Nicola Stroud, Head Teaching Professional at Burnham & Berrow Golf Club, explains the importance of controlling your breathing whilst playing your round of golf
Many golfers suffer with nerves on the course. It can be for any number of reasons; environment, situation or self-doubt, to name a few.
Our personalities can also affect how we are as golfers. For example, in my experience, golfers that tend to swing too quickly are often the type of people who cannot sit still and are always on the go. They might be able to cope with a fast swing more than someone with a relaxed personality, however, no golfer can cope with a snatchy and out of control rhythm. Most golfers need to work on a smoother rhythm that builds up in tempo.
There are a number of ways to settle your nerves and anxiety on the course. I would suggest you try them all and see which ones you prefer. Like anything in golf, you must train yourself to be good at these things. When trying out different processes, give them time and put the work in before deciding if it’s for you or not.
Control your breathing
One of the ways to cope with nerves is to work on your breathing. Next time you hit a golf shot I want you to count “123, 123” out loud as you hit the ball. You will probably notice a sudden hitch in your voice and realise that you hold your breath for the duration of your swing. When we hold our breath, our muscles tighten, we grip tighter, and our swing becomes very disconnected.
Another method is to imagine a birthday cake with lots of candles. You are going to smell the cake, then blow out the candles slowly. When you next hit a ball imagine your birthday cake. Once you’ve completed your pre-shot routine, including your mental rehearsal, and are ready to play the shot… Breath in through your nose (to the count of 3 or 4) then as soon as you begin your exhale, commence your takeaway and hit the ball.
Don’t worry about what happens during your exhale or whether you run out of breath by the time you reach the top of your backswing - it’s irrelevant. As long as you’ve started your swing in this calm state, you’ll be fine!
You should notice that concentrating on your pre-shot routine and including your breathing routine within it means you don’t have space for negative thoughts to intrude. This makes internal and unnecessary chatter a thing of the past.
Let me know how you get on - you can get in touch via the links below.
Words by Nicola Stroud
Nicola Stroud talks about the importance of golf psychology ahead of her upcoming Women & Golf mental game series - read the full article.