The A.N.S.W.E.R. to Tension and Pressure

Acute awareness of unfavorable mental and physical changes is fundamental to playing better golf. The best golfers habitually make tension checks every few minutes, so they can nix any negative changes before they snowball out of control. Make this your goal.

Ideally, you want to reset your emotions and renew your optimal performance state before every shot. To this end, I've developed the ANSWER Sequence--a simple, effective means of regaining and maintaining control of your mind and body even in the midst of high-drama, high-stress competition. Perform ANSWER between golf shots or in any situation where you need to control tension, anxiety, and focus. With practice, you'll be able to work through this six-step process in a matter of a few breaths.

Step 1: Awareness of anxiety, tension, or negative thoughts. Tuning into your "inner world" is the first step in creating a peak performance state. Use the following steps to counter the problem areas you diagnose.

Step 2: Normalize breathing. Irregular breathing multiplies tension, so strive for smooth, even breathing when the pressure is on.

Step 3: Scan for areas of muscular tension. To reduce tension, contract the affected muscles for a few seconds, then relax them and visualize the tension draining out like air from a balloon.

Step 4: Wave of relaxation. Take a slow, deep breath and feel the wave of relaxation wash from your head to your toes.

Step 5: Erase thoughts of the past--engage the present moment. Vividly visualize the ideal outcome and believe in it, but then return your thoughts to the moment and let the outcome take care of itself.

Step 6: Reset posture and flash a smile. Trust your abilities, try "softer", and have fun regardless of the results.

I invite you to print out the ANSWER Sequence for use at home, work, and on the links. Use this sequence regularly and I guarantee increased performance no matter the challenges you face.

Lisa Ann Hörst is Lancaster, PA-based teaching pro. Her new book, Golf Training: The Secrets to Effective Practice and a Lower Score (Finally!), is being heralded as "the most comprehensive guide to better golf" available that will "positively transform your game."

Copyright © Lisa Ann Hörst. All Rights Reserved.