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Change Your Mentality to Get Over Your ‘First-Tee Jitters’

By Brendon Elliott, PGA
Published on

Jordan Spieth during the singles matches for the 41st Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Course on October 2, 2016 in Chaska, MN. (Photo by Montana Pritchard/PGA of America)

There may not be a bigger stage in the game than the Ryder Cup. Not only are players representing their countries, but they are doing so in front of some of the most boisterous crowds that we see in golf.
Stepping onto the first tee in a setting like this has got to be as pressure-filled of an experience that a professional golfer may ever have in their career. Even the most elite players in the world can succumb to the nerves that a Ryder Cup can serve up.
For the rest of us, something as simple as being waved through by a slower group in front of us or simply just teeing off on the first tee in front of anyone, for a easy, fun-filled, normal recreational round, is enough to make us experience the anxiety and proverbial “First Tee Jitters.”
So, why do these scenarios strike fear in so many of us? Is there a way to fight these “First Tee Jitters” that can almost ruin a day, which is meant to be fun, before it even starts?
My Own First Tee Jitters
I  can most certainly call myself an expert on first tee jitters…and not so much in how to fight them, but rather in how I’ve lived through them. Perhaps, in essence, that makes me uniquely qualified in giving advice on how I have learned to deal with them. Many of us find ourselves very busy with things like conducting lessons, running the day-to-day operations of our academies or golf facilities, and all that goes along with that. We may have respectful games, or even had very, very good games at points earlier in our career, but the busyness of the business hasn’t allowed us to maintain what we once had. This most certainly is the case for me. For many years, as I saw what was once a very respectful game, erode, I would start to have thoughts on the first tee like “Whatever you do, don’t go left” or, “You need to hit this well, people are watching and you are the Pro.” 
These thoughts turned into my own personal Ryder Cup, anxiety-filled moments.
How to Overcome First Tee Jitters
Luckily, there is an easy fix for this problem. A former colleague of mine used to say…“Today I don’t HAVE to play golf, I GET to play golf.” 
And quite simply, that is the secret. Far too many of us put unnecessary pressure on ourselves to perform at certain levels. Some of us have the games to have such lofty standards, but most of us do not. Even those of us that do play at higher levels need to realize that the pressure we often feel is totally self-induced. Golf is a game, and it’s meant to be enjoyed…no matter if you are a plus-2 or a 32 handicap.
The easiest fix to combat those first tee jitters is to simply be thankful for the opportunity that you have before you. You are outside in nature, most of the time with friends, doing something that you love. 
The next time you are on the first tee, before you tee off, take a moment to be grateful for the experience you are able to embark on…good, bad, and anywhere in between.
Today, you GET to play golf…