About a month or so ago, I posted on why you should learn to play without pressure rather than building pressure into your game on the practice ground.
Yesterday, a GOLFWRX newsletter presented an article titled, “Here’s why your practice sessions right now are probably worthless.”
Yep, you guessed it. The writer said they are worthless because there is no pressure involved.
So I wrote a reply which I wish I had saved, because I submitted it but it didn’t get accepted for publication. It’s not hard at all to get published on a golf forum, and we see comments from trolls getting by the censor, but I guess my comment was too incendiary.
I dared to suggest that controlling the mind is a skill that has nothing to do with golf, but with life, and the reason instructors and touring professionals attempt to find ways to accept pressure rather than eliminate it is they do not know the first thing about how the mind works.
I remember Greg Norman saying during his playing days he would never listen to a golf psychologist because none of them knew what it as like to be hitting into the 15th green at Augusta while in contention Sunday, so who were they to tell him what pressure was. He also said upon reflection when his career was over that attitude was a big mistake on his part.
So if you have a pro who can teach you how to flush a 5-iron, I would listen. But I would listen at arm’s length when they start telling you about pressure and how the mind works. They’re most likely telling you what is in the air without having ever dipped further into it than that.
But I have. So listen up.
What is pressure? How does it get created? It takes three conditions for pressure to arise. In no particular order,
1. You are in a situation where you need to perform at your highest level.
2. You have only one chance to get it right.
3. You have judged the price of failure to be high.
This list could apply to a five-foot putt. It could apply just as well to a business presentation of importance to your firm. It could apply to rock climbing, where one wrong move could cost you severe injury or your life.
To prevent #1 from getting to you, practice to the point that you know what you are doing and have all confidence that you will get it right. Then just do what you’ve practiced.
We all know that when we hit that five-footer a second time, after we missed it the first time, it goes in. Why? Because we did not feel pressure!!! So learn to have that second feeling when you hit your first putt. It’s entirely possible.
#3 should be easy to deal with. In the grand scheme of life, there are things that can happen to you that are truly costly if you fail, but missing a five-foot putt is not one of them. If the price or chance of failure is to high, then don’t put yourself in that situation.
That’s the theory. To put it into practice, read my book, The Golfing Self. It teaches you how to develop a mind that is impervious to pressure.
Remember, pressure is all created within you. The other three members of your foursome aren’t nervous at all watching you stand over that five-foot putt. They’re probably thinking. “Good grief! It’s a straight putt. Just hit it!”
You can listen to professional golfers speak from ignorance and build pressure into your game, or you can develop your mind to play a care-free game of golf and do just as well, probably better.