To many, the ultimate dream is to have enough money to retire peacefully and spend the rest of their lives basking in the beautiful greenery while playing golf. The vast open space and the calming breeze of nature seem like just the right antidote for stress. 

True enough, golf has been found to reduce stress and promote good mental health. “When you step into a green space, there’s a number of things that happen with both your physiology and psychology,” says University of Virginia Environmental Psychologist Jenny Roe. According to her, the green triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, which is associated with relaxation and changes your stress physiology. This means that being in a green space promotes better and more efficient stress management.

While golfing is a great way to counter stress and anxiety, it can be the opposite for some—especially for the most passionate players. The competition can take its toll on you, urging you to improve your game and prove yourself. What is supposedly meant as a fun game with friends can turn around and become anxiety-inducing for you. 

Don’t let stress take away the fun of your favorite sport. Keep your spirits up before, during, and after the game with these simple yet effective tips.

1. Warming Up Does Wonders

Just like in any other sport or physical activity, a good warm-up before picking up the club should help lift your mood. Flush all the bad vibes out of your system by spending some time to stretch your back and loosen your shoulders. Even a simple warm-up of stretching before golfing can help you improve in terms of range of motion by up to 17 percent. It also helps in preparing your body for the required swings and motions of golf from the very first stroke, eliminating your risk for injury and helping relieve any chronic joint pain. 

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Putting your head in the game is not enough to score some shots; you also need to be physically ready to deliver your peak performance.

2. Practice Your Putting

Practicing your putting on the green before anything else should help you find comfort in the game thereafter. After all, putting comprises 43 percent of golf. Furthermore, the putting stroke is considered the smoothest and slowest of all golf strokes. 

Warming up on the green beforehand will effectively prepare you for the speed demands of the game. Apparently, speed control is an essential skill in putting and should serve as an advantage during the game. 

3. Don’t Let the Negatives In

Sometimes, what holds you back is your own negative thinking. To fully perform in the game and enjoy it while it lasts, always make room for mistakes. When you hit a hook or land in a sand trap, they’re over before you even think about them. Don’t dwell on the negative thoughts. Instead, think about how your next swing is going to be better.

4. Imbue Positive Thinking

Instead of thinking about your mistakes, focus on the positive. Think about your best swing or about the last great game you’ve had, and take confidence from it. When you start thinking only about the good things and not dwell too much on how you could have made the shot better, it should take most of the pressure off your system. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself aiming for a long drive and making a stellar shot in the end.

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5. Listen to Your Body

Stress is not just a mental thing; it also affects the physical body. When your body is not conditioned for a certain sport, the rest will follow—and you can bet you won’t be liking the results that much. 

Keep your body in tip-top shape, and warm up using simple breathing exercises. Take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, and slowly exhale. Repeat the process several times until your heartbeat slows and you find yourself more relaxed and at ease at the green. This puts you in a much better condition and keeps you focused during the game.

6. Socialize with Your Community

The entire golfing experience isn’t just about the sport. It also includes socializing with the community of golfers that you have collectively built. Don’t just engage in small talk about charging golf cart batteries or where to get them when you ride with your opponent on the buggy. Hitting happy hour together after golf may find you a friend for life. Whether you win or lose, interacting with other players can make the whole experience much more pleasant. 

You may win today and lose the next day—and that’s totally fine. That’s the nature of any sport. Don’t let stress hinder you from enjoying a hobby you love. When you follow these tips by heart, you just might find yourself loving golf more and more.