Swinging Under Control
All golfers have certain tee shots that really get their nerves jumping. That extra pressure usually knocks your swing out of sync. You might be too fast off the ball, or you might yank the club down from the top. Wherever your fear kicks in, the best remedy is to focus on rhythm.
In greenside bunkers, amateurs tend to lock their bodies in place and swing with only their arms. Big mistake. Because you don't actually hit the ball in a bunker--you hit the sand behind the ball--you have to swing like you're 50 or 60 yards out. Would you swing with only your arms from 60 yards? No. So turn your body back and through.
Here's a great swing thought: Try to swing the club back and down at the same speed (above). Your downswing will naturally be faster--because you're driving forward and unhinging your wrists--but the feeling of matching up the speeds will help you swing in the correct sequence.
But don't wait until you're over the ball to recognize the pressure. Make sure you don't speed up or slow down your pre-shot routine--yes, nervous golfers do both. Take your normal setup, and just think about making a smooth acceleration going back and a smooth acceleration swinging through. You'll distract yourself from whatever is causing the fear, and you will lose those butterflies.
BUTCH HARMON, a Golf Digest Teaching Professional, runs the Butch Harmon School of Golf at Rio Secco, in Henderson, Nev.