Sample Confidence Readings | International Golf Psychology Association

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The following readings will increase your Confidence:

Chapter 1: Fill your mind full of Golden Nuggets

 A golden nugget is any great or special happening of the day. It could be when you aced a hard test, or beat a tough opponent on the court, or said the right words to a friend and made her smile. Great athletes use their golden nuggets to build confidence.

 Take the example of Football great Joe Montana. In the last two minutes of the 1988 Super Bowl, the San Francisco 49ers were five points down against the Cincinnati Bengals. They needed to march almost ninety yards to score.  In the huddle, Joe told his teammates “This is just like ‘81.”

 Those words in the huddle allowed Joe and the other 49ers to recall a golden nugget: a very similar pressure situation in which they succeeded. When they were playing the Dallas Cowboys in the 1981 NFC championship game, the 49ers needed to advance the ball the entire field in the last minutes of play. With just a few ticks left on the clock, Joe threw the famous catch to Dwight Clark for the winning touchdown. Those winning images—that golden nugget—gave them a sudden jolt of energy and bolstered their confidence, which carried them to victory over the Bengals and to another Super Bowl title.

 Recalling successful experiences is key to developing a strong mental game for golf as well as in all areas of your life. Players who can replay key successful moments in vivid detail have an enormous advantage against those who lack this skill. Here’s how you can fill your bag with golden nuggets.

 Drill: Get a bag full of Gold Nuggets

 Like the Joe Montana, you too need to develop a golden nugget book. Write down the times you played beautifully, whether it was a long drive on a tight fairway or a perfect shot onto the green from a tough lie. But do more than just record it. Keep it in your golf bag and pull it out when needed.

 Those nuggets are bound to turn your performances into gold.

 Drill: Make a Peace Book

 Most everyone has memories that can promote positive emotions in the present. Recall a moment when you felt completely peaceful and happy. Perhaps it was standing at a beautiful waterfall or sitting at the end of a pier watching the boats roll by or lying on top of a mountain looking at the valley below or watching a sunset over the water. Now, record that moment. Describe it in great detail in a “peace” book and place it in your golf bag.

 Next time you have an anxiety-related moment on the course, just read a passage from your “peace” book. This practice will help you stay calm in times of high stress and pressure.

Chapter 2: Confidence is a Choice

“I wonder who is going to finish second”

Tommy Bolt, after birdying the first hole in the first round in his win at 1958 US. Open

While confidence is an essential ingredient to possess for successful golf, confidence is as fickle as an eight year old boy in a candy store. One moment he wants to try the sweet gummie bears and the next he will gobble up the sour chews. Good shots on the golf course create the sweet air of invincibility. A couple of bad shots can sour your attitude and perception of your golf ability.

Once we begin to lose our confidence, it is difficult to gain that sweet feeling back again. After a couple of bad shots, it seems as if the game has become our enemy and nothing will work. All we think about is how we are going to miss the next shot. All we seem to be able to do is berate ourselves with negative comments about our lack of ability. Our focus is on the hazards and trouble rather than at the desired fairway or green.

The toughest mental skill to possess is remaining confident when your game takes the train south for the day. However, no matter how poorly you are playing, you can always choose to remain confident.

The all-time great Tom Watson chose to be confident over every putt in the 1982 U.S. Open. Most remember his remarkable chip-in on the 17th hole, but more important to his victory was his thought process on the greens. On the seventh hole, he missed a two-foot putt. It did not even touch the cup. However, he did not lose confidence in his putting, but merely told himself that even great putters miss an occasional easy one.

Confidence is a choice. Winners like Tom Watson choose to remain confident regardless of the situation or past disasters.

Centuries ago the founder of philosophical thought, Rene Descartes wrote that we have the capacity to think whatever we choose. Descartes further added that we have the capacity to possess self-liberating thoughts or self-defeating thoughts. .In more recent times, Victor Frankl wrote in the famous book, Man’s Search for Meaning, “Every human has the freedom to change at any instant. The last of the human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances” You have the choice of having a good or bad attitude and the freedom to change your attitude. If you make the correct choice, then the chances are much greater, you will become a better player and the player you want to be.

 This same principle applies readily to you and you golf game. You can have self-liberating thoughts that free you from your fears or you can choose to be full of self-doubt. Know that you have a choice to be confident. The following drill will help you believe that you can go 4 for 4 every day, in every way.

 Drill: Have an Early Morning Happy Hour

 When most of us wake up, we focus on everything that needs to get done that day. If the list is great, and the time minimal, our attitude can sour quite quickly. The same goes for us.

 To help you start your day in a good mood, try this simple exercise. When you wake up in the morning, focus on three things you are thankful for in your golf game. It could be your health, the friends you have made in the game, and so forth. You will find that when you choose to focus on these simple thoughts, your morning will be that much brighter. It is an early morning happy hour.


Chapter 3: Fire your Bad Inner Caddy

All champions use positive self-talk. They routinely pump themselves up with the right words. Take Jordan Spieth as an example.

 If you watched Jordan Spieth on any week on the PGA Tour, you will notice how much he chatters with his caddy, Michael Greller. But Geller does much more than just give knowledge about distance and the right club to hit. Geller always gives Spieth a positive push of confidence and ends his conversation before each shot about having a clear focus on the target.

 What if Geller’s last words to Jordan before each shot were, “Don’t miss it right again” or “Don’t leave it short”. Michael Geller would be out of a job and back to teaching 6th grade math.

In golf as in all aspects of our life, you have an inner caddy. And your inner caddy can fill you with loads of confidence and peace of mind or your inner caddy can berate you with constant negativities and create a world of self-doubt.

 Why don’t you fire your bad inner caddy? Why do you let this negative self-talk continue?

 Perhaps you have gotten complacent, or perhaps your bad inner caddy has become a bad habit that shows up every day.

 One aspect that all successful golfers have in common is that they have fired that bad inner caddy and, as important, train and retrain their good inner caddy on a daily basis. Here are a few essential strategies that will help you to master your inner voice:

 Strategy 1: Develop a good inner caddy book.

 Every day in this book write a positive statement like “I am really going to play well today” or “I feel it today”. ” My swing feels great today”. Also look at your inner caddy book every day for a jolt of confidence.

 Strategy 2: Be like Bruce Lee.

When negative thoughts crept into his mind, he wrote them on a piece of paper and then visualized crumpling that paper into a wad and throwing it into a burning fire. In that way, his negative thoughts would turn to ashes.

Strategy 3: Snap out of it.

Wrap a rubber band around your left wrist. Every time you have a negative thought, snap it. Not so much you are in pain but that you mean business. Then replace that negative thought with a positive self-statement. Overtime your negativity will diminish. Of course, you can continue to wear the rubber band for a fashion statement.

 As Aristotle once stated, “We are what we repeatedly do.” Make it a habit to fire your bad inner caddy and re-hire your good caddy and you will become the golfer you want to be.




Chapter 4: Act Like a Star

“I have always thought that the actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts”
John Locke

We all have seen Tiger wear his red shirt on Sunday, but why did he adopt that behavior? Is it simply a ritual or does it serve some greater purpose? Actually, it does serve a greater purpose for Tiger’s game. Tiger feels more aggressive when he wears his red colored shirt. He knows he must play aggressively on Sunday if he is to go “low” and win.

The key question is “How does wearing a red shirt make Tiger feel more aggressive on the golf course?” More importantly, how can Tiger’s red shirt help your golf game?

To answer this, we must first examine the color red. Typically, red stands for aggression and assertiveness. As a prototypical example, the matador uses a red cape to make the bull more aggressive and charge at him. Red also stands for fire and when you are fired up you are going to act more assertively.

The second reason why wearing a red colored shirt makes Tiger act more aggressive relates to the foundation of self-perception theory. Put simply, this theory states that we infer our emotions from our actions. Our brain gets the message from our body how to feel. Take smiling as an example. When we smile, we just feel happier. Even faking a smile will make you feel happier. We infer that we are happy because we our smiling. In the case of Tiger Woods, the action of putting on a red shirt on Sunday makes him feel more aggressive and fired up to go low on Sunday.

The principle of Tiger’s red shirt can have a huge impact on your golf game and golf attitude. Let’s apply this principle to building confidence about your golf game. There are many ways to become more confident, but one main one is by simply acting confident. How we act on the golf course after a missed shot or putt can greatly impact how confident we may feel for the next couple of holes. For instance, walking off the green with the shoulders slumped and the head down after missing an easy putt will make the golfer feel less confident in subsequent holes. This golfer infers from his body language (slumping shoulders) that there must be something wrong. On the other hand, if a golfer just had a disastrous hole, yet can still hold the head and shoulders high, a loss of confidence is less likely to occur.

If you want to feel more aggressive on the golf course, wear a red shirt like Tiger. But your actions can influence your confidence in a number of ways.  The following exercises can help you become the actor all champions need to be:

  Drill: Enter through the Stage Door

 Nick Saban, the great University of Alabama football coach tells his players that the second they walked into the locker room, they stopped being students, boyfriends, and sons. They are now football players and only football players; no other roles existed for them once they entered the locker room.

 Discard all other roles and play only the role of a golf champion.  Once you walk onto the course, you are no longer a student, son or daughter, but just a great golf player.

 Remember, acting like a winner creates the most effective emotions for becoming a winner.

Drill: Walk with confidence like Dustin Johnson.  

When you see DJ walk on the course, he looks like a man who has supreme confidence.  His swagger comes from his walk. Try to add a little swagger in your step and you see how your confidence improves.

Chapter 5: Become more optimistic with the TUF mentality

The path to success on the golf course will follow many twists and turns. Players who ride through those pitfalls with resolve and resiliency, typically will achieve success.

 One of the greatest examples of resiliency is the story of Thomas Edison. His road to success was racked with a multitude of failures. Many times, in his young life, he faced excessive debt incurred from acquiring new equipment and continually building a better laboratory. Also, he failed many times to sell and promote many of his important inventions. In addition, other inventors stole his designs and infringed upon his many patents. And the most famous Edison failure story, retold many times, is the amazing number of mistakes he made before discovering the effective light bulb.

 However, Edison’s resiliency to failure was built on his effervescent optimism. Edison did not view these failures concerning his light bulb invention as a permanent happening or as an insurmountable obstacle, but rather as pathways he no longer needed to take. He simply saw every failure as a temporary roadblock to his future success.

 Thomas Edison is the epitome of an optimist. Most people have the belief that optimists see the glass as half full while pessimists see the glass as half empty. While this is the old way of thinking, psychologists believe that the difference between an optimist and a pessimist is how each explains a failure event.

 Optimists are resilient because they follow what is known as the TUF strategy when describing their failures. For instance, when failure comes to an optimist, they see it as “Temporary.” If an optimistic student fails a math test, she believes that she was not “with it” on that test and that tomorrow will be a better day. Optimists also see failure as “Unique.” That is, specific for that one situation. Optimistic students who fail a test believe they were not good at that particular chapter, but the next chapter will be different. They will “get” the next chapter. Failure, to an optimist is also “Flexible.” Optimistic students believe that their behavior is flexible, and they can change their behavior, such as trying a new strategy. In this case, if they get a tutor for this next test, success is around the corner.

 In direct contrast, pessimists do the opposite when evaluating failure and mistakes. They blame failure on things that are Permanent, Global, and Uncontrollable (PGUC). First, pessimists believe failure will not change in the near future (permanent). They believe they will continue to make mistakes and fail. Second, pessimists believe that failure will happen for every situation (global). Pessimistic students who are not good at a particular chapter in the geometry book believe they will not understand any chapter in the book. Third, pessimists believe that no matter what they do, failure will not change (uncontrollable). A pessimistic student believes that getting a tutor or studying more will not help them get better grades. For them, once failure occurs, the situation becomes hopeless.

 The good news is that you can become more optimistic. Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimism, and the foremost psychologist in this area, says that an optimistic attitude can be acquired with the appropriate thinking patterns. According to Seligman, anyone can relearn and change thought patterns to become more optimistic.

 The following are strategies to help you develop the TUF mentality on the golf course:

 Drill: Tune up the “T

 To enhance the temporary dimension of failure, you should emphasize the fleetingness of mistakes. When you played poorly in a competition, realize that it is part of a series of peaks and valleys.  Some days are just going to be worse than others. Some days we have it and some days we just do not.

 Ask the following questions to tune up the T:

 Were you at 100 percent today? (Perhaps tomorrow or the next time you play, you will be at 100 percent)

 What might change in the near future in terms of your golf game?

 Will you feel better next time you are on the course?

  Drill: Urge on the “U”

 To enhance the unique dimension of failure, you should emphasize how the event was special or unique. 

 Here are some questions to ask to urge on the “U”:

 What was it about this specific course that did not match up with your game?

 Are there any strengths that you have that will help you succeed in the future?

 How does your game match up differently with an upcoming course?

  Drill: Foster the “F”

 To enhance the flexibility dimension of failure, illustrate how failure can change by altering some behavior. For instance, if you may need to practice your breathing techniques before you play. Or your pre-day preparation may need to change. Or try implementing a new pre-shot routine—a series of behaviors that a player conducts before the shot that can lead to better performance.

  Also ask the following questions to Foster the F:

 What can you change to be successful?

  Is there another strategy you can implement to be more successful?

 Will a different pre-day routine help you succeed? 

 On a scale from 1 to 100, how much effort did you give? Can you give any more effort?

How can you go about doing that?

When you use the TUF mentality on the golf course, the road to confidence and resiliency will be much easier to find.


Chapter 6: Have Selective Amnesia instead of Rapid Recall

“I’ve never missed a putt in my mind”
Jack Nicklaus

Lee Trevino once said “The hardest shot in golf is the one right after a shank.” In all his wit and wisdom, Lee states a great psychological premise. Past failures create negative images and those negative images hurt our future performance.

One of the main differences between good players and great players is not which one makes more mistakes, but which one can more quickly forget their mistakes. In his recent book “Putting Out of Your Mind”, Bob Rotella discusses how great players have selective amnesia. Rotella describes how Jack Nicklaus has stated that he has never three-putted the last hole of a tournament. Even when a friend pointed out that he had three-putted, he could not remember the event. Jack eradicated that negative putting event from his mind and, thus, he will no longer carry that negative baggage with him to the next tournament.

Instead of selective amnesia, most amateur golfers have rapid recall. They do not remember the first four holes in which they made all their three-footers, but rather they quickly recall the last hole in which a three-footer was missed. Now, when they are standing over the next three-footer, the only thought is their last missed opportunity. As another example, we will not recall all the times we hit safely onto the fairway on the 15th hole in the past year, but we will only recall the time last week when we hit our tee shot out of bounds. Unfortunately, rapidly recalling this negative baggage decreases our chances of making a good putting stroke or executing an effective swing.

We are told that forgetfulness is a bad trait. Well, forgetting where you placed your keys or your wallet does create havoc in your life. However, forgetfulness can be a desired quality on the golf course, especially when it concerns your history of bad shots.

Here is a great drill to forgot your bad shots:

Every time you begin to recall a bad shot, yell in your mind “Stop” and then replace it with a positive memory of a great shot. Overtime, you will begin to remember more of your good shots than have recall of the bad ones.



Chapter 7: Build Confidence by Association

 “Really great people make you feel that you, too can become great”
Mark Twain

When Tiger became a professional, Mark O’ Meara was wise enough to act as his mentor and advisor. Mark gave tips to Tiger on the many nuances about life on tour , from what tournaments to play to where he should stay in each city to what courses may fit his game. From this mentoring, a bond of friendship was formed. As part of this friendship, Mark and Tiger would play together on their time off. Sometimes Tiger would win those friendly matches and sometimes Mark would win.

While Tiger gained a lot from this friendship, Mark also benefited greatly. One benefit was his necessity to develop shots that will keep him in the matches with Tiger. Another benefit was the building of his confidence through his association with Tiger. To explain this principle, lets look at what happened to Tiger in 1997. That was the year he dominated the Masters and won by a commanding 12 shots. Not only did he win in an amazing fashion, but he also broke the all time scoring record.

Mark witnessed this amazing victory, and probably consciously or subconsiously stated to himself a monologue such as: “Hey, I can beat this guy sometimes at home. And this guy can win the Masters and dominate the tour. Then I must have the ability to win a major.” He built his confidence by association.

The very next year, Mark not only won the Masters, but also the British Open title. Mark’s friendship with Tiger is one of the best things that every happened to his game.

Today, the friendship of Bubba Watson and Ricky Fowler has immensely helped both, particularly Ricky. Brooks Koepka got a lot of confidence by hanging out with Dustin Johnson.

Build your confidence through association by picking the right people to associate with. There is a great saying in psychology that goes like this, “You are a division of 5 of your friends”.  If you want to be more confident hang around confident people. 


Chapter 8: Prepare for Greatness

“I will prepare and some day my chance will come.”
Abraham Lincoln

Golf is full of mishaps, from bad bounces to unfortunate lies in the middle of the fairway. Yet, golfers typically practice only from the best lies. In his book, Mind over Golf, Dr.Coop mentions that golfers are so concerned about an immediate reward, such as hitting a good shot, that they are not willing to hit poor shots from a more difficult lie. However, preparing for adverse conditions is a necessity for developing excellence.

Payne Stewart knew the importance of practicing for adversity. In many of his practice sessions, Payne used a drill in which he would hit two balls, but instead of playing with the best ball, he used his worst one.  Payne was preparing for how he would play his best from poor conditions. Given that the U.S. Open is full of adverse situations, perhaps this drill is one reason that helped him win two Opens.

Preparation can also be in terms of perspiration. That is, when the 1987 PGA Championship was held in Florida, Nick Faldo knew he was not accustomed to the Floridian humidity. At that time, he was still playing predominately in Europe. To prepare his body, he sat in a sauna regularly for three weeks prior to the tournament.

An excellent method to prepare for adverse conditions is with the development of an adversity plan. This plan is a composite of strategies for dealing with difficulties on the course. For instance, most tournaments are played at a snail’s pace. One strategy in the plan would be to always respond with a good attitude when slow play occurs. Or, when the weather gets adverse, one strategy would be to always enjoy the challenge.

But you must do more than just have a plan. Implementation is essential. A great drill for this is to develop an adversity plan. Here is how you set up your adversity plan:

Step 1. Create a list of bad events that can happen on the course. (Your ball goes in a divot)

Step 2. Create a list of corresponding positive responses to those bad events. (You tell yourself you can still hit a great shot).

Step 3. Visualize yourself acting positive when bad stuff happens to you. (You see yourself hitting a great shot from the divot onto the green).