Fear is the greatest hazard in golf.
Sam Snead once said, "Of all the hazards, fear is the worst". Jack Nicklaus once wrote, "fear of any kind is the number one enemy of all golfers, regardless of ball-striking and shot-making capabilities".
With fear, golf is no longer a game of A to B. Instead of being committed to a single target, we become preoccupied with where NOT TO GO and what NOT TO DO. the result being, as famed golf instructor Butch Harmon once said, "...we get so afraid of hitting bad shots, we don't let ourselves hit good ones."
Golfers generally underestimate the detrimental effect that fear can have on their swing. I first became aware of it over 40 years ago, while going through a long period of struggling with short putts. As soon as I drew the putter head back a fearful thought would pop into my mind and negatively influence my stroke. What I found amazing was that my hands would respond to the thought seemingly IN UNISON with the negative thought. My stroke didn't actually RESPOND to the thought, my stroke instantaneously REFLECTED the thought.
Fear can also affect a golfer's perception. The fear of missing the fairway will make wide fairways suddenly APPEAR narrower. The fear of missing putts will make the hole suddenly APPEAR smaller and make the greens APPEAR more difficult to read.
So what causes fear? Short game guru Dave Pelz writes, "Golfers who don't care never get the yips". PGA Touring professional Brad Faxon states, "Kids have no fear when they putt. They miss it and it doesn't affect them. You've got to keep that attitude your whole life. That's my whole premise toward putting. If you care whether you miss, you're in trouble".
Eckhart Tolle writes in his book, Practicing the Power on Now, "...psychological fear is always of something that might happen, not of something that is happening now. You are in the here and now, while your mind is in the future...You can always cope with the present moment, but you cannot cope with something that is only a mind projection - you cannot cope with the future".
Fear arises when your mind jumps into the future and considers the consequences of what might happen. When you place too much importance on outcome, it becomes impossible to stay in the present moment and fully committed to the shot; impossible to let go and trust your swing.
So how do you deal with fear? That question should be replaced with, how do you forget about what might happen and keep your focus entirely in the present moment?
I wish there was a simple answer. Volumes have been written on the subject. Like everything else in golf, it appears that you have to find your own way. I'm discussing fear primarily to illustrate just another aspect of golf that can have a far greater influence on your golf game than equipment or swing mechanics.