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Fight First Tee Jitters With New Approach

By Matt Hombach

For many golfers, the toughest shot of the entire round is the first one. Given the choice, many weekend players would rather face a 200-yard forced carry from the rough to an island green than hit their tee ball off hole No. 1.

Nervous golfers always share playful unsolicited disclaimers with their playing partners before their shot on the first tee, almost admitting defeat before they even tee it up.

"The truth is, hitting your drive on No. 1 is a nervewracking experience,” said Mark Helfrich, director of golf at the Suburban Club in Pikesville. “Golfers need to realize it’s only natural to be a little uptight about hitting your first shot of the day, especially if there are people watching.”

Helfrich said while it’s OK to be nervous, golfers shouldn’t let that tension ruin their first drive or ruin their round.


"The best way to combat first tee jitters is good preparation before the round,” said Helfrich, a PGA professional.  

Golfers should allow themselves plenty of time to hit balls and warm up before they tee it up. Once loose, don’t waste time beating balls. Hit shots with a purpose, and visualize the first hole and the shot needed to get there, added the Suburban pro.

Chris Hanson, a PGA professional at Longview Golf Course in Timonium, said mental preparation is another key to success on the first tee.

"It is important to get relaxed before the shot and don’t try to hit a shot, you’re not capable of pulling off,” Hanson said. “Just keep it simple and stay within yourself.”

Hanson also indicated that mental and physical rehearsal of the first tee shot (and every shot of the day) is vital to perform best.

“I go up there thinking about putting the last practice swing I just took on the golf ball.” he said. “I mentally picture taking that same relaxed practice swing on the first tee shot of the day.”

Hanson also said picking a specific target to aim for is important. Golfers can’t expect to hit the fairway with their first tee shot if they just aim at the fairway. Picking a specific tree or landmark on the horizon will give the best chance of golfing the ball where you want.


In addition to mental preparation before the shot, Helfrich encourages golfers to create and stick with a routine before every single shot, from the first tee all the way to the final approach on No. 18.

"Keeping with your pre-shot routine will help calm you down on the first tee, especially,” he said. “Everything seems more familiar and you become more comfortable when you stick with your routine.”

Helfrich also stressed that letting tension creep into the body on the first tee is a sure fire recipe for trouble.

"Whenever someone gets the feeling of fear, they tend to tense up and get quick,” he said. “And being tight and fast is not conducive to hitting good golf shots.”

Helfrich suggested golfers avoid getting too “handsie” with their swing and focus more on swinging the club with the major muscle groups in the body, including the shoulders and legs.


The University of Richmond’s golf team recently announced that Gilman High School graduate Brad Miller will be joining the team for the 2008-09 season. 

Miller was a standout on the Gilman team throughout his career, winning four letters and captaining the team his senior season. He finished second in the Maryland individual state tournament as a junior and senior, losing in a playoff his senior year. He won the Maryland Junior Amateur Tournament in 2006.

Miller was the 2008 Baltimore Examiner Player of the Year and was also selected to the Baltimore Sun All-Baltimore City and All-Metro teams. He also volunteers with Project GAIN, a nonprofit that helps to teach disabled people how to play golf.

The Ace Brigade

Henry Kahn, a longtime member of Suburban Club, recorded his first hole-in-one on hole No. 6. He used a rescue five club.

Chad Kendrick got his round off to a fast start at The Woodlands recently when he aced No. 2 there.

Bill Kroll, a regular at Rocky Point, scored an ace on No. 7.

Mark Logsdon rolled in a hole-in-one at Greystone in northern Baltimore County on No. 12.

Bill Bennett recently aced No. 17 at Diamond Ridge, a 180-yard par 3.

To report your hole-in-one or any aces by golfers at your course,

Issue 3.24: June 12, 2008