In an ocean of nerves and negative first tee feelings, you need a liferaft to get you through the choppy waters. This liferaft is a routine that consists of a methodical warm up session combined with a well thought out pre-shot routine. Let’s begin with arriving at the golf course. Give yourself plenty of time to check in, use the locker room, and get something to eat. You certainly don’t want to feel rushed if you don’t have to. Next start with putting, chipping, and pitching. This will give you a sense of how you feel with a club in your hand, and allows you to get familiar with the green speed, weather, and your swing tempo.
From there, move over to the driving range and work your way up through the bag from the wedge up to the driver. Ensure that the last club you hit on the driving range is the club that you will use on the first tee. From there, let’s rely on the well groomed pre-shot routine. At this point, your pre-shot routine should be second nature. Concentrating on the pre-shot routine takes your mind off any nerves from the first tee. If you don’t have a pre-shot routine, here is a simple one you can use or modify.
First, take a practice swing from behind the golf ball. Look for something (piece of discolored grass, dirt patch, divot, etc.) in front of your golf ball that allows you to find a target line. Then stand perpendicular with this line and address the golf ball. Now here’s the secret- look down at your target line and give yourself a little waggle with the club. Once your eyes comes back down to the golf ball, you must start your swing. This keeps you fluid and doesn’t allow your mind to get hung up on anything but the swing. The act of the eyes returning back to the golf ball puts you in a reactive mode, relying on your practice and muscle memory. If you give yourself a chance to think about anything else, nerves creep in.
In summary, be reactive on the first tee box. Focus on a good pre-shot routine, and give yourself enough time to get familiar with the environment. I know you’ll hit more fairways in no time!