How to reduce first tee anxiety

Visualise

Here's a three-step process that you can do and then, if all else fails, there’s another tip!

The first step would be to take charge of the images that you’re putting into your head. We like to visualise the worst possible scenarios and that is flooding the system with stress and anxiety and we all imagine making a show of ourselves on the first tee.

We have to catch ourselves doing that and visualise ourselves playing a nice shot. It doesn’t have to be world-class, just something acceptable.

If we can do this the night before going out to play then so much the better as then your brain is processing it in your sleep. Then, with your pre-shot routine, visualise where you want the ball to go rather than all the places that we don’t want it to go.

Breathe

When you are driving to the course try and close your mouth and breathe only through your nose. Nasal breathing slows your breathing rate down which brings more coherency in your mind. So breathe in through your nose – your nostrils aren’t as big as your mouth and that will slow your breathing down and you oxygenate your bloodstream better as it’s spending longer in there before it comes out.

Focus

When you are standing on the first tee try and make your vision as wide as possible. When you go into peripheral vision that will calm the mind down. When you go into fight and flight mode and become anxious you go into tunnel (foveal) vision and that’s when panic sets in. The wider that you can increase their vision it has a calming effect on the mind. Think of when you can’t find your car keys in a rush, you go into tunnel vision and can’t see anything!

If you can do it without moving your head it really works well so just stand there and see how far you can see by looking out of the corner of your eyes, this will stop you going into that unwanted fight and flight mode.

Depending on your standard go down the route of playing the club that’s your favourite club. It might be your 7-iron but just go with the one that you know that you can hit rather than the one that you think you should be hitting or the one that everyone else is hitting. That really increases the odds of hitting a bad shot – accept that you might bogey or double the first and plod your way down there rather than inviting any major disasters.

If you hit a bad shot then it’s really not the end of the world and is still just one shot.

Go back to breathing through your nose as that will calm things down and it will take you out of that loop of bad thoughts. Think of cold air going in through your nostrils and warm air coming out. That will sever the negative narrative very quickly and, again, pick out a club that you’re happy with.

Bonus tip

You might find yourself either going very quiet or talking more than normal. Think what do you want to be like instead and bring up an appropriate topic if you do go quiet. If you find yourself getting too chatty think can you feel your feet in your shoes or can you feel where your weight is? This way you are settling yourself in your body. If you were to stand still and out your attention in your feet, believe it or not you will be moving about quite a bit and you would feel some weight shift.

There is something called the Amy Cuddy power pose. She’s an American social psychologist and there’s loads of science behind this - you could put your hands on your hips or put the club behind your shoulders and they reckon that if you do this for two minutes this will increase your testosterone and decreases your cortisol. She brings up a slide of Wonder Woman with her hands on her hips and, by doing these things, for two minutes it will have a massive impact on your physiological response to a situation.

And, finally… try and have a sense of humour with it!

About Deana Rushworth

Deana is the head pro Witney Lakes in Oxfordshire and a regular columnist in Today’s Golfer magazine. She is a Performance Mindset Coach and Advanced PGA professional who has been coaching since 2003 having represented England at junior and senior level. She also has the Titleist Performance Institute level 1 & 2 certifications which covers both golf-specific fitness and techniques in overcoming physical limitations affecting the swing .