Fear is a terrible thing. It keeps most people from doing things that normally they would do. Fear of spiders? You may not go into dark small places. Fear of water? You may not go sailing. But fear on the golf course does so much more.
As a player who when they were young, had a horrible slice (most likely due to trying to hit it too hard with a baseball grip) the fear of going right on every hole was a constant. No matter how hard I might want the ball to not go right, the fear of it going there always made it happen more times than not. It was always strange to me that after I took a break from golf (5 years) I came back with a hook rather than a slice. This took the fear of right away from me, which I loved. For a while, I enjoyed getting back into golf and hitting a side of the fairway I could not hit before. For a while.
After that while, the fear returned, but this time it was a fear of going left. Now, let me break down what this fear is and how it can cripple your game. The space between your ears is the place where the fear resides. It comes in so many forms on the golf course, but I will try and relate it to you and your specific fear. For me, it was the “lefts”, this meant that when I aimed down a fairway, I would always aim right. In fact, so far right that my playing partners would comment on how I was aiming at the next fairway over. I did not actually know I was aiming that far right, but I was doing it automatically because of my fear of going left.
For others, it may be water. When a water hole is presented in front of you, sometimes no matter how many perfect practise swings you put on the tee, the swing on the ball makes it go into the water. The fear here is the fact that you may have hit into this water hazard so many times, that you are thinking you are going in there before you have even approached the tee. The fear of going in there one more time has already taken over your thinking and bang! It goes in there again. Others have the fear in their short games. Stepping up to a chip shot that the last time you hit thin and went over the green will make you think you will do it again and after a few of these in a round, will make you question your short game skills.
I play a lot of golf with a lot of people. The saying I hear more than most is “Oh, I ALWAYS go there on this hole!” Keep an ear out for this saying, as it is the most said thing on golf courses around the world. Well, that and “Fore!” “Fu*k!” “Why do I play this game?” umm, but I digress. It is always the fear of your last time doing something wrong that makes it repeat. Whether it be a bunker, a water hazard, the lefts, the slices, playing in front of crowds on the 1st tee, chipping or whatever it is, the fear is something you need to let go of before you can move on.
The worst thing the fear does is make you lift your head. Regardless of what fear you have, lifting your head ruins just about every golf shot. The fear makes you want to see your shot quicker than normal. You lift your head to see nervous, suspect position shots and invariably make things far worse. The only thing you see when you lift your head is a bad shot. I know some of you out there will quote that DJ lifts his head, Stenson lifts his head and yes, this may be the case. But, professionals do this for a reason and have done it all their golfing careers. The fear is a massive cause of people lifting their heads and coming out of shots early, causing horrible shots more often than not.
So, how do we get rid of the fear? With some, it will take lessons. Others will do it by simply realising that golf is not about the last shot, It’s about the next shot. If the last bad shot is in your head while you are swinging, the fear of it will make the outcome the same. Learn to let go of the fear and embrace your swing, your clarity of mind and your golfing skills rather than reliving the horror of past disasters.
Is my fear still there? Yes and no. I still hit the occasional one left, but I also realise it’s not because of what I did there last time. It’s because I over rotated my top half and put a bad swing on the shot. Something I know I can correct the next swing and move on from. The fear can ruin your game, but only if you let it.