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Play Better

Keep Your Lead to the Clubhouse

Doug Benc / Getty Images

You’re up two with a few holes to play. You’re playing great and feeling good, but as even the best pros show, victory is not a guarantee. What were once reliable drives find the rough and easy putts roll by the cup. While mechanics play a part, the biggest culprit is sitting on your shoulders. Joe Rehor, director of golf at Bethpage State Park, offers up three tips to avoid a mental meltdown:

1. Hit it straight.

The excitement of pending victory is going to increase your swing speed and grip pressure. Two antidotes:

  • Focus on your hands and make sure that your grip is as light as possible. You’d want someone to be able to take the club out of your hands if they tried.
  • Convince yourself that for the final holes you’re not going to hit it as far as you’d like. Instead, you’ll just hit it straight, by using a 3-wood or hybrid from the tee, a shorter club that provides more loft, less spin and greater control. You might not love the shorter distance, but putting the ball in the fairway ups the pressure on your opponent. “He knows you’re hitting the green,” Rehor says.

2. Don’t be stupid.

Sounds obvious, but it’s inevitable that when the 18th hole is in sight, you’re going to get loose when you should remain focused.

  • Stick with the shots that put you in the lead. This is not the time for the shot that you have not practiced or the ball that would require the ideal mechanics, simply because perfect shots are hard to hit, for you and for the guys chasing you.
  • Huge club heads are forgiving and allow for any swing to make some contact, but it’s also almost impossible to hit the center of the club, particularly when the pressure is increased. The message: Par is enough. “If I keep hitting good shots, the other guy has to hit really good shots,” Rehor says. “It’s really hard to catch you if you hit it on the green and two-putt.”

3. Stay consistent.

It’s not just about sticking with the shots that work, and avoiding the ones that don’t; winning is also about keeping to your routines.

  • Don’t deviate from the number of practice swings or times you go to the towel. While the moment can make you want to hurry up—which you shouldn’t—you also don’t want to slow down and overthink shots. “It’s the same thing over and over and over,” Rehor says.

About The Author

Steve Calechman – Steve Calechman is a contributing writer for CorePerformance.com. He has published articles for Men's Health, Natural Health, The Robb Report and Women's Health magazine.

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Tags: Pressure, Golf, Focus, Outdoor Recreation