All eyes this weekend will be on the Super Bowl AND the raucous par-3, 145-yard 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale. The only fully enclosed hole on the PGA Tour, the 16th is the star attraction of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. An enthusiastic crowd of nearly 20,000 spectators will engulf the hole and cheer and boo every shot, turning a somewhat ordinary tee shot into one of the most eagerly anticipated and unnerving in all of golf.
Now, chances are you’ll never hit a tee shot in front of 20,000 screaming spectators, but there may be times when there’s a group of people close by watching you or there’s quite a bit of commotion around you. Or maybe you’ll be playing the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale or the 17th at TPC Sawgrass for the very first time, and being aware of the history and nostalgia of the hole, you’ll put more pressure on yourself to hit a good shot and find the green. Nobody wants to go home and tell their spouse or friends that they put two in the water on one of the most famous holes in golf.
If you find yourself in either situation, the very first thing you have to do is understand that pressure is always internal, says Jeremy Anderson, GOLF Academy Lead Coach and Director of Instruction at Legacy Golf Resort in Phoenix, Arizona, just outside of Scottsdale. Whether it’s external noise, the uneasy feeling you get when people are watching you or the nostalgia of the hole or course you’re playing, it’s you applying pressure on yourself. And it’s you that has to do something about it.
“Like my friend and fellow teaching instructor Andy Walker used to say, ‘If you’re the one putting the pressure on yourself, you’re the one who needs to take it off,’ said Anderson, the 2018 Southwest PGA Section Teacher of the Year.
Just how do you do that? You can start by embracing the situation you’re in, says Anderson.
“Personally, I’ve always been one to get up for big moments and holes like the 16th at TPC Scottsdale,” said Anderson. “That’s one thing that’s always endeared me to golf. Playing basketball, I always wanted to be the one with the ball in my hands at the end of the game. That’s what is great about golf, everyone gets to be Michael Jordan.”
Here are three other things you can do to help eliminate that internal pressure you’re feeling, per Anderson, and help you master the scariest and most difficult of par-3 tee shots:
HAVE A ROUTINE AND STICK TO IT
Whether it’s the 16th at TPC Scottsdale or a par 3 at your local muni, think about your process and go through your pre-shot routine like you always do. If you don’t have a routine, then go see your local GOLF Academy coach or professional and develop one. Then rehearse it on the range extensively until it becomes second nature. Whatever it is, it needs to be the same every time. “A lot of times when you get out of character and hit a shot you don’t normally hit, it’s because everything changes,” said Anderson. “If you continue with the same process you’ve always used, and you cut out everything that doesn’t exist between your golf ball and the hole, then it should be no big deal.”
FAVOR THE BACK OF THE GREEN
On many par 3s, the front of the green is designed to be very narrow and the back of the green wider and more forgiving, like a “V”. In that instance, focus in on the back yardage and a club that’s going to land the ball two-thirds of the way onto the green. More than likely, you’ll be putting from near the back fringe toward the front of the green, but it’s better than being in the water or some other hazard.
GAUGE YOUR ADRENALINE
“You have to understand what your personality type is,” said Anderson. For example: If you’re someone who gets amped up in pressure situations and hits it farther due to the extra adrenaline, then take one less club (i.e., an 8-iron vs. your 7-iron) and make your normal swing. Convince yourself that you’re hitting your normal stock 7-iron—this way, you won’t swing any harder than necessary with the 8-iron. Now, if you have a somewhat laid-back personality or you tend to hit it shorter under pressure, then take one more club (i.e., a 6-iron vs. your 7-iron) and make your normal, stock 7-iron swing.