“Golf,” says Dr. Bob Rotella, Ph.D., “is a game of confidence and competence.” Dr. Rotella knows his subject matter. He ranks among the top applied sports psychologists in the world. He’s been a professor of sports psychology at the University of Virginia for 21 years and director of UVA’s Sports Psychology Department. He’s also been president of the North American Association of Sports Psychology.
Dr. Rotella offers some real food for thought. He believes, for example, that you can’t underestimate the importance of confidence. Sure, says Dr. Rotella, you have to attain a certain level of physical competence if you want to break 80. But if your mind doesn’t function well, you won’t play well.
Below are seven mental golf tips from Dr. Rotella. Ingraining them boosts your golf confidence and lower your scores:
1. Get into the process
To build golf confidence, forget about the outcome of a shot. Instead, focus on the process of hitting the shot. Put another way, don’t worry about missing those three-foot knee-knockers. Concentrate instead on your pre-shot routine (the process). Success, says Dr. Rotella, comes from doing the right things patiently and persistently both in practice and on the course.
2. Accept what happens to a shot
Many golfers view acceptance as a weakness. They refuse to accept that they missed a shot. Dr. Rotella wants you to see things in a different light. Golf is hard, he says. So, you’re going to make mistakes—no matter how good you are. Acceptance, says Dr. Rotella, helps you get stronger and mentally tougher. In other words, hang in there when you’re playing poorly and work hard at finishing with a good score.
3. Play as though it doesn’t matter
Golfers tend to let how they play dictate how they feel. It’s among the biggest mistake golfers make, says Dr. Rotella. If they play well, they feel good. If they play poorly, they feel bad. Feeling bad only fosters bad thinking. And that can lead to mistakes and wayward shots. Instead, when you’re playing poorly, work on controlling your thoughts and focus on how you want to play. Staying in the present is a great way to do that, says Dr. Rotella.
4. Believe completely in yourself.
Being confident means thinking about what you want to happen on the course. Golfers without confidence do the opposite. They think about what they don’t want to happen. That takes away from their belief in themselves. Play a shot confidently and your body performs well. Play a shot with doubts and your body performs poorly. Scientists can’t tell you why this happens. They can only tell you that it happens.
5. Visualize your shot every time
Some golfers hit the ball in the general direction of the target. If it lands somewhere close to the target, they’re happy. Savvy golfers focus on specific—and so should you. Focus on exactly where you want the ball to go. Nothing else should exist for you but the target, including bunkers and other hazards. The more you focus on the target, the more your subconscious and your instincts take over. Also, the better your chances of hitting good shots.
6. Trust is a Must
When you need to hit a shot, be decisive, committed, and clear. Put another way, you want to play instinctively and intuitively. You also want to let your subconscious take over. In other words, trust your swing. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Also, if you find your swing is off that day, don’t think about the mechanics of your swing. Often, thinking about your mechanics makes your swing worse.
7. Love your wedges and your putter
Let’s face it. Great golfers master their scoring clubs, especially their wedges and their putter. Skill with these clubs separates the great golfers from the hackers. If you want to break 80, focus on gaining proficiency with your wedges and putter. Practice them until you can hit pinpoint shots with them. Practice these clubs until you know how to control trajectory, distance, and spin with every one of them.
These are all great tips for building your golf confidence. They’re tips that you’ll need to work on to master. But once mastered, they’ll pay off in more birdies and pars. And that will increase your chances of breaking 80.
Build Golf Confidence by Achieving Consistency
Good execution fosters consistency. It also breeds confidence in your golf game. But executing shots well is easier said than done. Swing keys can help. They’ll help eliminate any swing flaws you have and hit pinpoint shots.
But swing keys change from golfer to golfer. What works for you may not work for someone else. The key is to find which swing keys work for you and practice them until you ingrain them in your swing.
Below are four proven swing keys. Ingraining one or more of them in your swing can help you execute great shots, achieve consistency, and build confidence in your golf game:
- Pre-Set your wrists early — Hinging your wrists boosts power. But many golfers roll their wrists. That drains power from your swing. Instead, pre-set your wrists early to make sure you do it correctly. Then execute the rest of your swing as you usually do.
- Align yourself correctly — Many golfers use the ball to align themselves to the fairway. That, however, aligns you with the ball, not your target. Instead, look at your target as you take your setup. That makes it easier for you to align yourself correctly to the fairway.
- Turn through your swing — Many golfers finish with their weight on their back foot. That saps power from your swing. Instead, work on finishing with your weight positioned over your front foot and your back shoulder pointing toward the target. That says you stayed In balance throughout your swing.
- Stand the same distance away — Standing the same distance from the ball each time is critical. Some golfers, however, vary how far they stand from the ball from swing to swing. That breeds inconsistency. If you want to achieve consistency from swing to swing, you need to stand the same distance from the ball every time.
Here’s a drill to can help you determine just how far you should stand from the ball:
Address the ball. Now take your right hand off the club and move it back about a foot away. Next, move it back to the club. If it falls naturally back in its original position, you’re the right distance from the ball. If it swings over your hand, you’re too far away. Adjust your distance to the ball. If it swings under the club, you’re too close. Adjust your distance to the ball.
Select one of the swing keys and practice it next time you go to the range. Keep working on it and see how it works for you. Discard it if it doesn’t help and try another one. Finding the right swing keys can help boost consistency and build confidence in your golf game.
Build Golf Confidence with this Simple Golf Drill
Do you practice harder than you play? If you’re not making practice harder than you play, you won’t get much out of it. That, in turn, may lead to disappointment, frustration, and handicap stagnation.
To improve, work on golf drills that make practice harder than the game. That’s the secret to building golf confidence. Below is a golf drill that boosts your effectiveness at the driving range and your self-confidence:
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While at the practice range, imagine a fairway 30 yards wide. Now, hit five balls in a row that land within those 30 yards. Next, imagine a fairway 20 yards wide. Hit five shots in a row that land within the fairway. Once you’ve done that, imagine a fairway 10 yards long. Now, hit five balls in a row that hit the fairway.
Play this game once at every practice session. As you improve, you’ll see your confidence in your golf game skyrocket.