How to beat first tee nerves

Published 24/11/2010 07:13:00

Hitting any tee shot is tough, but when it's your first of the day and it seems as if the entire clubhouse is watching, getting off the first tee can be terrifying. Take heart: Even the pros experience nervousness on their opening drives. You must learn to keep your fears from destroying any chance of making a good swing. Here are two ways to help you stay calm.


Use a Practice Net

Even though most opening holes are wide open, first-tee pressure can make it seem like a narrow strip of fairway hemmed in by trouble. Block the hazards out of your mind by imagining you're hitting into a large practice net sitting in front of the tee. Be sure you're properly aligned, then try to hit the ball solidly into the net. Eliminating "direction distress'' will relieve a lot of pressure.


Hit It Short

Golfers often swing harder on the first shot than any other during the round. Speeding up is a natural response to pressure -- you want to get it over with. But that usually results in a quick, jerky swing and a terrible result. To help you slow down, change your attitude. Pretend you're on the driving range and try hitting the ball 20 yards shorter than usual. Relaxing and slowing down for a shorter shot will take the edge off your swing, allowing you to make a smooth pass, solid contact and crowd-pleasing results.


Teeing Up the Irons

On the tee, you can create the perfect lie for your shot. But no one lie is perfect for all situations, particularly on par threes, where you'll likely be using irons. Because irons differ in loft and length, you must tee the ball at different heights to maximize your chances of solid contact. Here are some guidelines to follow.


Long Irons: Help Yourself Up

If you have problems getting long irons airborne, teeing higher should give you the confidence to hit a good shot. Set the ball about a half-inch above the ground, but no more. You want to make contact on a slight upswing; tee it too high and you're likely to scoop the ball, resulting in a shot that's skied and short.


Middle Irons: Level Lie

With the 5-, 6- and 7-irons, the club should be moving on a level path when it strikes the ball, so your tee height should about a quarter-inch. That lets you make a level swing without hitting the grass, but isn't so high that you hit the ball on the upswing.


Short Irons: Little to None

Just because you're hitting a tee shot doesn't mean you must use a tee. Short irons require a descending blow, so if you tee a 9-iron as high as you do a 4-iron, you'll probably hit more tee than ball and launch the ball straight up into the air. You may get excellent results by finding a good lie and hitting without a tee. But for confidence, use a tee and push it almost all the way to the turf so just the very top of the peg shows. The ball won't look teed up but will be off the grass enough to guarantee clean contact.


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