Mental Game Golf

How To Trigger Confidence Before Every Golf Shot: Your Performance Statement

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Are you aware of the powerful effect that “little voice in your head” can have on your golf scores?

Words have the power to trigger an emotional response, which can either make you feel more, or less, confident in your abilities as a golfer.

The aim of this lesson is to make you more aware of your inner chatter and have you realize how it impacts your golf game. We’re also going to create a Performance Statement which is unique to you and will help trigger the best possible mind-set at any point during your round.

Thoughts => Emotion Response => Physical Response

If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that how you perform is directly related to the mood you create from within. Your thoughts and inner voice help create this mood.

The right choice of words can make you feel positive and optimistic (emotional response), which in golfing terms, means a clearer definition of the target and shot shape, tension-free swings and better movement (physical response). Using negative self-talk and focusing on negative outcomes, can make you feel uncertain and pessimistic, leading to an increased heart rate, tension in your swing and more tentative movement.

Choosing Your Responses To Bad Shots

The more you repeat something, the more deep-rooted in your subconscious mind it becomes. So, if you continually criticize yourself and focus on the negatives after a shot, the more you increase the chances of those same events happening in future. You lower your self-image as a golfer. The good news, is that you have control over your responses and you can start to break the cycle!

I work with my students on what I call an “acceptance response”. This is a statement they say habitually after every shot, good or bad, which helps get them back to the present moment. I also challenge them to find the positive, even if it’s not obvious. Try this next time you’re on the course.

Using words to create a mood

Notice the difference in the following responses to a poor shot and think about what your emotional response might be.

Response A: “You idiot! Right in the bunker! How the !*@#$ did you hit that shot!”


Response B: “The best thing I can do is put that behind me and get back to staying positive as quickly as possible”.

Response A will obviously produce a negative emotional (and thus physical) response. I mean, who doesn’t get a little angry when they’re called an idiot?

The second response, is the smart golfer’s response. Those words will keep the player with positive emotions and keep him/her in an optimistic and confident mood.

The Power of Acceptance in Golf

When you’re more accepting and a little easier on yourself after a shot you’re dissatisfied with, it takes pressure off during the pre-shot routine. Let’s say you use response A after a shot. You not only set the pattern of beating yourself up after a bad shot, but also, you subconsciously make yourself fearful of your own responses and put additional pressure on yourself to hit the target. The game of golf is hard enough without you putting additional pressure on yourself.

If you set the pattern of choosing Response B, you can swing more freely in future, as even if you miss the target, you’re going to accept it and use words of encouragement.

Before a shot: Your Performance Statement

Using self-talk before a shot is just as important as after. Are you used to saying things like:

“Just don’t go right – it’s O.B.”

Instead of this type of pre-shot thought, which includes the word “don’t”, I prefer to have my students use what’s called a “Performance Statement”.

Which words could you use to describe the feeling and/or actions before and during your best golf shots? Could it be “Smooth”, “effortless”, “Trusting”, “See and feel it”, “Look and react”, “A Good turn”.

Whatever you come up with for this exercise, try to put it into a sentence (your Performance Statement), which you can use before you step into a shot. An example might be, “See it, Trust it and make it smooth”. Hopefully those words get a positive emotional and physical response and increase your chances of making a good swing and getting a positive outcome.

Thanks for reading.

Until next time, play well!

Photo by Torrey Wiley

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David MacKenzie

is a mental golf coach and lives in Washington DC. He is the founder of Golf State of Mind, a teaching program designed to help golfers condition their minds to overcome fear and play with confidence.

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