Article printed in the NEW ZEALAND GOLF UPDATE - June 2003 issue

CONFIDENCE IS KING OF THE COURSE - By Vicki Aitken

How is your confidence? Do you leave a round of golf feeling like King of the Course or more like Joe Hackarama? If you come in the latter category, then here are some ideas to get you feeling more like King of the Course.

People often wonder whether confidence is something you gain from having played well or whether they need confidence before they will play well. In the first instance it is always easier to be confident once you have played well. But if you are not playing well how do you get confident? Fortunately you can work on your confidence without having played well first. In many ways, you have more control over your self-confidence than your performance; because it's all to do with your perception.

Humans in the western world are by default set on the negative mode, more often than the positive mode. Golfers in particular are encouraged to re-hash all the bad shots and everything that went wrong in their rounds rather than what went right. In our modest society it's always easier to talk about what went wrong than risk being considered egotistical by constantly talking about what went right. However, if you are serious about improving your confidence you will need to take a few risks in this area. Consciously choosing to flick your switch to the positive by focusing on the positive can make all the difference. I challenge you to be a rebel at your club and talk about one of your best shots for the day, while refraining from talking about any of your poorer shots.

I often get my clients to write down every good shot that they made in a round. One client I saw recently said that during a tournament last year, despite having a big score around 20 shots greater than her handicap, she still managed to write a whole page of great shots that she made for the round. Prior to coming to me her switch was well and truly stuck on the negative position. We have since been working on creating a new positive memory bank for her. This works on the same principle as the process of changing your negative self-talk into positive self-talk. The best way to get rid of negative self-talk is by replacing it with positive statements. You can easily do this yourself. If you remember only the good shots, when you come to hit your next shot you will only have the memory of the fantastic one you hit 2 weeks ago and not the awful one you hit last month.

Laura Diaz was recently asked about draining five-foot putts. "I practise five-foot putts a lot, trying to make 25 in a row. Then I know I'll have confidence when I face them in tournament play". Her practice regime is all about building a solid memory bank of her sinking lots of 5-foot putts. In fact, lots of people find that if they do good quality practice in preparation for playing that this significantly helps increase their golf confidence. I also encourage my clients to write down what works in their rounds and what works in their practice sessions. They are allowed to write down what doesn't work ONLY if they have learnt something from it, so that they can do it differently in the future.

Another great way to improve your confidence is to write down a whole collection of self-affirmations. That is, writing down why you are a good putter, or why you are a great bunker player. Find every reason why you are able to play these shots well and that will help you affirm your ability to play them. Players on tour sometimes stick these self-affirmations in their yardage books where they can see them during a round, or in their suitcase. You could stick yours in your trundler seat, or around your bedroom. One client of mine used to have her goals, self-affirmations and pictures of her golfing idols on the ceiling above her bed so that when she lay in bed she could remind herself where she was going and why she could go there.

Your self-confidence is fundamentally made up of all the thoughts you have about yourself. If you think positive thoughts and build a positive memory of your golf performance then you will have high confidence when you play. Whilst I have focused on your confidence in golf you can use the same principles for your confidence at school, work, relationships or other sports as well.

If you are confident in your ability, then you will enjoy yourself more out on the course. If you enjoy your golf more you will more often than not play better.