Psychophysiological stress in elite golfers during practice and competition

Aust J Sci Med Sport. 1997 Jun;29(2):55-61.


This study examined self-reported state anxiety (cognitive anxiety, somatic anxiety and self-confidence) measured by the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2 (CSAI-2; Martens, Vealey, Bump, & Smith, 1990) and physiological responses (salivary cortisol concentration and heart rate) in elite golfers prior to, during and on completion of a tournament and practice round. The relationships between psychophysiological variables were investigated by comparing physiological and psychological responses during competition and practice to each other, and to performance. Performance was determined for each player as the difference between 18 hole score and handicap. Fifteen male Professional Golfing Association (PGA) trainees (aged 21-25 years) competed in a PGA sanctioned tournament and a practice round on the same, or similar golf course. Players completed the CSAI-2 and collected saliva for cortisol analysis on four occasions: prior to tee off, and after completing holes 6, 12 and 18. Cortisol concentration was corrected for circadian variations in cortisol secretion, using baseline cortisol measures. Within-subject analysis revealed elite golfers experienced elevated cortisol, heart rate, cognitive and somatic anxiety, and lower self-confidence during competition compared to practice. For both game conditions, the highest cortisol response was measured prior to the commencement of play, whilst state anxiety measures did not change significantly during the golf rounds. Univariate and multivariate analyses failed to reveal significant correlations between the psychophysiological variables and golf performance. In conclusion, competition and practice were clearly discriminated by the psychophysiological variables, but none of these predicted performance.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Biomarkers
  • Golf / physiology
  • Golf / psychology*
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / analysis
  • Male
  • Saliva / chemistry
  • Self Concept*
  • Stress, Psychological*


  • Biomarkers
  • Hydrocortisone