Fearless Golf!

Fearless Golf! – The Tips

By David Woods, PGA, & Rick Sessinghaus, PGA


Fear can be a great detriment not only to the mind, but also to how the body performs. Often, when we get fearful, the bigger muscles in the body shut down and the smaller muscles try to take over. In the case of a tee shot like this, that’s exactly what you don’t want. The key when getting fearful and nervous is to always remember that better shots are achieved when the body rotates down and through. If you get fearful and stop turning, the hands will take over and flip through the shot. Now, you may get away with that sometimes, but it’s not a good way to maintain any sense of consistency. Remember to always turn and hit down into the golf ball. And don’t be afraid to make a divot!


Hey, most course architects are on your side, right? As diabolical as some may be, often there’s a bail-out area somewhere on a difficult hole. In the case of the above par-3 at The Vintage Club in Indian Wells, Calif., Tom Fazio left some room to the left for players who just don’t have the gusto to clear the water to a difficult green. Now, here’s the rub. Not every shot needs to be a hero shot. If you’re uncomfortable for whatever reason, don’t force a shot that just doesn’t feel right. Bail out and get up and down. It’s a lot easier to play it safe than forcing a shot you’re not comfortable with.


It’s not how fast you swing, it’s how you swing fast! When you get tense over a tee shot, whether it’s the first or last, it becomes easy to decelerate and try and steer the ball down the fairway, which as you’d guess, hardly
ever works. To relax and remember to accelerate, practice making some driver swings with the club slowly falling from the top of the swing and swinging fastest past the ball. I like to actually tee up a ball so I can get a visual for where the ball is and accelerate alongside it. The fastest part of my rehearsal swing should occur in front of the ball, not behind it.


If you normally hit a 20-yard fade, then play for the pattern of that shot. Under pressure, you’ll tend to hit your pattern of shot and sometimes it will get even more exaggerated. Don’t try to hit a shot that’s uncomfortable for you to pull off, even if the hole is more suited for, let’s say, a 20-yard draw. Stick with the shot that works best for you that’s also the easiest for you to pull off.


Just because the first hole is a par-4 or par-5, it doesn’t mean you need to hit a driver. If you’re more confident you can hit a solid shot with a 3-wood or hybrid, then keep the driver in the bag on the first hole, second hole or any hole thereafter. If you do feel confident with the driver, be ready to swing it 100%. Any less than that likely will result in a swing that tries to steer the golf ball.


Fear shows up in your body through increasing your grip pressure, which in turn, changes swing mechanics and how the clubface goes through the shot. Get your grip pressure in the proper place by moving the club in a circular pattern. This will help you become aware of how tight you’re gripping the club and get your feel back before you get over the golf ball. Fear equals tension, and tension destroys golf swings. Use careful breathing to regain control to minimize tension and help you swing in good tempo. Breathing should be done with deep, diaphragmatic breaths that will change your focus from the result of the shot to getting relaxed.


If there’s one fearful shot where it’s okay to use the hands more, the bunker shot is it! As for the 30-yard bunker shot? Well, it’s even scarier. What I recommend is along the lines of what Glenn Deck says in his article in this same issue. Don’t set up with a big open stance and an open blade. Instead, set up with the ball slightly forward and aim directly at your target. Now, here’s the key. You must swing aggressively into the sand behind the ball. The goal is to hit it “fat,” so to speak, and to do so, I recommend using one club longer than usual. And, by the way, let those hands hinge at the top of the backswing. You’re going to need that extra clubhead speed as you approach the sand.


Even high-handicappers are expected to drain these easy four-footers, right? Well, then why are we so fearful of them? Usually, it’s a confidence issue, a lack of acceleration and too much head movement in the stroke, meaning you should make a smooth, accelerating stroke and try to hear the ball drop before you lift your head and see where it went. The next time you practice, grab five to six golf balls and keep putting from four feet until you hear all the balls find the cup. It will work wonders for your ability not only to make a more aggressive stroke, but it will help you stay in the proper putting position and avoid the temptation to look up midway through your forwardstroke.


Imagine you’re in a situation to shoot a low score, but you feel nervous to hit what’s usually a very easy putt. If you stay focused on “What if I miss?” you’ll lose the proper focus to execute a solid stroke. Consider embracing the preshot process instead. This involves going through an effective routine that’s focused on the speed and line you intend to stroke the putt. Be as specific as possible as you see the ball enter the cup. Take the few extra seconds to visualize the putt going in right before you take the putt back. React to a clear picture of what you want instead of thinking about all the possible outcomes. Then trust your line and roll it in!


S2 Tip

React to a clear picture of what you want instead of thinking about all the possible outcomes.


Success Story

Congratulations to Jordan Spieth for winning his first Masters at the age of 21! Spieth tied Tiger Woods Masters record final score of 18 under par. It was as dominating a performance as we’ve ever seen in this tournament. Nice job Jordan!


In Another’s Words

I tend to think you’re fearless when you recognize why you should be scared of things, but do them anyway.

– Christian Bale