The pros seem to hit perfect shots almost every time, but even professional golfers wrestle with gremlins on the golf course now and then. That’s right—even the pros get nervous on the golf course!

Virtually every recreational golfer has that shot that he or she absolutely dreads. For some, it’s hitting from a bunker. For others, it’s the knee-knocking three-foot putt or a full carry over a pond from a par-3 tee box.

And professional golfers? Hey, they’re just like us—certain shots make them nervous, too.

Billy Horschel knows. “Every player is different,” he said. “I’ve seen guys who have somewhat of the chipping yips out here, and they’ve got a tight lie and you know they’re not going to hit a good chip or you know they’re a little nervous and they could hit a bad chip.”

Sure, it happens to the best of them—but probably not as often as it does to you or me.

nervous golfer hitting out of bunker on golf course

Jon Rahm said the scary shot index is different for everyone, but he named long bunker shots as edgy for him.

“It’s one of those 40–50-yard bunker shots, 30- to-50-yard range that probably would be the hardest,” he said. “But there’s plenty of shots out there that would make any of us nervous, especially when the wind gets going. There’s not one shot that is going to make everybody nervous. Each one is different; each one thinks different.”

You might think there’s nothing more nerve-wracking than having to nail a putt to extend a round of match play, but according to Rahm, there’s a “weird sense of freedom” in that scenario. “You only have one option,” he said. “You have to make it, and that’s it. In my case, I’ve been able to do it a couple times,” Indeed, he has! “It kind of gives you a little bit of extra focus.”

Horschel wouldn’t get specific about what makes him nervous on the golf course. “I think everybody has their own little demons, depending on the shot or depending on the hole or how it’s designed or whatever it may be,” he said. “I’m not going to tell you what mine are, though.”

Jordan Spieth, who has made a long string of tough shots over his career, said playing first on a tricky par 3 can be discomforting. Recreational golfers worry about hitting the green, but the pros are often in between clubs and can easily pick the wrong side of that equation. Sometimes, their shots fall short or soar long, turning a relatively easy par 3 hole into a possible bogey—or worse.

“There’s certainly no crazy nervousness, but you feel like you’re at a half-stroke disadvantage sometimes if you’re going first on the par 3s,” he said. 

The lesson for the everyday golfer? Never go first on the par 3s.

Although many of us rarely get that chance, having had the yips on the previous hole and lost it.

Mike Hembree

Mike Hembree is a veteran journalist who has covered a variety of sports for numerous publications and websites, including USA Today, Fox Sports, TV Guide and The Greenville (S.C.) News. He has written 14 books and has won numerous writing awards at the national, regional and state levels. He is a seven-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.