Play in Pressure to Succeed in Pressure

Play in Pressure to Succeed in Pressure

To become successful at playing under pressure, golfers need to play in pressure frequently.  In fact, playing under pressure frequently is one of the best things golfers can do obtain future tournament success.  It is something every great player realizes, something vital in competing at the highest levels.  Golfers often ask me how to become better players under pressure.  This is the first piece of advice I give them.  I tell them to play under pressure as much as they can.

Golfers create pressure by playing rounds involving competition, money, assets at stake, or playing in front of others.   These elements can be combined, such as competitions and tournaments with financial rewards.   Tournaments in higher levels of the game often involve large elements of competition, large sums of money, and large audiences.  The amount of pressure often relates to the size and extent of these elements.  Players create more pressure for themselves in situations involving large sums of money, large elements of competition, large assets at stake, and large audiences watching.  This is why so much pressure exists during final days of major championships.  In final days of major championships, players compete in front of the world’s largest golfing audiences, play for the biggest purses of money, play for numerous playing privileges and exemptions, play for the largest amounts of recognition, and play under the stiffest competition.  There is only one way to understand what playing in these circumstances is like, and this is only through experiencing it.  For this reason, only a select group of individuals can describe the pressure felt in contention in the moments of major championships.  The advice I will pass on to you comes from golfers who succeeded in these situations.

These players commonly mention the more times they get into pressure situations, the more they succeed in them.   I commonly hear top players refer to this concept after winning particular tournaments.  For example, Tiger Woods is one of the greatest examples.  If you listen to interviews from some of his biggest wins, you will often hear Tiger describe this concept.  I have heard him stress its importance numerous times.  This concept is also why some falter in situations for the first times, only to go on and succeed in similar situations in the future.  It was seen in the career of Rory McIlroy, when he unfortunately shot an 80 the final day of the 2011 Masters, doing so after starting with a commanding tournament lead.   Two months later, Rory set the US Open scoring record and won his first major championship.

Playing under pressure builds chances of succeeding under pressure.  Success breeds future success.  This is why achieving one win often opens the floodgates for more to follow.  This is often seen in the games of golfers who struggle getting their first win, but when they do, they often win multiple more afterwards.  An example would be Phil Mickelson in major championships.  It took Phil substantial time to win his first major, but when he won the Masters, multiple major championship victories quickly followed.

Playing under pressure builds future success under pressure.  Why does this happen, why is this seen in the games of so many top golfers?  Remember, pressure is created in a golfer’s own mind, stemming from the level of importance and expectation players place upon themselves.  It is not created by outside elements, but by a player’s interpretation of outside elements.  The reason playing frequently under pressure helps is because doing so changes a player’s interpretation and comfort level with outside elements.  The more times players play under pressure, the more comfortable they feel with the outside elements.  The same applies to many circumstances in life, the more times undertaking something uncomfortable, the more comfortable it becomes.  The more comfortable it becomes the higher chances for success increase.  This same principle applies to succeeding under pressure in golf.

If succeeding under pressure is important to you, no matter at what level you play, I want you to follow this advice.  Play in pressure as much as possible.  Play in as many tournaments as possible, the more the better.  Realize how often the world’s best golfers play in tournament pressure.  The majority of their rounds are tournament rounds, often playing 4 days a week for up to 30 weeks a year.  They play in the biggest tournaments, including World Golf Championship events, Major Championships, and Ryder Cups.  It is a large reason their level of play is greatly higher than top collegiate players, mini-tour professionals, and top amateurs.  If you can’t play in many tournaments, or if you have large breaks between tournaments, play as many competitive money games as possible.  The more money you bet, the more pressure you will feel.  Just don’t bet more than you can afford to lose.  I don’t want to cause any bankruptcy scenarios, although it would help your golf.   You would be surprised at the number of tour professionals who play high stakes money games in casual rounds.  This is another way to improve your game under pressure.

Take advantage of this advice and compete as much as possible.  This might be the best mental development activity available.  Every great player agrees strongly with this advice, and I have heard many of them say so.   The more you compete under pressure, the more comfortable you will become under pressure.   The more you compete under pressure, the more you will win under pressure.  Even if you don’t win on a particular day, you will increase chances for it happening in your future, just ask Rory McIlroy.

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