Thursday, October 4, 2012

First Tee Nerves And How To Avoid Suffering Them

What will people think?
I have a friend who doesn't play golf but she tried. When she was in college, she was limited to non-strenuous classes due to an old knee injury (basketball in high school). This was a challenge for a sports lover. She would have loved to been on the basketball team, softball team, and the competitive swimming team. But, alas, she was doomed to these fascinating PE classes: Synchronized Swimming (2 semesters), Archery & Badminton, and Golf & Bowling. She was a good bowler, having learned as a child and participated in bowling leagues all through high school. She loved to swim and enjoyed the Synchronized Swimming and she and her siblings were raised with a badminton set in the back yard. She had never held an archery bow, much less shot arrows at a target and, even though her parents were avid golfers, she had never even swung a golf club, much less at a ball.

When the golfing semester came around, she was not looking forward to it. She said she knew instinctively that she was going to be a terrible golfer and all she could think of for weeks was, "What will people think?" She said, "Here I was a healthy young woman with golfer parents and I was a great bowler and won the badminton tournament. What would my classmates think when I got up there and duffed the first shot?" Here's her story of how that first day went - see if any of this rings true for any of you golfers out there:

What if I missed the ball completely?
All I could think about for two weeks before the class started was walking up to the tee with a golf club in my hand and trying to hit that little ball. I knew I was going to miss it but if I did hit it, it wouldn't go far. I had watched my parents playing golf , practicing drives and putts in our huge yard and I knew I couldn't do this. The day was bright and sunny - it was April in Virginia and perfect golfing weather - for somebody. I had prayed for rain but alas - the moment arrived and I had to report for class.

I arrived with some classmates and we were told to pick out a set of clubs that were the right length. I looked at the row of carts, all holding a small golf bag with 6-8 clubs sticking out of the top. How in the world was I supposed to know which ones would be the right size. I watched some of my classmates who seemed to know more of what they were doing than I did. One of them took a long driver, held it in front of himself, pronounced it too short, and picked out another. I watched as he tried several more, finally settling on the right set for him. I asked him, "How did you know?" He said simply, "It just felt right."

The instructor arrived at that moment and blessedly helped me choose the right clubs and off we went for our first lesson. I was so happy to find that we would only listen and learn on that first day. We were shown how to hold the club - it took me most of that first class to get my fingers and hands in the right positions. Then we watched as the instructor illustrated the correct stance - feet just about as wide apart as the shoulders. We all stood as we were shown and then waited for the verdict. I didn't do too bad but then I have always stood around well.

The next class we still had things to learn so I figured I had another week before I had to try and hit the ball. Wrong!! We were fast learners, according to our teacher, and so before I knew what was happening, I was pushing a tee into the ground and trying to balance a golf ball on it. Four tries it took before that little sucker would stay on the tee. First lesson - put the tee in straight! Finally, it stayed and then I put the club down next to it and, you guessed it, the ball fell off. Three more times - I was a wreck by then and so I now have personal and extensive experience of the phenomenon known as "1st Tee Nerves."

What if I never got to swing the club? What if I did?
There was a moment in time when I seriously considered that I was going to fail PE because I could not get the stupid ball to stay on the tee. Every time I would get it to stay, it would fall off while I was "addressing" it or I would knock it off trying to get the club into place. The teacher finally had us practice getting the club in place and getting ready for the swing without the ball in place. Seems as if I wasn't the only one having trouble.

Anyway, I knew I would never be so lucky as to not have to play this game, and I certainly didn't want to have to repeat this course. I decided to go ahead and get it over with so I concentrated as hard as I could on that little white sphere, willing it to stay on the tee while I got ready to hit it - or try and hit it. The focusing must have worked as well as the teacher said it would because I finally got ready to hit the ball. It sat right there, big as life and let me swing my club at it. I couldn't believe it! I had actually swung the club and it didn't fly out of my hand and hit the teacher in the head. Of course, it didn't hit the ball either, but you can't have everything!!

What if I never get the ball to the hole, much less in it?
It was a long time coming, but finally I swung the club and actually hit that little ball. I was a wreck but it did travel a little ways down the fairway - not far - but at least I didn't end up in the woods like the others in my threesome. I must admit, I despaired of ever getting it to the end of the longest par-3 hole in the world of golf, but I did. It took six strokes and that was to get on the green. The teacher blessedly informed us that putting was for another day!

Does any of that sound familiar?
I told that story, with my friend's permission, because every single golfer, no matter how old or young, newbie or experienced, every one who picks up a golf club has to have a first time on a tee. Everyone has to start somewhere and no matter how good you were on that first day or how awful you were, you had to walk through that moment when you had to approach the tee for the first time.

Of course, if you're reading this, you have probably already had this experience so I'm not going to try and tell you how to get through that moment, at least not specifically. What I want to do is help my readers recognize the feelings that we all share every time we get ready to hit a golf ball. "1st Tee Nerves" can be the most agonizing but wait until your spouse or your teacher or, as I experienced, your oldest child plays a round with you for the first time. That's just as bad as having to hit the ball for the first time and any of you who are golfers will have to face something like this so here are some tips for you to be able to face the dragon.

- Don't ask, "What if?" Expect success not failure. Say, "Watch me."

- Be confident, especially if you've had a good teacher. Take your club and your ball and tell them both, "I'm in charge here."
- If it is your first time on a tee, pretend it's just your first time on this tee. Act like an old hand it this game and you soon will be one.
- Remember, you are not alone. Everyone around you, everyone with a golf bag full of clubs has been where you are and they've all felt just like you're feeling.

- Last, but not least, golf is a game - enjoy it!


This article was written by Keith Matthews from 

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