Practice Under "Pressure"
As you all know, I’m a big believer in practicing the short game, and hit lots of little half chips and pitches on the range and around the practice green. That’s where you practice technique until it becomes ingrained. But I recently had a reader ask about how to practice actually pulling off those shots under playing or competitive pressure. As Bobby Jones said, there’s “golf” and then there’s “competitive golf”, and they really don’t have that much in common.
We see it every week on the PGA Tour. As the ads say, “these guys are good”, but how in the world do golfers of this skill level hit some of the ugly shots we see in tournaments each week? It’s really simple, and Mr. Jones sums it up nicely. Hitting shot after shot on the range is quite the different prospect than pulling of “that” shot just when you have to do so, coming down the stretch of a major, or needing to get it close to beat your buddies.
The only real way to practice under pressure is to put yourself in situations where you have that real pressure on you. Playing for more money than you might find comfortable. Tournaments. In front of people who you’d like to impress. All those situations will cause you to tense up, maybe forget your fundamentals, get a little quick . . . things that make bad golf shots happen. The more you are there, the more you get accustomed to performing in those situations.
But you can practice performing under pressure. You just have to determine what things will make you grind. I worked with a young player some time back who I was trying to get to slow down his swing and focus on solid contact and hitting fairways. So our deal was that if he missed a fairway, he had to run after the cart to his ball. And after a while, he got tired enough to slow his swing down and make solid contact.
You can do the same in your practice drills. Make yourself “pay” for bad shots – pushups, sprints, etc. all might work. Or get a buddy and chip for dollars, pitch for dollars . . . those kinds of things. Anything you can put on the shot that will make you pay for a miss will improve your ability to perform when the pressure is on.
Find your own “punishment” and build it into your practice routine. It will pay off for you on the course.
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