When we are playing our best golf, we are playing with a feeling of confidence. Having confidence in yourself and your game allows you to get the most out of your skills. I work with many competitive players and many of them have the same issues as recreational golfers when it comes to performance confidence. Everyone goes through lulls in their confidence at times.
The goal is to gain control over our thoughts to support our game. Obviously, when we are playing well it’s much easier to feel confident. It’s the chicken or the egg concept. Does confidence breed better golf or do we need to play better to be confident? It’s probably both. However, I do think it’s important to act confident toward your golf game, regardless of how you feel. Be realistic about skills that need more practice, but never let yourself go down the road of negative self-talk. Dwell on your strengths and things that you have more control over. Make sure you do not let the things you can’t control affect you. Take the bad bounces with the good. It’s hard to do at times, but important to your success on the course.
One thing you can control is your attitude. Attitude is a key ingredient to confidence about your game. During Tiger’s lengthy stay at #1 in the world, he always found positive things to say in his post-round interviews about his game. He acknowledged where he made mistakes, but he always added what he did right in the round as well. We also need to find opportunities to compliment ourselves on the way we played a round. Golf can tend to be – as we all know – a very difficult game that has many confidence-draining aspects. No doubt there is a correlation between your skill level and your scoring potential; but, so many golfers don’t play to their potential because of low self-confidence.
One common mistake I see that can drain self-confidence is when players don’t play within their abilities. They will tend to make strategy decisions based on their best shots rather than their more typical shots. Going for the “impossible” shot instead of playing the shot they know they can pull off. Then when success doesn’t come, the negativity begins to creep into their game. Being confident does not mean being unrealistic. It’s crucial to discipline your mind to evaluate the best possible shot to hit for the situation. In many cases, it is the conservative approach that helps you produce the most confident swing. When you build on the successes that are more possible and line up with your skill level, you will have a much better chance to play at a level that you thought was impossible.
Finally, practice being confident on the course. One technique I like to teach is the “Bubble.” I heard the Bubble technique from Dr. Deborah Graham, who is a golf psychologist. I have players draw a circle on a notecard. Inside the circle they write down words that describe how they feel when they’re playing well and feeling confident with their abilities. Outside the circle, they write down words that describe how they feel or think about themselves when having doubt or low confidence. The goal is to “stay in the bubble” and focus on the bubble cues. If they have doubt and find their thoughts creeping outside of the bubble, I tell them to acknowledge that and refocus their thoughts on the bubble cues. It takes some practice, but with a little work you can learn to dismiss the negative thoughts quicker and return to those thoughts that help you feel confident and self-assured. Try the Bubble technique next time you play, make realistic decisions on the course, and remain confident. Then, go out and shoot your career round! Good luck!
Brech Spradley, PGA
Director of Instruction, Barton Creek Golf Academy