Director of Instruction
Fisher Bryan Golf Academy at Longbow Golf Club
Everyday I coach players who say they do great on the range but have trouble taking their game to the first tee. I always tell them that is a common problem.
Last month, the U.S. Open was proof that even the best player ever can suffer from the same issue!
But, isn’t a shot with a driver the same whether it is on the driving range or the first tee? Is a 7 iron shot any different to a flag on the range than to the 18th green with a tournament or friendly bet on the line? Technically they are the same. The things you are able to do to make the ball go where you want on the range are the same you need to do on the first tee or 18th hole. The difference is the venue and the venue creates…PRESSURE!
There are all kinds of pressure that can consume golfers and impede performance. Some feel the pressure to excel, while some feel the pressure to just not be embarrassed. Either way, it is critical to your performance that, as a golfer, you find a way to deal with the anxieties that hinder your ability to play your best when it counts the most.
The first step is obviously preparation. You cannot succeed in a situation that you are not prepared for. Simply stated, that means “practice”. And, you need to make sure that your practice is a bit pressurized, as well. That is hard to do in golf because we do not always practice golf in the same arena in which we play the game. So, you need to find ways to move away from just practicing technique and prepare to actually play golf. That is where I suggest random practice.
Random practice is just what it sounds like. Pick out a variety of targets and the variety of clubs you will need to hit to them. Then hit balls one at a time, switching targets after each ball. Not only should you switch targets but also make sure you are going through the same routine you would on the golf course.
And, you must have a solid routine! That is like your safe place and security blanket! When situations get the most stressful, the routine will help you feel as if it is the same as being back on the range all by yourself. Jason Day has a distinctive routine that includes closing his eyes and visualizing his shot. I have read that Annika Sorenstam’s routine took the exact same amount of time on the first tee on Thursday as it did on the 18th hole on Sunday. That had to take focus!
I promise you, Dustin Johnson could go back to Chambers Bay tomorrow and out of 50 times never three putt that 12 footer again. But, pressure gets to even the best of players and you need to find a way to make the best of it!
Jeff Fisher is Director of Instruction at the Fisher Bryan Golf Academy at Longbow Golf Club. Jeff can be reached at 480.414.9330 or firstname.lastname@example.org.