Overcome First Tee Jitters

One of the most common problems in golf is first tee jitters. People go from the driving range, where they are relaxed and calm, to the first tee, where they are anxious and nervous. What causes this? Could be a number of things – from stage fright to uncertainty of technique. But what ever the reason — there is one simple exercise that can help you hit your best first tee shot.

When we’re nervous or stressed, our heart rate speeds up — so we have to slow it down. And learning to breath properly is the quickest way to get your heart rate under control. So, before your next round of golf — try this simple breathing technique and you’ll find it much easier to hit that opening tee shot.

Start this process 10 minutes before tee off. Get by yourself somewhere, whether on the range, putting green or just off the first tee. Then, clear your head and begin this simple method to slow your heart rate.

4-7-8 Breathing Method

Sit with your back straight. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there throughout the exercise. Exhale through your mouth around your tongue with your lips slightly pursed.

Follow these steps

1. Empty your lungs, making a wooshing sound

2. Close your mouth and inhale through your nose to a Mental count of 4.

3. Hold your breath for a count of 7.

4. Again, blow through your mouth. making a wooshing sound to a count of 8.

**This is one breath. Repeat the cycle 9 more times for a total of 10 breaths. Do it once or twice throughout the round in stressful situations.

As you are doing your breathing exercises, visualize the first tee shot and your ball going right down the middle.

Good Luck!

54 Responses to “Overcome First Tee Jitters”

  1. Michel says:

    I love first tee because everything is still possible and I am raring to go and liberate tons of energy.

    I hear a lot about using the surge of adrenaline, but it has never been satisfactorily explain how you get to divert that energy to fit your purpose.

    Keep them long and straight.

    Michel Wandel



  2. Declan says:

    I discovered ome Sunday morning, suffering from a mild hangover, that swinging slow gets the ball in play on the first tee. Since then I actually volunteer to tee off first and most partners allow you. It does 2 things, gets it over with and puts a little pressure on the others. I like the ‘childish notion’ you have suggested as it takes your mind off the ‘watchers’

  3. Hassan says:

    Hi Andy. Thanks for your email.

    The first tee-off-scare is always there with me – especially when the flight members are known to be playing better than me. And of course the many people waiting on the the buggies in the cue always disturb my concentration a lot and always.

    I tried the breathing exercise and it worked pretty well. On top of that my early break tee off has helped me tremendously now.

    Thank You Andy.

  4. Dave Ludick says:

    Andy, I find all your tips helpful but as I am 70 I need a tip to enable me to remember what I did 10 min. ago.

    Deep breathing works for me when I have to slow down, as the round goes on I tend to get quicker and quicker.

    My favourite format is “medal” as one has to concentrate more as there are no 2nd chances. I play off 15 and would like to be single figure for just once in my life before “father time” calls.

    Keep up the good work.


  5. Walt says:

    I use to struggle like most people with the “First Tee Jitters” until one day
    when I said to myself; “I’ve done this a million times over the last 45years.

    I not going to worry what happens. Just grip it and rip it! Of course the breathing exercises help too. But if I hit it badly?! So what!

  6. William Pilkington says:

    Luckily I have never had this problem, as I don’t take my golfing life that seriously and thi keeps me pretty relaxed.


  7. Ken says:


    Tony Lema was a family friend of ours when he lived and grew up in San Leandro, California. He certainly wasn’t a quitter and I think he would have been one of the best golfers on the tour for a LONG time if he had not met such an untimely death. His personality lit up a room and aside from the moniker of “Champagne Tony” he got from a reporter, he was a down-to-earth, blue collar kind of guy.

    I worked part-time for the U.S.P.S. while in college and used to deliver Special Delivery letters to him from the U.S.G.A. on Sunday mornings when he was staying at his mom’s house. He’d come to the door in pajamas and robe carrying a cup of coffee and always ask me in for a cup. Our standing joke was that “I’m sorry to bother you on such a nice Sunday morning, Tony.” He’d reply, “No bother Ken, I had to answer the darn doorbell anyway.” Being “on duty” I never took him up on his offer but he’d never to fail to “Say hi to your mom for me, OK?”

    We still miss him — with his never quit attitude and the twinkle in his eye

    Ken Rabello
    Pleasanton, CA

  8. tony says:

    Some other thoughts.

    1. Smile as this relaxes the body.

    2. Stare at your target and keep that focus. It spooks the other guys.

    3. Play aggressively. Don’t layup. You never win or loose it on the first but you can set the scene for a great round and put your openents under pressure.

  9. ed boyce says:

    Andy, thanks, I think I will benefit from that exercise. Ed

  10. Mark-John says:


    Thanks for the reminder! I’ve been using this technique to defeat shallow breathing for years, but stressful situations can actually cause one to forget it! I’ll use my putting practice just prior to teeing off as a TRIGGER to begin this exercise!

  11. Peter Jessen says:

    It will be a couple months before I can play again, hope I remember this technique.

    Actually this is probably a good stress reliever, mental focus, tool for everyday life.

    Thanks Andy,

    Peter in Omaha

  12. Bill says:

    Hi Andy, I used to always suffer with first tee nerves in competition, especially if there was a crowd watching. But this sort of dissapeared during 2009. Any other time I usually start very well, and even when nervous I often started well, but was more likely to start badly than when not being watched. However, during 2009, I started to have the attitude of “I want people to see how well I can hit the ball”, and relished having an audience. This wasn’t deliberate, it just happened. If my playing partners got off to a bad start, it was even better, because I knew I could do better than that, and it made it even more enjoyable, and even more likely to suceed hitting it straight down the middle. I developed an attitude, albeit subconsiously, a bit like that mentioned by Lester Rohrlach in sept 21st comment, I’ll show yez how its done”. When I realised this had happened, I actually used to hope there would be a bit of a gallery on the first tee. It actually improved my performance. Pity they wouldn’t follow me all the way around the course!

  13. Abu Nawar says:

    Hi Andy
    The breathing technique really works for me. Thanks for the tips
    I’m sure I could overcome my first tee jitters and also my approach shots.

  14. Lester Rohrlach says:

    For me that sounds like a lot of procedure to work through, starting 10 minutes before teeing off. For me it’s much much simpler to tee up, do my little routine, that is a couple of loosening swings, then just step up to the teed ball, glance at the target, club-waggle, club-hover, (here’s the secret now – let this thought momentarily flash through my mind “I’ll show yez how it’s done!” then take club back and pull the trigger.
    That is, start Positive, tell yourself you’ll show the party how to strike a beautiful tee shot.

  15. Kathleen O'Neill says:

    Instead of those women chattering on the 1st tee, which annoys me, I will pretend they are announcing and cheering me so I expect to hit a boomer off the 1st.
    Kathy NZ

  16. kobus erasmus says:

    The definition of fear is basically that you think of something that may happen in future which in reality did not happen. This thought or fear will actually make it a reality and it will most probably occur when the time comes to perform. If your fear or thought on the first tee is a great drive and you picture it in your mind the first drive will be a great drive. The moment you think that you may fail or you are afraid that you will hit a bad drive, you will most probably hit a bad drive. The key is super self confidence and failure never enter your mind.

  17. Sam Smedberg says:

    Hi Andy,

    I very much enjoy your e-mails.

    One strange thing about golf, as described in the tip above, is that in order to play good golf you sometimes have to imagine you are an actor and not playing golf, or for example when hitting a driver from tee imagine you hit a seven iron, or imagine you are doing whatever else you feel comfortable doing. And between shots tapping your forehead or rubbing your nose or playing mental games. Why can´t we learn how to play good golf by playing good golf, shot by shot? I ask you, and I ask myself, because that is how it works for me, too. In professional life focus on what is actually going on and how to react purposfully is very important. Why is golf so different? -is it??

  18. Dwight says:

    I have always employed a breathing technique to cope with stress.

    I like to inhale on the backswing and exhale thru my swing on any drive or approach shot.

  19. Lee Saxon says:

    I have always used this technique or something very similar. I’m a retired army sergeant and always felt the adrenalin surge as we embarked upon a mission in theatre. Using the technique as described and altering it slightly to suit your own individual requirement is the best advice anyone can receive.

  20. Keith says:

    I use a similar exercize if I have trouble sleeping so need to strike a balance between relaxing and sleeping. We had a brief Spring opening here in Calgary but it snowed last night( April 22) and is now -04C and windy. five months is a good season for us. Cheers.

  21. steve says:

    Hi Andy. I have a very important question for you. As you know I only started golfing at the beginning of May 2007 and I am 64 years old. I have a 33 handicap but I broke 100, 16 times last year. I have just found out through a few lessons that most of my hits are on the hozzel, believe it or not and yet I can still hit my 5 Iron about 125 yards doing that. How on God’s green earth can I get that stopped. Even with the lessons I’m still finding myself doing it. Thanks.

  22. Patricio Sabogal says:

    Ok…lets try it. I´ll write to you soon to tell you how it came out. What I try to do (this may help somebody) is play my first shot with my driver as if I were just making an approach. Totaly relaxed.
    Thank you for your excellent tips.

  23. Steven says:

    How I wish I had read this before playing a competition on Sunday 24th! I had 32 stable fold points with 3 holes to go when a bunch of giggling high school boys and girls joined our team to see how the local Tigers do it. The giggling irritated me causing me to blank the next 2 holes and get only a point at the last! The winner had 39 points. I came a disappointing 4th.

    I should have played to that gallery instead of reacting with anger and annoyance!

  24. Christine says:

    Hi Andy
    I do have my own breathing routine but I will try yours, my problem is remembering to do it every time not just on the tee, I am sure that would help me keep my head and improve the golf overall. Thanks for all your tips I took up golf quite late in life and haven’t been playing for long, a lot of tips are aimed at the more experienced golfer but I have found yours to be the best.

  25. Morgan Wilhelmsson says:

    Hello Andy,

    Proposed breath exercise will works for sure. But I think we must go a bit beyond the first tee to overcome the jitters there. A careful warming -up may lessen the tensions. But first and foremost,I think we must reflect on why we play this fine sport. Beeing with nice people(most often), fresh air and beautiful landscape around you and health-promoting exercise are some of the factors. Everyone can with these and other factors promote a positive cognitive map of why you enjoy the play then there is no catastrophy with a not-so- perfect first strike. I am afraid that there can be a certain risk bothering to much with the first tee. Just strive to play a nice and well-kept round in other words.


  26. Billy says:

    Andy, toooo funny. I enjoy reading your golf articles with the exception of this breathing one. If there are people breathing like this before my next tournament MY first tee jitters will be gone because I’ll be laughing too hard.

  27. Bill says:

    I was one of the worst on the first tee in a medal, I would top, thin, shank or any number of ridiculous shots, till I remembered some advice given to me by the Golf Pro at Phakalane Golf club in Botswana, his name was Richard Ayers and he always said, on the first tee, close your eyes after you have set up, breathe deeply and think of the best shot you have ever made on the course, then open your eyes and swing, it does work for me and I find that first tee jitters have gone completeley. By the way I believe he got this tip from Dale Hayes who is a close friend of his.

  28. Ian says:

    The flight or fight response is very real, and the adrenalin surge is the one that gives you the edge, whatever the situation.

    I find that visualisation of what i am doing, whether professionally as a Naval Officer or on the golf course, helps me to control and focus that surge. A phrase we use is “fire in the belly but ice in the mind” and this helps to understand ones’ emotions, not be scared by them.

    Keep up the good articles – shows how life encompassing golf is!

  29. Thein Oo Kyi says:

    Hi Andy,

    I have just read great advice from Lyall and feel that it will work for me. I have played only tournament within my group and do not have any problem at first tee but I need this advice for public tournament that I will participate in near future.

    Thank you and Lyall for advice.

    Best regards,


  30. Neil says:

    I love Lyall’s “secret” to overcoming 1st tee nerves. It’s childish and great fun and I’ve been doing it for years, and it beats all the more “technical” methods. Although for particularly stressful situations, the deep breathing followed by the imaginary hero visualisation works very well for me.

  31. bren dougal says:

    :lol:breathing tips are good,On the first tee I like to go first if i can and I say to myself I love an audience, get a good one away and sure enough it affects my playing partners who all try to beat it and get into all sorts of problems.

  32. Ron says:

    Much as I appreciate your advice, Andy, I guess I’ll take up tiddlywinks!
    But seriously… I have given up on all one-to-one tuition as well as books, video and other such advice. In my opinion, I will never break 100. (I did once, but that was a fluke!)
    True, I cannot expect a great deal, having taken up the game at retirement age, so I think I will just keep thrashing around the same old course. At least it gives me exercise!
    Good luck with the marathon.

  33. Hugh James Copeland says:

    First tee jitters used to bother me.My system or trick is to in the case of my home course is to think of the easy par 3 seventh hole on our course and play the first hole as if I was playing the seventh. The length of the holes are the same but the seventh has no major hazards to deal with and I find it works for me.

  34. Dee says:

    Thanks for the emails Andy,

    It is a great reminder for me to get back to basics, my game has gone down the toilet recently and I have actually cancelled a couple fo games at my club because I felt too embarrassed to play however, today I am off to the driving range with my four magic moves under my arm to get it back again.

    Just listeneing to these guys on the video has given me confidence again.


  35. Jack Simmons says:

    Hi Andy,

    Work on the 7 P’s, ex Andy McNab SAS

    M M plus others Prior Preperation & Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performances.

    It works Jack.

  36. Agus Hardjono says:

    Thanks Andy,

    Its work to me, excellent.

  37. kdutchman says:

    I say it is still good advice, it may not work for everyone but should be tried .

    Some people would gripe and complain if J.C. were there caddy. Keep up thr good work, I have found most of your advice works for me.

    One more thing, could we see more articles on using hybrids, I have a bag full and it really has improved my game.

  38. Conje says:

    The first tee isn’t a problem : it’s about the 3rd or 4th when I realise I might actually be playing alright that things begins to degenerate. As I’m still breathing at this point I put it down to an inherently bad swing which worsens when I start thinking about the mechanics of why I might be playing well !!

    I have some minor issues with your breathing advice:

    1. “Empty your lungs” – Can you imagine the contents of some golfers’ lungs at 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning? You don’t want that lot all around the first tee!

    2. “Close mouth, inhale, count” – this advice can surely only be aimed at lady golfers because as we (men) all know we can only do one thing at once.

    3. “Hold breath for a count of seven” – how fast does one count? – Too slowly and the first tee could be one big pile of bodies.

    4. “Exhale whilst counting to eight and making a whooshing sound” – can you imagine the racket if everyone started doing this?

    5. There is an awful lot of counting going on and the poor golfer is in danger of being all counted out before totting up all his shots during the round.

    6. The whole of the previous five points are probably irrelevant as somebody will probably have biffed you senseless whilst holding the following recommended pose -“Sit with your back straight. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there throughout the exercise. Exhale through your mouth around your tongue with your lips slightly pursed”!!


  39. Marini says:

    I’ll try, hope its can help ….

  40. norman says:

    First tee jitters are a reality, I even got nervous when my wife and I were announced as “observers” at the World Golf Championships held in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico in 2002. On one occassion at a sectional tournament where my son and I played, he got so nervous on the first tee, where there were at least fifty persons watching, that he teed the ball up too high, scooped under it and drove it almost straight up. I have tried the deep breathing technique and it works, not only on the first tee, but also on those do or die shots that pop up during a round.

  41. Hi Andy

    Thanks for all your great tips. I am playing golf for six years and last year joined the senior amateurs here in South Africa. I am 52 years old and my handicap is 15 and I enjoy every minute of my +- 4 hours on the golf course. I am very competitive and dream of the day that I walk away with the SA Amateurs Trophy.

    Thank you once agaion for helping me to better golfing

    Billy Paulson

  42. Peter Hunt says:

    I’ve used a similar technique for years in potentially stressful situations. The main point is to be calm butpurposeful.

    Any tips for golfers with bad backs? – mine’s kiling me at the moment!

  43. Renato says:

    Thanks for the breathing technique to relax.

    What I was wondering about is when hitting the ball whether iron or woods.

    Does one hold his breath inward during the take away (back swing) or be breathing (inhaling) simultaneous with the take away? and then exhale as one hits the ball during the down swing.

    Hope to hear from you soon.


    George says:

    In my opinion, there are two levels of breathing as it relates to the golf swing. Level One: At address, take a deep breath through your nose and exhale fully through your mouth. Do this through your pre-shot routine and end at the start of your backswing. It make take some time to feel comfortable with the timing of this — but the benefits are great, I promise. If done correctly, you should feel almost no tension before the first move back. This is a great starting point. Level Two: This is slightly more advanced — but well worth a go. There is an interesting book called “Quantum Golf” by Kjell Enhager and Samantha Wallace, which is more on the mental approach — but they address your question of breathing during the swing. In theory it makes sense, as it applies the same principles as martial arts, which teaches exhaling aggressively at the point of contact. Basically, releasing all your force at one moment. So yes, it can help to inhale in your backswing and exhale in your through swing. *One note however. It’s a through swing — not an “at swing”…make sure to exhale all the way to your finish. Not just at the ball. I tried this technique unsuccessfully for a short time. But I do think it has some merit. And one of my assistants fell in love with the process and hit the ball a mile. So, give it a shot.

    Good luck!

  44. ian thomson says:

    It works. Here’s another one that i got, or rather developed, from watching Colin Montgomerie. I call it the hunch and scrunch. As you set up, breath very deeply and let it all out. Then hunch your whole body up in a tense manner, and then let it go. When the body is still relaxed, start our turn, and then let the rest flow. i find i can scrunch the ball after that with some ease.

  45. Michael Black says:

    This breathing technique is fairly good, in fact, I use it before going on stage to sing. My first tee jitters are cured by convincing myself that I’ve already played 4 holes, and that I’m on the 5th; the down side of this is that my mind thinks it’s completed the round after 14 holes!

    Much of golf is in the mind – I try to visualise shots as simply repeats of good ones I may have hit some time ago, and it all comes flooding back, well most of the time!

  46. keegan says:

    well this method worked well for me
    it helped me to relax in those annoying situitations..:smile:
    this improved my round because when i got angry
    i made matters worse for myself by not concentrating
    but i did this and calmed me down and helped me to concentrate

  47. Kdutchman says:

    The people who knock evidently have the 1t tee jiters or have nerves of steel but, it worksfor me not only at th 1st tee but any time youare placed in a stressful situation. Tanks frthe tip Andy.

  48. Tom Gallagher says:


    Will try this breathing method,,need to as I have pulled my first two drives way left on my course in Malahide for the past three weeks and scored no points. Will try this in combination with your set up tips and let you know…your mails are very clear and helpful.


  49. Scott says:

    Thanks for the tip Andy. I’ll remember to use it next year on the linx. At this time of year I have put the clubs away for my bow. I am going to use this technique on the deer stand this Fall when that big buck comes walking in!

  50. nisar says:

    Deep breathing exercise has worked for me most of the time. The exercise is similar and therefore should be helpful.

  51. johnny boy says:

    Breathing relax exercise.
    Sounds like a lot of hot air to me.

  52. Norman says:

    Your breathing relax system is good for any type of jitters, first tee, speaking to an audience, a business presentation, asking her to marry you, etc. Those who practice Yoga well know the benefits of deep breathing and it’s benefic impact on all sorts of stress related activities.

    Barry’s Reply:

    A ‘medal’ competition is typically a major stroke play competition that golf clubs run on a regular basis. My own Club, and most others in Ireland, run a monthly medal competition throughout the year, always from the back (medal) tees. There is no reference in the Rules of Golf to a ‘medal’ competition. I think that the questioner used the term to illustrate that it was stroke play rather than match play.

  53. bo stromberg says:

    This might work to some extent, but I think what would be more crutial to examine if there is a thought pattern that results in nervousness. It might for instance be a fear to fail, for instance that people will think that I am an incompetent unsuccessful person if I try to improve and in spite of this come in with a score of say 100. If there are thoughts like this, awareness of them should reduce the negative consequences of nervousness. After all apart from professional players, we don’t really have to play well even if it is more fun if we do.

  54. joyce says:

    what is the point of holding the tongue behind the upper front teeth.

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