Guest Golf Blog by Colby Johannson, Founder of Quite The Chap: simple GolfInstruction by a simple man.
Sweaty palms. Racing heart. Light-headedness. Butterflies. We’ve all felt them, we’ve all succumbed to them, but we’ve also had our moments of overcoming them. How can you do it on a regular basis?
Teddy Greenstein wrote in the Chicago Tribune that Hale Irwin forced Lanny Wadkins to hit the opening drive off the first tee after they had already planned that Irwin would hit the shot. This didn’t happen just once but twice. Once at Royal Lytham & St. Annes and again at Kiawah Island in 1991, where Irwin told Wadkins…
“Hey shut up, you gotta hit here.”
No one is immune to the first tee nerves, not even the pros, and with the Presidents Cup fast approaching it’s a hot topic for the likes of Jordan Spieth.
But how do you overcome angst and walk off golf’s first tee with a shred of dignity?
Warm up and get specific.
The first tee is where most of the negative golf self-talk starts and so begins an avalanche of torment. “Don’t hit it in the trees, don’t duff it, oh god- so and so is watching” and on and on.
Before we’ve even teed off, we’ve convinced our mind and our body that this will potentially, probably, absolutely, be a terrible shot.
And then it becomes our reality.
I’m going to give you two things, just two, that you can use to combat this debilitating problem.
Number One - Warm Up!
Whether or not you get to hit balls on the driving range, you should warm up in some form or fashion.
If you don’t have time to hit a warm-up bucket or there is no range at the golf course you’re playing:
- Swing two clubs right handed and then left handed. This will loosen up your entire back and shoulders.
- Touch your toes (or at least try to) to fully stretch your back.
- Stretch side to side with your hands over head.
- Lastly, make circles with your arms to warm up your shoulders.
If you do have time to hit balls, go through your regular routine on the range; warm up with your wedges and work your way up to your driver.
Now here’s where you need to pay special attention. Erik Horve, a Golf Channel Swingfix Instructor & Contributor wrote a great article on the necessary preparation for getting off the first tee.
Erik explains that at the end of your warm-up session you should take out the golf club that you are preparing to tee off with and hit two shots as if you are teeing off on the first hole.
I would take it a step further.
When you’re finished your warm-up session, take out the club you plan to tee off with. Stand behind the ball and visualize yourself hitting the ideal drive.
See your perfect swing, see the flight of the ball, and see where it lands, all as if you are standing on the first tee.
Then stand up and hit it. Do this three times in total, visualizing the ideal shot before hitting your ball.
Now not only are you physically warmed up, you are mentally prepared as well. To top it all off, you’ve hit six ideal drives (three in your mind) and hopefully another three on the range (physically).
Number Two - Get Specific!
You’ve warmed up in one-way or another, you’re mentally prepared, and now you’re standing on the first tee.
What do you do now?
You start by controlling your breathing. Deep breaths in and out will help calm you and it will also get some much-needed oxygen to your brain and muscles.
Visualize your tee shot again, just like you did on the range, seeing the flight of the ball and where it will land in the fairway.
Now is the time to get specific. Pick a spot, blade of grass, or divot 12 inches in front of your ball in line with the specific spot you want the ball to land in the fairway.
Line up to the spot twelve inches in front of you. It’s a lot easier than your target 200-300 yards away.
Now that you’ve visualized your swing, the flight path of your ball, where it’s going to land in the fairway, and you’re lined up properly, think of nothing else but where your golf ball is going to end up down the fairway.
If you focus on visualizing the shot and then on the specificity of the shot, you won’t have time to think about what could go wrong.
In summary, the best way to get off the first tee with your dignity is to prepare, mentally & physically, then get specific about what it is that you want to execute.
Read more informative golf tips by Colby Johannson on his Quite The Chap Blog.
Photo Credit: Greg Cooper- USA TODAY Sports
Photo Credit: J.D. Cuban- Golf Digest