Performing under stress in golf

May 10, 2006 (PRLEAP.COM) Sports News
Have you ever watched professional golfers on television and wonder what these golfers are worried about and what they do to cope during competition? A new study from the Carnegie Research Institute, Leeds Metropolitan University revealed the stressors and coping strategies used by elite adolescent golfers during a 31-day diary study.

A study of Wales’ best 11 young international golfers aged between 15-18 years old revealed the stressors and coping strategies employed to manage these stressors. The golfers were asked to maintain a stress and coping diary during the most important competitions of the season including the European team championships, the British Boys Open and the Welsh Amateur Championships.

“We found that mental error, physical error, an opponent playing well and the weather were the most reported stressors among the golfers. Even though the golfers reported a vast number of stressors, these four stressors comprised over 75% of all stressors reported,” said co-author Dr. Adam Nicholls, a research fellow with the Carnegie Research Institute, Leeds Metropolitan University. The study was published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, and was conducted jointly with Dr. Nick Holt from the University of Alberta and Dr. Remco Polman from the University of Hull.

To golfers used a variety of coping strategies to manage the pressure. Blocking, attempts to increase concentration and making technical adjustments were the most frequently reported coping responses. However, Dr. Adam Nicholls would urge golfers to refrain from making technical adjustments during competitive play, “the time to make any technical adjustments is on the practice range rather than on the course. Making any swing changes can often lead to more frustration and very rarely leads to a positive outcome. I would recommend that focus on trying to controlling their emotions.”

A key of observation was that the fluctuations of the frequency of stressors reported appeared to be related to the importance of the competition. The golfers reported the most stressors during the prestigious European Championships whereas the frequency of reported stressors declined during the less prestigious tournaments. “This was not a surprising finding, but it demonstrates the importance of a thorough mental preparation prior to competition, especially the big competitions,” said Dr. Nicholls.

The key to dealing with stress, regardless of sport or level of competition is having a repertoire of mental skills. Dr. Nicholls said “People who participate in sport should be taught and then practise a variety of coping skills. Coping is a skill and the more an athlete practises the better they will become, at managing the negative effects of pressure.”