Find Your Golf Confidence

Less Talk, More Action

To say that confidence is helpful in playing good golf is not exactly breaking new ground.  You could build a pile to rival Mount Everest if you stacked all the sports psychology books related to the topic.

But don’t bail on me just yet.  This isn’t a post about positive self talk and convincing yourself that you’re a better player than you are.  In this lesson, I’m going to discuss actionable strategies to boost your confidence and how to practice so that you’ll be mentally bulletproof.

This Lesson Is For You If:

You want to feel more confident on the course

You feel nervous over certain shots or clubs

Rate Your Confidence

The first step in this process is figuring out what shots give you confidence and what shots make your knees shake.  You probably already have some ideas about this, but it’s good to get confirmation.  You can do some of this on the range, but the best place is on the course where the stakes are higher.

As you set up to each shot, stop to notice how you feel.  Is your grip tight or relaxed?  Is your body tense or loose?  Is your breath smooth or are you holding it?  Rate your confidence from 1 to 10, with 10 being Tiger Woods circa 2000.  After you hit the shot, make a note such as, “6 Iron, 170 yards, 7/10”.  You might also include outside factors (hitting over water or a narrow fairway) or your shot intent (trajectory, shot shape).

After a few practice sessions or rounds, compile the notes and see what you can learn.  Are there certain clubs that you hate hitting?  Is it certain situations that give you the shakes?  What clubs make you feel invincible?

Play to Your Confident Shots

When you’ve figured out the shots that you love, the next step is obvious: hit them more often!  If trying to hit a draw makes your hands sweat, just hit fades.  If your long irons are terrible, hit a choked-down hybrid or lay it up.

Of course this advice can only be taken so far.  If hitting driver brings your confidence to a 1, you can either forget about playing full length courses or you can…

Practice to Eliminate Your Fears

Make your practice the opposite of your on course play: hit only the shots you fear.  Spend your practice time figuring out the clubs and shots that you don’t like so that you can expand your game.

Fair warning: this is not going to be fun at first.  You will probably not enjoy the experience of mishitting a bunch of shots in a row.  You may feel like people are judging you (they’re not, they barely notice you).  Persevere.  Bring only your weak clubs to the range so you can’t cop out and start smashing 7I.  The feeling of accomplishment you will get when your 3W confidence goes from 2 to 8 will be immense.  And all the ground balls you’ve hit on the range will be worth it when you’re putting for eagle.

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Matt Saternus

Co-Founder, Editor In Chief at PluggedInGolf.com
Matt is a golf instructor, club fitter, and writer living in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Matt's work has been published in Mulligan Magazine, Chicagoland Golf, South Florida Golf, and other golf media outlets. He's also been a featured speaker in the Online Golf Summit and is a member of Ultimate Golf Advantage's Faculty of Experts.

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9 Comments

  1. Yep, nice article again. I have not done it as structured like you suggest here but there are certainly clubs and shots I “fear”. 3 wood f. e. Sweet when you hit it right but i never feel comfortable at address. Last Sunday I went out and did a round using 3 clubs and instead of using my trusty 4 hybrid which i love, i used the 3 wood. By the end i felt a lot better about the 3w. Still some ways to go though.

    In the past i have done a round with just a 4i or 5i coz i just couldn’t hit the bloody thing. Heh, you hit a pitch shot from 70m onto the green with an open club face 4i, you feel like a regular Seve…!

    Coming weekend i will start rating my confidence with each club. Thanks!

  2. Alan Goudie

    Sound,helpful & practical advice but you need to practice as often as you can to improve .

  3. Jonathan Compton

    Good advice which I have been following, yet my problem is inconsistency. One round my driver is solid and the next it may take me four or five holes to settle it down. Same thing with my hybrids and even my putter. I practice about twice a week and put in lots of time on the short game. It makes it tough to pin down what needs attention. Suggestions?

    • Matt Saternus

      Jonathan,

      Are you using a shot tracker like Shot Scope? In my opinion, if you’re serious about your scores, it’s a necessity. You can learn a lot about your game from all the data.

      I bring that up because I’m curious how closely your perceptions match reality. I don’t mean any offense by that – every golfer has a gap between what happened and what they think happened. It could be that there is little difference between your “solid” driving rounds and your rough ones outside of the distribution of the sub-optimal shots.

      Best,

      Matt

  4. Jonathan Compton

    Hi Matt, and thanks for the reply. I do you should ask about shot scope, because I just started wearing one and it has been revealing. When I am not sure about is how to use it effectively. The shots go people offer a few ideas, but how can I use it to my best advantage? For instance, I’ve discovered that my fibroid is very weak: does that mean I should spend time practicing the Fivewood? I’ve also discovered there are caps of more than 20 yards between some clubs . I have no idea how to address that. But shot scope is been outstanding and providing lots of useful information. Yes, I think my perceptions and reality may need to be aligned. Hopefully shots couple help in that regard.

    • Matt Saternus

      Jonathan,

      The 20 yard gap is easy to remedy: get a full bag club fitting so you can have the right tools for shooting your best scores!

      -Matt

  5. Jonathan Compton

    Thx!

  6. Shot Scope: I just took a look online, I love what it offers. Is Shot Scope the only product? At home or anywhere, I NEVER wear a watch. I just don’t like the way they feel on my wrist. (Maybe it’s time to get used to it.)

    • Matt Saternus

      Phil,

      Yes, currently ShotScope V2 is the only product in their line.
      I’m an on-and-off watch wearer, but for me, it’s worth it to get the data from ShotScope.

      Best,

      Matt

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