A variety of emotions create nerves on the pitch. Excitement, fear, anticipation and embarrassment can all raise the pulse and make us question golf’s supposed reputation as a relaxing activity.
With that, we offer our ranking of the 20 most nerve-wracking moments in golf. You don’t need to be playing on TV for millions of dollars to get your hands sweaty over an important shot.
Sure, ranking an emotional response is inherently subjective, but this writer has experienced each of these situations, and we’re guessing you have too. So read on to see if we got it right, or if your golf anxiety is triggered by something else.
20. Looking through your bag and not seeing the wedge you left two holes ago
Reality sets in: Either take the golfer’s walk of shame to retrieve your lost club, or wait until after the round to see if a good Samaritan picked it up.
19. Seeing a group looking for a ball right where you just picked up a brand new Pro V1
It turns out wash too good to be true and now you are faced with a moral dilemma. Do you confess your crime or keep the $5 ball that was just off the fairway?
18. A three-foot putt on the first green in competition
What is normally a scoop-it-up and move-on situation is now suddenly a palm-shaking test to see if you really have what it takes to play competitively.
17. First tee shot after a terrible warm-up
Right, left, lump, thin. There is no damage to the track, but when you are forced to take the wobbly turn to the track, anxiety sets in.
RELATED: How to beat jitters off the first tee and get your round off to a good start
16. When you’re the last one to put a six-footer in a fight
If you want a chance to grab that pro-shop credit in your company outing, you can’t miss six-footers in your four-person match. You are the last line of defense.
15. Seeing water on THAT side of the hole
Sure, many of us struggle with a two-way miss, but we all have that one direction we fear seeing trouble.
14. Opening tee shot on a bucket list course
The Old Lane. Rolling Stone. Bandon Dunes. Knowing that you may only have one chance to play these hallowed courses adds some extra nerves on the first tee.
13. Having a three-footer to avoid a four-putt
You are angry, but you can live with anger. This is the shame and embarrassment you must avoid with this knee brace. Three-putts happen. Fireputts shakes up your identity as a competent golfer.
12. Playing from the wrong fairway while another group is watching
Play it cool or admit you blocked it 60 yards right? Either way, you’re on another group’s hole, and yes, they’ll be eager to see you follow up on yours Forrest, right! tee ball
11. Down to your last golf ball
Another anger and shame situation. Yes, you’re angry that you’ve dropped six balls in 10 holes, but you risk shame if you snap-chop the last pellet and are forced to turn to your partners for relief.
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10. Not finding your ball in the rough in a match
You’re sure the ball was right on the fairway, but it’s down and the clock is ticking. In competition, there is no reprieve if you don’t find it.
9. Hitting a bunker shot after you hit the last one
You’ve just recovered from the embarrassment of walking 40 yards across the green to find your chipped ball and now, a few holes later, you’re back in the sand.
8. Re-tee after hitting an out-of-bounds
A bad shot can be an anomaly. Thaw? It’s a user error. Whether a big number becomes a BIG number depends on this one swing.
7. Stepping into a five-footer for your first eagle
You don’t know when you’ll get this opportunity again, and your shaking hands seem to know it, too.
6. Walking up to a group you accidentally bumped into
You made a mistake and you’re about to find out the price to pay. If you’re lucky, you’ll get away with a “No worries, it missed us!” but you can just as easily find yourself profusely apologizing to a merciless foursome.
5. Next shot after a shaft
Shanks come in one of two forms: the rare single or the patterned type that comes and doesn’t leave. As you stand over your next shot, you’re about to find out which one you’re dealing with.
4. Play through a group
You know you have to get out of the way quickly, and you have to do it with four curious onlookers. Heart-pounding stuff.
RELATED: A golfer’s definitive guide to playing through
3. Standing on the first tee in a competitive round
Sure, it’s a little bland, but anyone who’s trotted it out with a scorecard in their back pocket knows the concoction of anticipation, fear, and excitement that creates this anxiety.
2. Playing the 18th hole when you’re on the verge of a career low
You are about to break through the barrier that has dominated your golfing mind for so long. Your sense of satisfaction as a golfer rests on these crucial 15 minutes as you attempt to close out the round of a lifetime.
1. Hit your opening tee shot with a crowd… when you haven’t warmed up
This gets the top spot for a few reasons. You haven’t hit any balls on the course so you have no idea what to expect. The most important thing, however, is that your image around the club is irrationally affected by how well (or badly) you hit it. Nothing fuels the conversation among your drunken peers like a carabiner. Or worse, a streaky drive could ignite debate about your sandbagger status.