stress management

LPGA Tour winner: These four things increase stress on the course. How many are you guilty of?

August 08, 2023

Sarah Stier

Everyone experiences stress on the golf course to some degree, but you don’t have to accept a stressful state as the status quo. LPGA Tour winner Sandra Gal says there are some simple things you could be doing on the golf course that are causing stress, without you even knowing it. Gal, who is taking time away from the tour as she rehabs from hip surgery, is working as a golf performance coach. She’s applying her LPGA tour knowledge to solve common golfers’ problems and says that if you get rid of these four bad habits, you’ll remove stress from your game.

Rushing to the golf course at last minute

Who among us isn’t guilty of this one? But if you can avoid putting yourself in a situation where you’re sprinting from the parking lot to the first tee, Gal says you can remove stress from your round and positively affect your swing tempo.

“Doing things fast increases our heart rate and gets us into a state of stress. Our breathing gets faster and more shallow and our thoughts start to race. We typically also start swinging faster and our tempo gets out of sync,” Gal said. “The way we begin our day typically mirrors the rest of the day.”

Repeating your swing thoughts in your mind

If you’re carrying multiple swing thoughts in your head, you’re setting yourself up for a stressful round, says Gal.

“When we have too many swing thoughts there is no room to focus on our target. So ultimately the body doesn’t know where it is swinging to. It is better to hit a shot with an average swing and clear target in mind, than having four swing thoughts and no target. Keep it simple,” Gal said.

Holding your breath

You might not even realize that you’re holding your breath on the golf course. Pay attention as you walk up to your shot, are you inhaling deeply? Or are you taking quick, small breaths? Even worse, are you not breathing at all?

“When we are worried or stressed, we tend to hold our breath or take short, shallow breaths,” Gal says. “It creates tension in the body and mind. Breathing out for longer in our out-breath than our in-breath slows down the heart rate and calms the nervous system.”

Focusing on your score

Some people can handle knowing their score or looking at leaderboards during tournaments, but it’s not for everyone.

“Most people get negatively affected by focusing on score, because they get into a result-driven mindset, which takes them out of the present and the process,” Gal said. “The quality of our attention in the present moment determines the quality of our end result. So, if we start worrying about our score, we are playing worry-golf. If we focus on enjoying the process, typically the end result is quite fun, too.”