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Overcome First Tee Jitters
Putting Things in Perspective on the First Tee

One of the most common human fears worldwide is public speaking...unless you're a golfer. Yeah, you know what I'm talking about. Those first tee

Learn how to overcome first tee jitters and calm your nervesKeep Your Nerves in Check
jitters. They get the best of us, from the most skilled professionals in the world to beginner players. No one is immune. Why is one shot such a big deal when you are going to hit several more throughout the day? I think there are a lot of reasons, but it's often explained that fear is due to the unknown and that's a big factor on the first tee. You just don't know what's going to happen. Are you going to stripe it down the middle (how you should be thinking)? Is it going to fly right and out of bounds? Will you top it and embarrass yourself? It's that unknown and anticipation that can really put the nerves on edge and get the heart rate pumping. If you knew you were going to flat top it you could mentally prepare and it might not be that big of a deal.

Players Fear the First Tee For Different Reasons

I think the fear is different though for different players. Rank beginners often fear that they will whiff the ball, pop it up, top it or hit some sort of embarrassing shot. A more seasoned player often fears a bit of the same, but more so that they may knock the ball out of bounds or into trouble causing them a high number on the first hole. A tour pro on the other hand is nervous more from adrenaline knowing they are in the hunt. I heard a quote years ago by Jack Nicklaus where he said he always had butterflies on the first tee. This is because he knew he could win. If you are a competitive player and don't have butterflies chances are you don't believe you can be in the hunt. Otherwise why would you be nervous? Whatever the reason for your first tee jitters and whatever the level you play at, they can be hard to get in check, but it's not impossible. There are steps you can take to tone it down, but like I stated earlier, especially for competitive players, they aren't necessarily a bad thing.

Keeping Nerves in Check is Possible With These 4 Tips

In my opinion there are 4 main areas of focus that a player should work on to keep first tee jitters in check:

1) Remember it's only one shot. It's easy to lose perspective, but for many golfers they are going to hit 90 plus shots anyway and this is only one shot. It doesn't matter if you miss hit the first shot, the last shot, a short putt or a tee shot, a miss is a miss and they are going to occur for all of us. If you have warmed up properly on the driving range and putting green, and you ate a healthy meal or snack, then you have done all that you can do. It's now one shot at a time.

2) Realize nobody cares, but you. I know, it's easy to get caught up in what others think, but in the long run no one cares what you shoot or how you play except you and no one will remember what you did anyway. It's somewhat egocentric of ourselves, but we really believe that others care or are affected by the shots we hit and what we score. This could not be farther from the truth unless we are slowing them down on the course. People will always remember who won, but whether you come in second place, 34th, or 140th, no one will remember. Do you remember every event you played in and what all the other players shot and how they placed? Probably not. The only person who really cares is you, so stop worrying about what others think.

3) Make sure to obtain and maintain a proper pre-shot routine. Your routine gets you in a rhythm. It helps to get you in a mental zone. If it is consistent, chances are your swing and results are going to be consistent and this will cut down on miss hits. Focusing on your routine and your target gets your focus off of yourself and your nerves. It's easy when you get nervous to get out of your routine so this is the time when you need to focus more deeply on the steps you take to prepare for the shot and remain consistent.

4) Take a deep breath. Deep breathing from your diaphragm (stomach area) will help to slow your heart rate and calm your nerves. When we get excited we tend to breathe faster and take short breaths from our chest. That will only keep us amped up. You can hear many tour players taking a nice deep breath right before they swing to decompress. You should do the same and for that matter do it on all shots, not just on the first tee. Before you step up to the first tee though, start the deep breaths while others are teeing off. Then go through your routine and take a long deep breath right before you start the club back.

The Situation:

You are having a really tough time controlling your nerves on the first tee.

The Solution:

Take the following 4 steps to help calm first tee jitters:

  • Remember like our guest instructor in the attached video PGA Professional Gideon Traub says, it's only one shot.
  • Realize nobody cares, but you.
  • Make sure to obtain and maintain a proper pre-shot routine.
  • Take a deep breath.
Maria Palozola

Maria Palozola is a member of the LPGA and has participated in multiple LPGA Tour events. She has provided instruction to thousands of students in the past 20+ years and has won multiple teaching awards from the LPGA, Golf Digest, and Golf Magazine including being ranked as one of the top 50 female instructors in the world.

Who is Maria Palozola?
- Top 50 LPGA Instructors in the World
- A Golf Digest Top 10 Teacher in Illinois
- A Golf Magazine Top Teacher in the Midwest
- More about Maria
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