Five Musts for the First Tee

PICTURE THE FIRST TIME you spoke before a large audience: hands and arms trembling, sweat beading on your forehead, butterflies in your stomach. Sound familiar? That's exactly the feeling many golfers must overcome every time they step to the first tee.

Why the anxiety? Because the first tee shot is often considered the most important swing of the day. Drive the ball in the fairway, and your confidence is sky-high; hit it out of play, and your mind starts racing. That's way too much pressure to put on any shot. If you want to be successful with your first shot of the day, lighten up -- and pay careful attention to these five stress-busters.

1. BE WARY OF THE DRIVER

Macho doesn't count for much on your first shot. Pick a club you're comfortable hitting. If you lack confidence in your driver, leave it in the bag. Instead, choose a 3-wood, a long iron -- whatever club gives you the best chance of hitting the fairway -- and stick with it until you've developed enough confidence to give the driver a try.
SAM GREENWOOD


2. STICK TO THE PLAN

Zero in on your target and determine the shot shape you want. Visualize the ball landing in the middle of the fairway, and don't look back. Resist making last-minute judgments or decisions born of anxiety. If your opponent just hit a mammoth tee shot and you'd like to incorporate something you saw in his backswing, now is not the time to change your swing.


3. REHEARSE YOUR SWING

Ever notice how many players' practice swings look better than their full swings? That's because there's no ball to hit and no outcome to be concerned with; hence, no anxiety. That's the feeling you want on the first tee. So focus on your target and make a practice swing. Then step up and make your real swing. Provided there's no interference in between the two, you should be able to make the same swing when it counts.


4. WAGGLE TO REDUCE TENSION

Waggle the club, sensing the weight as you move the clubhead back and forth. This is a great way to relieve tension in your grip, which helps to smooth your tempo and increase backswing turn. Another way to release tension is to focus on images that relax you. It could be sitting on a beach reading a book, or visualizing the ball flying to your target.


5. COMPLETE YOUR BACKSWING

Once your swing is in motion, your only thought should be to complete a full backswing turn. The problem with anxiety is that it doesn't slow you down; it speeds you up. Some people are in such a hurry to get the first shot over with that they fail to complete their backswing. This leads to a lack of power and poor contact.

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