It’s so frustrating when you begin playing competitively and don’t do as well as you know you can. The time and energy you put into practicing and preparing for a competition can be lost when you create pressure for yourself, focus on other competitors, or let nerves get the best of you. Here are 5 ways to deal with the pressure you might be experiencing in the first round of competitive play.


Notice your thoughts

You might be creating the pressure with your thoughts. For example, if you think things like “I have to . . .” or “I need to . . .” you’re creating unnecessary stress. It’s normal to have worries or doubts but don’t let those get in your way. You can handle this! When you notice those pressure-creating thoughts, tell yourself to stop and then replace the negativity with something helpful like “I’ve practiced,” or “Just swing.”

Repeat as needed!



When we’re stressed, our breathing changes. This creates physical discomfort, which can create mental discomfort. Take time to breathe deeply before the round, as well as before each hole (or each shot, as part of a pre-shot routine) to help calm your nerves and release pressure. When you breathe deeply, you’re helping to get rid of physical and mental tension, and this is a great strategy to pair with positive thinking.


Set appropriate goals

You might want to win, place in the top 8, or achieve a certain score, but focusing on those outcomes adds more pressure. Instead, focus on what you can control: your attitude, your swing, your pre-shot routine, etc. Goals are great, but they can shift your focus away from the steps that help you achieve that goal. Also, because those outcomes aren’t 100% in your control, they can lead to experiencing pressure. Be excited about your bigger goals, but break them down into the goals that you do have control over.


Build your confidence

You’ve been working hard—you’re ready. Now it’s the time to doubt yourself or wish you’d played more to get ready. Now is the time to tell yourself, with positive thinking and affirmations that you’ve got this. Use this positive thinking proactively, even before you get to the course for that first round. Consider creating a pre-competition routine that includes breathing to stay calm and positive affirmations to boost confidence. You can then use positive thinking throughout the round to maintain your confidence.


Have fun

If you’re competing, you’re serious about your golf game. But, taking that level of seriousness to too much of an extreme can actually backfire; you might be creating more pressure for yourself. So, be sure to enjoy your time, especially between shots. Take in the beauty of the course, the fact that you’re playing golf today, or enjoying time with the other players—even though they’re your competition! Fun is a great way to relieve pressure, so find ways to have fun when you notice the stress and pressure building.


Pressure comes from different sources and without meaning to, we can create a lot of it ourselves. The good news about that, though, is that there is a lot you can do to help deal with the pressure you’re experiencing. By using these five strategies, you can likely reduce the amount of pressure you feel during the first round of competitive play.