Have you ever found yourself playing well late in a round only to end the last few holes with some big numbers on the card? I know I have and it’s frustrating.
The feeling of playing well, thinking smart, and having confidence during the entire round. Then, all of a sudden, you start to realize that you are playing great. You might even shoot your best score this year or ever if you can just finish strong.
Once you realize this you get tense. You stop swinging freely. You start guiding the club instead of swinging like you have all round. And not to mention your natural golf swing tempo is lost.
Here’s a quick fact for you: tension kills golf swings.
Like any sport, golf makes a lot of players very nervous in the pressure moment. In golf, it usually happens from thinking too far in the future and getting tight as the round progresses. But it’s nearly impossible to score well when you’re playing tense.
If you want to lower your scores, especially when you’re playing a skins game or in a tournament, you need to get rid of tension in the golf swing.
Here’s how you can do it so you can start playing your best golf yet.
If you can train it, you can trust it. Whether it’s a new swing, your pre-shot routine or a new putting grip, all of it can be trained. If you want to get rid of tension in your swing, it all starts by training your mind and swing during practice.
This video shows some great tips to help you reduce tension:
If you’re tense, you’re probably not breathing like you normally would. Think back to a recent round where you let nerves and tension get the best of you. Were you breathing shallow or deep? Were you walking fast or slow?
The first thing to focus on is your breathing. While it seems simple, this is one of the biggest things you can do to reduce the tension in your golf swing. When you get nervous it’s so easy to stop breathing and start thinking too much in the future. As I’m sure you know, this never usually ends well.
On the practice range, work on your breathing like you would do on the golf course.
- Before hitting any balls take six deep breaths.
- In through the nose, hold for two seconds, and out through your mouth.
Studies have shown that breathing six times can help change your state and give you a reset.
It’s important to get into the habit of doing this on the range so you are more incline to do it on the course. Otherwise, it’s easy to revert back to your old habits when you get nervous and tense.
Where’s the best place to use your new breathing techniques? Your pre-shot routine! The better the pre-shot routine, the more you’ll be able to reduce tension and minimize it throughout the round.
If you watch a lot of PGA tour players, you’ll notice that a lot of them take a big breath behind the golf ball. Some do it at the beginning of their routine while others do it after taking a few practice swings and giving their target a final look. I recommend doing one of these methods as well.
After you’ve confirmed the distance and your club selection, stand behind the golf ball. Take 1-2 practice swings visualizing the shot doing what you want. Then, before you approach the shot take a quick breath. Exhale out any bad thoughts so you get to the ball relaxed and confident.
Once you’re over the ball, take one more look at the target and go. Just pull the trigger. The longer you stand over a tight tee off or putt for birdie, the more likely you’ll get tense and overthink it. Make sure your pre-shot routine builds confidence and helps keep you relaxed.
Another great trick is adding a waggle to your swing. A waggle is a great way to help you feel like you’re moving and not stuck in one position. The more you stare at the ball with no movement, the easier it is to increase tension in your hands and forearms.
While the waggle used to be very popular, some of the best players on the PGA Tour still do this as well. When looking at your target while standing over the ball move the clubhead back and forth. This should help release tension in your forearms and build confidence.
I’d recommend keeping your waggles between 1-2 times so you don’t’ slow up your routine or frustrate your playing partners like Sergio at Bethpage Black. Keep it simple and repeatable!
Practice these three things at the range so you can train your mind and body to stay relaxed. This will translate to swinging freely and confidently on the course. Once you get on the course, here are even more ways to reduce tension.
Tension Free Pre-Shot Routine
Golf Swing Relaxation Techniques during the Round
You can practice all you want but we both know that golf brings out nerves and shots you’ve never seen on the back nine. The key is knowing how to stay calm and collected during these parts of the round. If you get mad and flustered, you’ll almost always grip the club too hard, increase tension, and hit some bad shots.
The death grip has ruined so many great rounds. You know what I’m talking about. You’re so scared standing over a shot you think that holding the club as if your life depended on it will somehow make it better. Let me tell you, it won’t.
When you grip the club too hard you’ll have no fluid motion in your swing. One club that most amateur golfers always do this with is the driver. But you don’t have to grip it a baseball bat to hit it long. In fact, increased grip pressure only makes things worse with the driver.
You want to grip your driver with the minimum grip pressure possible.
This will reduce tension in your forearms and make it easy to make a full shoulder turn on the way back. If you grip it on a 10/10 you’re going to probably hit it all over the course.
The same goes with putting. You want to have a 3/10 grip on your putting. The more grip pressure you have, the harder it is to make a natural putting arc. When you’re on the course and feeling the pressure, remember to always check your grip pressure.
Also, make sure you are not playing the wrong size grips. Go to this article to dive deeper into grip size.
If you forget everything in this article, remember one thing: You want your hands relaxed.
Have you ever been so nervous over a golf shot that you can’t even pull the trigger? Maybe it’s a putt to break 90 or 80. Maybe it’s a drive on hole 18 with money on the line. Whatever shot it is, one big mistake golfers make is standing over the ball way too long.
Like I mentioned before, you want to spend a majority of your time behind the golf ball during your pre-shot routine. Once you’ve taken your breath and walking to your ball it should be a quick process.
If possible, try to develop a trigger that makes it easy for you to swing once you address the ball.
- This could be one or two waggles and starting your takeaway.
- Or it could be looking at your target, looking down, and then going.
Whatever it is, make it a habit. A trigger will make it easy to start your swing without giving yourself time to let any negative swing thoughts enter your mind.
All of these drills and habits are great but one of the biggest reasons you get tense in the first place is your mind. With golf, it’s easy to start thinking ahead when you’re playing well. The old, “If I par out I shoot 89” or whatever score is relevant to your game. This adds undo pressure to your game and inevitably brings tension.
Instead of thinking about the putt you missed on the front nine or the upcoming tough drive on 18, stay in the present moment. Think only about the shot at hand. You can’t change the past and worry about the future will only increase anxiety.
Make it a point to stay focused on the shot at hand.
Yes, this is going to be difficult more players. But it’s necessary to play your best golf.
Stay focused, keep breathing, and stay on the present shot at hand. If your buddies start telling you how you’re doing try to block it out.
The person with the strongest mental game nearly always wins. Practice this during fun rounds so you’re prepared for the next skins game or tournament you compete in.
Before you start thinking of pressure and tension, remember that golf is supposed to be fun. You want to end up in those situations because you love the game. As Michael Jordan’s trainer, Tim Grover said, “Pressure is a privilege.”
The next time you start getting tense, remember these drills to stay focused and calm during the round. If you hit a bad shot after a career-low front-nine on 10, don’t worry about it.
Trust yourself and your game. If you’re playing great on the back nine stay focused on the shot at hand. Forget the past and don’t look ahead in the future.
You can’t change it and it’ll only make matters worse. Practice all of these drills on the range so you can effortlessly take them to the course.