steering the club.
  4. Acknowledge your fear. Feeling nervous is normal on the first tee shot or when people are watching. Swing your club to release the tension until you can "feel" your smooth, effortless swing. Aim and align yourself carefully. The knowledge that you are square to the ball will make you feel more confident. Visualize your target and swing to it. As Harvey Pennick said, "Take dead aim" (on your target). Just before swinging, take in a deep abdominal breath to calm and focus yourself in the process of swinging the club back and through.
  5. Feel the fear and do it anyway. The true meaning of courage is to be afraid, but to step out and risk failure even though your hands and knees are shaking. If you don't make this bold move to believe in yourself and your ability, fear can immobilize you. Swing with authority as if you aren't afraid. Breathe deeply to reduce the tension. Tension and timidity will cause the ball to fall short, possibly into more trouble.
  6. Let fear be your ally. Know that fear is a reaction to holding on to feelings that are based on assumptions of what happened in the past and might happen again. Decide that overcoming fear can make you stretch and reach your fullest potential
  7. Believe in yourself and in your ability. The ultimate fear of most golfers is self-doubt: the "what will they think of me" need for approval. When you require no approval from outside yourself, you own yourself.
A tour player would never finish his round if he thought about the judgments the gallery was making about him. Professional golfers use the energy of being the center of attention to help them focus more on their performance.

Pressure is counterproductive to playing well. Either ignore the pressure you have created in your mind, or use it to focus on the shot you are hitting.

And foremost, remind yourself that golf is a "game" that you "play" for enjoyment. You learn more and perform better when you are having fun.

Joan King is the founder and President of POSITIVE MENTAL IMAGERY, a mental sports consulting service dedicated to helping golfers achieve their peak performances. Contact her at ( 828-696-2547 or via email, pmi4@att.net. Her Website is www.pmi4.com

Florida Fairways Magazine
Spring 2003


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