In golf, exactly the situation you are most afraid of is exposed. If there is a certain pressure on you and you stand in front of a ball and think, ‘Anywhere but the bunker’ or ‘Anything but the water’, you can guess where the ball is most likely to go.
If you find yourself in a seemingly impossible position in the sand with a towering bunker wall looming in front of you, don’t be intimidated by the situation before you even start swinging. Don’t climb into the bunker with fear already, and don’t grip the handle so tightly that even a weightlifter couldn’t loosen it again.
Reduce your tension already on the way to the bunker, let your club loose in your right hand. This relaxes your arms and shoulders and promotes the extension of the right arm in the follow-through swing. This allows your club to slide across the sand instead of digging in with the edge.
To perform this stroke, you should open the club head and keep the club shaft centered. Place your foot firmly, keep your lower body stable, and swing your arms with a smooth wrist motion. Fix a point a few inches behind the ball, take a full swing, and swing through. Concentrate on the finish, and the ball will bounce out easily.
Avoid the danger zone
If there is an obstacle on the right side of a runway, this can cause enormous stress – especially if your regular flight path is from left to right. Tend to try to control the drive. In doing so, you risk jerking the ball even further into the mess, or even yanking the ball to the left into a problematic lie.
In this situation you should visualize and execute a controlled stroke with a trajectory from right to left. Tee the ball for it on the left side of the tee. Imagine a shot that starts on the right side of the fairway and turns back toward the center of the fairway (photo above). Point your body slightly to the right of the target or directly at the target.
In the swing, your clubface will be closed and you will play a draw. Don’t aim too far to the right: in case you unintentionally play the ball straight, your ball should stay in play.
Practice the two-putt
No matter what handicap you have, there will always be putts that matter. When nerves start to show, remember your practice swings. This could be useful for you in the first step.
But the key to accurate long putts is length control. Practice playing long putts to within inches of the hole – this will take tremendous pressure off your game.
Start by standing upright in the response position.
Stay loose in the upper body, especially the shoulders and neck should stay relaxed. Hold the putter grip in the middle so that the tip points to the belly button. Relax, worry less about swinging and more about hitting the ball with the center of the clubface.
A clean hitting stroke leads to a better roll and a shorter second putt.
Hit over the hazard
It’s amazing how an obstacle between you and your target – a ditch, a deep bunker, or very thick rough – will shoot into your head and turn a simple groundstroke into a disaster. What is the most common mistake?
Many players fall backward trying to spoon the ball over the obstacle in front of you. Instead, take a cue from tour players on approach shots. Calculate three distances: a safe location guaranteed to be outside the obstacle, the distance to your actual target, and the distance to the back of the green. The distance you target for your club selection should be slightly ahead of the back green edge.
In the swing, make sure you bring your weight forward in the follow-through and rotate your body along with it to full finish – arms, chest and lower body rotate together.
Remember that you have a lot of freedom of movement. You should feel free to swing with control. Provided you hit the ball with full power, the ball will be at the back of the green. Instead of focusing on how much danger you have to overcome, be aware of how much space you actually have in your landing zone.
You need more training tips? Then take a look at this one: Chipping, pitching, putting: The boss is you! Tips from Jordan Spieth