The Stress Effect

By David BreslowFebruary 23, 2005, 5:00 pm
There is one thing that affects the golf swing as much or more than any other single factor. What is it? The stress effect.
 
Managing stress is high on the priority list for many golfers both amateur and professional. Some teaching professionals have expressed to me that students could speed up their learning if they could reduce their muscle tension during a lesson.
 
Stress is a very individual matter. While one person may love the thrill of flying, another person may become a wreck at the very thought of it. While one golfer may love the challenge of sinking a three foot putt to win, another may experience high anxiety and stress resulting in a poor stroke.
 
Stress itself isnt all bad. Positive stress can help you perform better because it triggers feelings of excitement, optimism and challenge. Positive stress is a natural response to a situation that is perceived as exciting or a good challenge. Negative stress however, can interfere with your performance by producing tension and anxiety. The perception is quite different when negative stress is triggered. Our perception has everything to do with whether we trigger a positive stress or negative stress response.
 
Negative stress can affect your game on so many levels. Thats how pervasive it is. When our grip is too tight on the golf club we create tension in the hands and arms which interfere with a smooth and powerful golf swing. We see the affects of stress in putting when it causes the infamous yips to occur. Reducing stress can easily be overlooked as an area of performance development. While many are focused on being mechanically sound and technically solid, its stress that can play a role in sabotaging even the best swing mechanics.
 
Here are some of the ways negative stress can affect your game:
 
1. Reduced Power
The more tension you have in your muscles the less power you have. Tight muscles reduce oxygen flow, blood flow and energy flow. Think back to when you hit the ball with power. Were you feeling relaxed or were you feeling tight and tense over the ball? Power occurs when our bodies are relaxed not when they are stiff, tight and rigid.
 
2. Reduced Rhythm and Feel
What happens when you try to kill the ball? This often results in hitting a less than desirable shot. Muscles that are too tight create movements that are stiff and lack fluidity. When hitting shots that require more feel, stress reduces our ability to use our fine motor muscles effectively.
 
3. Reduced Energy
When are over- stressed we lose energy and feel more fatigued than we normally do. Have you ever been really upset on the golf course? Did you notice how much this sapped your energy? It takes a lot of energy to be angry, nervous frustrated and upset. If that negative energy is not channeled into constructive avenues it will take a toll on the mind, body and emotions causing them to function ineffectively.

4. Restricted Breathing
Stress affects our ability to breathe deeply and comfortably. Instead of deep relaxed breathing the breath becomes short and can feel stuck because the chest and abdominal muscles are constricted. Sometimes we even hold our breath without realizing it. More players are learning the value of proper breathing and the positive effect it has on performance. Proper breathing shouldnt be used for pressure situations. It can be helpful in relaxing the muscles, calming the nervous system and is important over every shot.
 
Next time you play pay attention to the following:
  • Tension level in your hands

  • Tension level in your upper legs

  • Tension level in your feet

  • Tension level in your neck/shoulders

  • Whether your finish is full and smooth
Your awareness of your tension levels in these areas can help you reduce it and restore energy flow.
 
Special Note: The FlowZone TeleCourse dates and times are now available. Classes are set to begin March 15 and limited space is available! Weve also reduced the Private Coaching fee for TGC readers to anyone registering before March 1st. To receive information on course listings, dates, times and new very reasonable fees; email: David@theflowzone.net. Class sizes are limited!
 
Related Links:
  • David Breslow Article Archive
     
    Copyright 2005 David Breslow. David is the author of Wired To Win and offers the highly acclaimed FlowZone program: Your Resilience Factor: Adapt and Excel in any Environment Workshop and TeleCourse that takes performance to the next level. David has appeared on The Golf Channel, ESPN radio, etc. For more programs/services/products or sign up for a free newsletter (write newsletter in subject box). Contact: David Breslow 847.681.1698 Email: David@theflowzone.net or visit the web: www.theflowzone.net For book orders call toll free: 1.888.280.7715
  • Getty Images

    DEFCON Tiger: Woods' Saturday lights Twitter ablaze

    By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 22, 2018, 8:15 pm

    Tiger Woods grabbed the Tour Championship lead and the sports world by the throat Saturday, making birdie on six of his first seven holes in his third round and sending social media into a frenzy.

    Here's a sampling from athletes, journalists and celebrtiies, and we'll start with two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry.

    Getty Images

    Lewis fires 61, two behind Herbert in Portugal

    By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 8:13 pm

    VILAMOURA, Portugal – Tom Lewis came within two shots of tying English countryman Oliver Fisher's European Tour record on another day of low scoring at the Portugal Masters on Saturday.

    Lewis returned a 10-under 61 in the third round, just 24 hours after Fisher carded the first 59 on the circuit. Lewis moved to two strokes behind leader Lucas Herbert of Australia.

    Lewis acknowledged the thought of another 59 crept into his mind: ''It's something I noticed with three holes to go. I wasn't that bothered at the end of the day.

    ''I'm pleased that I shot 10 under par. I can only continue to make birdies and see what happens tomorrow.''

    Herbert, who is playing off invites this season as he looks to earn his full tour playing privileges, shot a 64 for a 19-under total of 194.

    Fisher took 10 more strokes than he did on Friday and was in a group on 14-under 199.

    Sergio Garcia of Spain, trying to find form ahead of next week's Ryder Cup, was on 204 after a 68.

    Getty Images

    Tiger Tracker: Tour Championship

    By Tiger TrackerSeptember 22, 2018, 7:25 pm

    After grinding out a 68 on Friday, Tiger Woods is trying to get the lead all to himself in Round 3 at the Tour Championship. We're tracking him.


    Getty Images

    Highlights: Tiger's seven Saturday birdies so far

    By Nick MentaSeptember 22, 2018, 7:08 pm

    Tiger Woods entered Saturday tied atop the board and wasted little time taking the outright lead at East Lake.

    Woods moved clear of the field with this birdie at No. 1, whipping the Atlanta crowd into an early frenzy.

    Following a 4-foot par save at the second, Woods moved ahead by two and reached 9 under par when he played this approach from 144 and sank this 8-footer for birdie at the third.

    One hole later, Woods reached double digits at 10 under par when he poured in a bending 21-footer that just crept over the lip.

    He made it four birdies in his first five holes when he bombed a 320-yard drive, wedged to 7 feet, and converted again.

    He looked in danger of not capitalizing on his first crack at a par-5 after he came out of a fairway wood on his second shot, but a splash from the bunker and a make from 6 feet gave him his fifth circle in six holes.

    He went Vintage Tiger at the seventh, playing this fairway bunker shot from 172 yards to 5 feet, setting up his sixth birdie in his first seven holes and advancing him to 13 under, five clear.

    Looking to make the turn in 29, Woods instead missed the green at the par-3 ninth, failed to get up and down for par, and had to settle for 5-under 30.

    Following pars at 10 and 11, he started looking this approach up and down at the 12th, leading to his seventh birdies of the day.