A Lesson Learned: Hitting the green under pressure

By Craig Renshaw, PGA
Published on

Well first of all, congratulations to Mark Wilson.  Two wins in three starts this year! How's that for a pretty good percentage?  He overcame a tough field under tough conditions to win.  A well-deserved kudos to one of the good guys on Tour. 

This past week certainly was a very trying week on the PGA Tour.  Here in the desert at the Waste Management Open at the TPC of Scottsdale, the players had to deal with some unique and uncharacteristic conditions.  In fact, it was so cold that the Wednesday Pro-Am was cancelled, so cold that we had frost delays because of frozen fairways and greens, and of course, played always have to deal with the totally enclosed green at the wild and exciting stage of the 16th hole.
This week's A Lesson Learned is about preparing to hit a high pressure shot with unusual conditions like the pros had to do on the 16th Hole.  This hole is very unique for the Tour players.  There are many 165 yard par 3 holes on Tour, the difference this week is that most of them are not completely surrounded by stands two and three stories high with 20,000 people watching every move and cheering and booing for good and bad shots.  If you pay attention to most of the players as they reach the 16th hole, they will acknowledge the large crowd initially and then go about their business.  They will stick to their routine, choosing their 7, 8, or 9 irons, making their practice swings and then focusing very intensely on the target.  It is very easy to get distracted on this hole, so being very aware of their target is very important.  The area on the 16th hole is very tight and does not allow for much of misguided shot.  A wayward shot here on the 16th will definitely cause the fans around the hole to get on the pros and lead to quite a bit of ribbing from them as they approach the green.  This is not a whole lot different then what most of the amateurs face from their normal weekend golf game.
So in reality, this next week when you arrive at a short-to-medium par three, you are under the same sort of pressure that the PGA Tour Pros were under this week. You'll choose your 7, 8, or 9 iron, you'll be surrounded by all your friends, aiming for a green everyone expects you to hit, but with trouble all around and another group waiting on the tee. Yes, it's pressure because you need to make sure you hit a quality shot to avoid embarrassment from your group and the group waiting to play after you.  Sound familiar?
Here is my advice.  Try to stay within yourself.  Do not attempt to hit anything you do not normally hit on the course.  Stay focused on your routine, make the same number of practice swings and make sure to stay focused on your target.  Be aware of your Goal!  ON THE GREEN!  Do not let your mind wander to your playing partners or the people waiting to hit after you.  You have the mechanics for this shot, you've probably hit it a thousand times.  Realize the biggest interference here for success is the mental pressure you are placing on yourself. Stay within your pace, your normal routine and think only of the shot - none of the ancillary items. 
Remember Tour Professionals get just as nervous and as distracted as we do when we play golf.  Sometimes they handle it better then we do and sometimes they do not.  What we need to understand is to stick to our routine and be focused on our goal or target and watch things fall into place.

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