Three Keys To Handling Pressure
Terry "The Wedge Guy" Koehler is in New Zealand this week speaking at a PGA Seminar. While he's out, we're going to feature a "Best of The Wedge Guy" article from the past. This article was originally published June 30, 2009. Enjoy!

Whether you play competitively or not, "pressure" is a big part of this game. Even if we are out for an evening practice nine, when we get over any shot, from drive to putt, we are putting "pressure" on ourselves to perform to our best capability.

So just what is pressure? My Dad used to tell us the story about a guy who wanted to learn how to walk the tightrope. He strung a rope across his yard about a foot off the ground and started practicing – first just balancing, then walking, skipping...he got where he "owned" that tightrope. So he decided he was ready for the big top, and joined the circus. The circus manager says, "Well, climb up there and show me what you've got." When he got to the top and looked down about thirty feet, he couldn't even get off the platform.

Pressure affects all of differently, but it affects all of us. How can we totally jack a two foot putt sometimes? Or chunk a chip shot? We don't do that on the practice tee! But then, how can tour pros hit some of the gosh-awful shots we see them hit coming down the stretch? No one is immune.

Thank you to Clinton F., from Quantico, VA for asking about pressure. His email said:
"How do you handle pressure putting and hitting shots around the green when you are amped up and can't feel your hands?"
Well, Clinton, that does happen to all of us, and I'm going to share my Three Keys To Handling Pressure. I'd like for all of you to chime in with your own personal keys that you use with success. But here are mine:
  1. Recall success! The first thing that happens in pressure situations is that fear sets in. You may find yourself thinking of that last short putt you missed, or that chip you chunked, or bunker shot you skulled. There's a wonderful new golf book called "Seven Days of Golf in Utopia" that I highly recommend. In it the mentor tells his student, "See it. Feel it. Trust it." And that's great advice. See the shot you have, in the dozens or hundreds of ways you've successfully executed it before. Take a few practice swings and feel the swing that will produce that vision. Then trust your skill that you KNOW you have and just execute.

  2. Get S-L-O-W. We have a tendency to get quick when we are under pressure. As you begin to approach the shot, slow down a bit. If you are riding in a cart and approaching the green, pause for a count before you jump out of the cart. Take a breath before you pull the clubs from the bag. Walk a little more slowly over to your ball, which gives you time to think those successful thoughts we just talked about. Make your practice swings or strokes a little slower, more deliberately. And feel the end of your backswing. The quickness killer is not finishing the swing, whether it's a full iron shot, a short chip or pitch, or even a putt. FEEL the end of the backswing to neutralize quickness.

  3. Lighten Up! As Clinton said, he "can't feel his hands". That's probably because he's gripping the club too tightly. A nice relaxed grip is essential to a good golf shot of any kind, but pressure affects that first, most of the time. When you are feeling a little "amped up", as Clinton put it, focus on your grip pressure and R-E-L-A-X. Your body will not let you hold a club too softly, but pressure sure can make you put the death grip on the club. And it's hard to swing too quickly when you have a nice soft grip on the club.
So, those are my "Three Keys" to handling pressure. Try them the next time you find yourself a little nervous, whether it's for the club championship, or just beating your buddies out of a few bucks.

And let us know your keys to handling pressure, too.
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.

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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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