by Michael Riggs
I work with talented amateur and professional golfers on a daily basis, helping each to think and play more effectively. They come to me for a variety of reasons: to improve their confidence, to better their tournament mindset, to learn to “get in the present”, to move from a great practice player to a skilled competitor, or to learn to recover and stay mentally focused after a poor hole. But, there is one theme that comes my way on a very regular basis — how to overcome the first tee jitters.
The cause of the first tee jitters is quite simple – the player is excited to play. Playing the game of golf means that mistakes will be made. More than that, the player may believe that a poor first tee shot will result in a landslide of terrible events. Often, the player’s mind game sounds a lot like this BEFORE he actually steps onto the first tee box:
If I hit a poor first tee shot it will cause such severe embarrassment I will feel like crawling in the
nearest rabbit hole. The spectators will wonder why a hack of my caliber is actually trying to
play a round of competitive golf. Plus, my competitors will be certain to laugh at me while they figure
that I won’t be much competition today. If that isn’t bad enough, my poor tee shot will most certainly
lead to a high score on the first hole, which will lead to a terrible front nine and a definite high score
for the round. This impending poor first tee shot is just a glimpse into a sure-fire series of lousy
shots and a crummy round. I am in big trouble!
If you want the first tee jitters to go away, you are wasting your time. And, you are probably not ready for competitive golf. Jitters are the mind’s way of telling the body that the next shot is significant. That’s a good thing. That’s a necessary thing. Let’s face it, the first tee shot is of great importance and it needs to be taken seriously. No more seriously, though, than the fourteenth, twenty-third, or fifty-seventh shot. Jitters need to be seen as a form of readiness. First tee jitters are a sign that you are ready to hit a great shot and play well. With this in mind, why would you want these signs to go away?
Instead, I recommend you embrace the first tee jitters and interpret them as a positive sign that you are excited to play and are ready to have a great round. Realize that you may not hit your first tee shot perfectly. No one does. Plus, it’s only one shot – not a sign off doom, cause to crawl into a hole, or be embarrassed. It’s just one shot of many that you’ll take that day.
Change the way you think about your first shot of the day and put it in proper perspective. After all, it’s only the first of many shots you’ll hit.
In Another’s Words…
Golf is a game that creates emotions that sometimes cannot be sustained with a club in the hand.
– Bobby Jones