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How To Fight (and Overcome) Extreme Golfing Nerves

Last Updated: July 8, 2022

Is nervousness and overall anxiety messing with your golf game? You may be suffering from golfing nerves, or ‘golf anxiety’ and believe it or not, this may actually be a good sign! Here we look at what is causing your golfing nerves, how to use the same techniques that golf pros use to overcome them and improve your game, plus several golf nerves remedies that will help you elevate your performance.

Which of these phrases would you use to describe yourself while out on the golf course: calm and composed or nervous and flustered?

If you answered nervous and flustered, then you might be part of the unlucky minority of golf players who frequently experience sweaty palms, racing heartbeats, and other symptoms of anxiety & nerves on the golf course.

To make it worse, you might only experience these nervous symptoms when playing a competitive game, and not so much at the driving range.

It’s highly likely that you are experiencing golf anxiety, another term for ‘golfing nerves’ or even ‘golf yips‘ although the yips are a more involved (and heavily researched) issue.

Believe it or not, the fact that you experience nervousness on the golf course can actually be a good sign. Studies have actually shown that successful professional golfers tend to experience more anxiety and nervousness before getting on the course [1].

But those same professional golfers also also have relaxation & preparation strategies that allow them to harness their nervousness, turn it into excitement, and ultimately improve their performance.

Let’s take a look at how you can harness these same techniques that professional golfers use to overcome golfing nerves. In this article we will try to understand why you experience golf nerves and a few remedies to help you overcome nervousness & anxiety on the golf course, so that you can also elevate your performance like the professionals.

Why am I experiencing Golfing Nerves?

Golfing nerves are essentially a form of performance anxiety. Performance anxiety, like any other form of anxiety, is a complex issue. There are physical, mental, and emotional components that can all play a role.

You may have heard stories of high-level athletes completely losing form after they make one critical mistake that cost them, or their team, an important game.

This is the same thing that might be throwing you off your golf game. How much anxiety you’re experiencing on the golf course typically comes down to one thing: how much negative stress you feel during a game, and how your mind and body respond to that stress.

That’s why you can be on top of your game at the driving range, or when you’re casually playing on the course. But when you’re competing, or when the stakes are high in your mind, the pressure to perform can get to be a bit too much, and you end up hitting into the lake or the sand dune.

Stress response and golfing nerves

If you perceive the stakes to be high in any situation, you will typically be more afraid to make a mistake. With golf, you might fear that a bad score will negatively impact your career as a pro golfer, or it could simply be the fact that you don’t want to lose to your friends.

Whatever the reason, if you feel like you can’t make a mistake then there is added stress, and your body responds by releasing stress hormones that can affect you physiologically [2].

This spike in stress hormones can put added pressure on your heart and potentially lead to physical symptoms of anxiety. Physical symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Trembling hands

At this point, if you try to force yourself to calm down, it can backfire and you may end up getting even more nervous. You go ahead and take the shot anyway, and the ball ends up nowhere you want it to!

What’s the key to overcoming Golfing Nerves?

One of the biggest reason golfers suffer from nervousness during a round is that they are too focused on how other golfers around them are performing, be that golfers on the leader-board or in their own group.

When a nervous golfer sees other golfers shooting lower scores or scoring birdie on a hole, they often respond in panicked ways; trying to match scores by attempting to hit the perfect shot, even if they lack the confidence in their ability to make the shot.

This approach leads to increased anxiety, inaccuracy and overwhelming frustration [3].

A better approach, and the key to remedying golf nerves and anxiety, is to play the golf course as if you were in a bubble!

You need to focus inward on your own game, and promote relaxation (mentally & physically).

Just like the pros, you need to train yourself to be more relaxed, both on and off the golf course.

The good news is that you can train your body to respond better to stress & nervousness with the golf nerves remedies below. With proper relaxation practices, you’ll still get the adrenaline spike whenever the stakes are high. But instead of letting it control you, you will be able to harness the extra energy to intensify your focus and performance.

4 Techniques for calming your golf nerves

Let’s look at four specific strategies & techniques that you can utilize both on and off the course in order to promote a calm, relaxed, but still focused state the next time you get ready to tee up.

1. Increase your confidence

If you are able to develop more confidence around your golf game, the natural result is that you will feel less stressed about your performance.

Of course, the best way to become more confident in your golf game is to practice more. But practice without structure is inefficient. You want your practice and progress to be structured, planned, and measured.

More experienced golfers suggest making plans to visit the driving range or the course a certain number of times each week or month. Try to set goals in order to improve each week or month, and measure your progress.

If you are not improving at all, consider hiring a trainer to help improve your game. The best golfers know how to control their anxiety because they don’t have to overthink their swing. It is like second nature to them. And you can only get to that level through relentless practice and persistence [4].

2. Breathing techniques for golf

If you are able to increase your confidence by strategically improving your golf game, you will still most likely feel some jitters when it’s game time, unfortunately.

At this stage, I recommend taking a page out of the navy seal playbook; try Tactical Breathing to calm the nerves.

“Tactical breathing” is a trick used by the Navy Seals to stay calm under pressure [5]. I think you’ll agree that there isn’t really a more high-pressure job than that of a navy seal. So, if it works for them, chances are that tactical breathing will also help you overcome nerves on the golf course.

Done right, Tactical Breathing can switch your nervous system back to a relaxed mode. You will feel your heart rate slow down, and any jitteriness should steadily disappear.

You can try try tactical breathing at the driving range, or when you’re about to break eighty. Here are the steps:

  1. Take a deep breath into your stomach to a count of four
  2. Hold your breath and count to four
  3. Exhale slowly to a count of four
  4. Repeat the process till you feel calmer and in control

3. Golf Visualization

Golf visualization can be summarized as imagining the perfect shot before you actually take it, and it can have a few positive effects.

For one, it can result in a better shot. Elite athletes like Lindsay Vonn, Michael Phelps and others have routinely used visualization to improve their performances [6].

The other benefit of visualizing is that it will switch your focus from the negative and destructive thought patterns that might be contributing to your golf anxiety and nerves.

Instead of worrying about how everyone will laugh at you if you sink the ball in the lake one more time, you’re switching your focus to what you really want to accomplish.

And the more you practice visualizing, the more you will find that your brain and body will fall into the right swing with just the right amount of power to accomplish what you want.

Needless to say, visualization will only have a positive effect as long as you also put in the hard work and practice. But hard work, along with mental imagery, can be a powerful combination for both your golf swing and nervousness.

4. Medications

For more extreme cases of nervousness and anxiety, you may want to look into anxiety medications like beta-blockers (Propranolol, Metoprolol, Atenolol, etc).

But if you would like to try a natural alternative to beta blockers that also provides an added cognitive boost, I recommend that you give natural anxiety supplements like PerformZen a try in order to promote relaxation under pressure.

I suggest PerformZen to clients because it contains GABA, L-theanine and Magnesium, as well as cognitive-enhancing ingredients Ginkgo Biloba, Vitamin B6 and Theacrine. These ingredients have been shown to help induce a calming effect on the body, as well as keeping the brain as sharp as it needs to be on the golf course.

I even reviewed PerformZen in this article & got some interesting insight from the founder (as well as secured a limited-time discount for PerformanceAnxiety.com readers). See the review here.

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Final thoughts on nervousness on the golf course

Golfing nerves is a real issue that is quite common among golfers, even experienced ones.

While you want your adrenaline levels to rise so you can elevate your intensity and awareness during a game, you want to make sure that it doesn’t kick into overdrive and make you jittery and uncontrolled.

To overcome golfing nerves, try some of the tips mentioned in this article like tactical breathing, visualization, and getting back to basics with your training & practice.

Some of the greatest golfers of all time have suffered from the same issue and have pulled through, let them serve as inspiration for you! For an added cognitive boost, be sure to check out the PerformZen supplement review.

Take a look at our other guides

The Science of Stage Fright - how to understand & conquer stage fright
How to Overcome Audition Anxiety
How cure Golf Yips
Glossophobia or the Fear of Public Speaking
What is Performance Anxiety? What causes performance anxiety, what are the symptoms, and can you overcome performance anxiety?
How to overcome stage fright - a complete guide

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PerformanceAnxiety.com Owner & Lead Writer

Anita is the owner and lead writer for PerformanceAnxiety.com. A seasoned musician and public speaker herself, she is no stranger to the very real fear and anxiety that can strike right before a high-pressure situation. That's why Anita is passionate about writing content that helps people learn about and overcome their anxieties & social fears so that they can perform at their best when it counts and live anxiety-free lives.