One of the most beautiful aspects about playing golf is that no matter what your skill level, we can all feel the same pressures on the golf course. Whether you are a seasoned tournament golfer or a weekend warrior looking to break 100 for the first time, the dreaded nerves and butterflies are the same for everyone.
When I have a student who is on the verge of reaching a new plateau in their golf game, they will usually tell me about how they almost reached their goal but choked coming down the stretch. There is a myriad of things that could go wrong under pressure to cause our nerves to heighten when we start feeling pressure. Faulty mechanics, lack of concentration, tense muscles are just a few score killers that can creep into your game in crunch time. There is one area that is overlooked that can help control your nerves under pressure and that is developing an effective breathing routine.
There is much talk about pre-shot routines in golf and how they can help one mentally prepare to hit a golf shot. Accompanying a good pre-shot routine with an effective breathing routine will help relax the muscles so they are as loose as possible when you make your stroke. Not only will your muscles relax, but by making sure you are breathing, you will supply your brain with oxygen which allows you to think and visualize shots more clearly.
An example of an effective routine that could be used would be on the putting green, the part of the game where being relaxed may be most important to help maintain feel. After you’ve read your putt, you can start your routine by taking a deep breath as you move in and set up over the putt. Try and sync each part of your set up (the start of each practice stroke, taking your stance, gripping the club etc…) with a deep breath. This will immerse you in your routine and help you forget about the possible outcomes of the upcoming stroke. Whatever elements you add to your routine can be your choice, just make sure they are signaled by a deep breath while doing them. Everyone’s routine however, should finish when you’re ready to make your stroke, take a deep breath and begin the stroke right after exhaling. Your muscles will be their most relaxed and your mind will be the calmest at this point.
The above is an example how a breathing routine can help enhance your putting routine but look to apply this to all areas of your game. The reason most of us are playing golf is because we enjoy to compete and trying to improve. The next time you find yourself on the brink of reaching a new goal, remember to breathe and you will feel more relaxed, calm and ready to conquer new heights in your golf game.