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How great golfers build confidence

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You recently saw one of the biggest tests of self belief you will ever see. Jordan Spieth, just 21 years old, stood alone on the Augusta National practice tee before the final round of the Masters with the opportunity to win golf’s biggest prize and potentially change history.

Spieth was about to make the final walk to the first tee, through crowds of screaming people, and with his own voice reminding him that he was about to play the most important round of golf he’s ever played.

How can a 21 year old pull off something that would make most gag, choke and stumble, and what can you learn from Jordan’s experience to make yourself a better golfer?

One of the key areas I work on with any athlete client (golfers included) is confidence: understanding it and building it. Confidence is a golfer’s bullet-proof vest. It was for Jordan Spieth on Sunday at the Masters and it can be for you.

What is Confidence?

Well, it’s a feeling. It’s about trust and belief in your abilities and decisions, and expressing those beliefs and decisions in challenging circumstances.

You know the feeling of confidence. You’re playing great and everything is going right for you. There is an easy belief in what you are doing. You also know the other feeling. You just don’t have it and nothing is going right. There’s little faith in what you are doing.

“I’ve Lost My Confidence”

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When my phone rings, leading athletes or agents are sometimes on the other end. They or their player has “lost their confidence.” If it’s a golfer, the putter has gone cold and the ball’s not going in, or they can’t take their game from the practice tee to the course. They tell me there is little belief in what they are doing when it counts.

I always ask these players where they think their confidence has gone. Most are in the top professional leagues in the world and have risen to the upper echelon of their profession. It’s funny that these players don’t really know where the belief has gone. Something small has triggered some little doubts and the downward spiral begins from there.

This is where golfers get confused. Confidence requires some understanding, and some work. Sports, like life, are about patterns and cycles. Sometimes you “have it” and other times you don’t. No exceptions. So you must work on important areas like confidence and understand how to build it and how to find it. The mental/emotional game is like your physical practice. Do the work and it will pay off.

Is Your Confidence Proactive or Reactive?

So here’s a perspective of confidence I work on with leading players, helping them understand that maintaining confidence is within their control; and confidence is more of a choice than they know. They must take responsibility for their own confidence.

And this perspective can help you.

Great athletes are proactive with their confidence. When Jordan Spieth was walking to the first tee at Augusta before the final round, you can be sure he was reminding himself that he was playing great in 2015. He had built the foundation since he was 12 years old to handle a lead at The Masters on Sunday.

Proactive confidence is a decision that you will be sustainably confident from all of the great, positive experiences you have had in the game (and there will be many). All the work you have done on your game and the coaching and support from others is the foundation of your belief in yourself as a golfer. Your confidence will not be shaken by small, unavoidable cycles of not your best play.

On the other hand…

Some players insist on sabotaging their own belief in themselves. Reactive confidence is a decision that one small collection of challenging circumstances or difficulties will overcome your successes and support and crack your golf “foundation.” In this scenario, you declare that your confidence is shaken by small failures.

I don’t know how many times I have heard a great athlete declare after a stretch of poor play that their confidence is gone. Really? Where does it go? Golfers also allow others to have an impact on their confidence in a negative way — coaches, parents, other players. Reactive confidence is essentially a choice to lower your confidence and allow challenges and other distractions to penetrate your foundation.

Does this sound familiar to you?

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Spieth failed to close the 2014 Masters, shooting a final-round 72 and lost to Bubba Watson by three strokes. 2015 was a different story.

I see this everyday, even among the best athletes in the world. For some reason, they aren’t playing well and the foundation of confidence they have built over years suddenly disappears. A few mistakes become the basis for their confidence. After some reminders that their confidence is about everything they have achieved and all the work they’ve done, there is an “ah ha” moment and confidence mysteriously returns! The decision is made by the player to recover it. They take responsibility for their confidence.

This is important for you to know. If you can feel confidence slipping away, you have the choice to reel it in and not allow emotions to run the show.

Building Your Confidence

It’s important to continually build the foundation so small, short-term failures will not penetrate your long-term foundation. So what can you do to work on your confidence and build it?

Here are a few key ideas that you can use to build the foundation and create belief in your game:

  • Preparation. “Build it and it will come.” It is a secure feeling on the first tee. You know you’ve put the work and effort in each part of your game to deal with the shots you’ll need on the course. Make your practice functional, and related to the shots you’ll need on the course or in competition. Have a plan. Keep it simple.
  • Be proactive and allow all the great experiences you’ve had in the game to be the foundation of your confidence. Decide that temporary low points in your game will pass quickly and will not have any impact on your “foundation.”
  • Understand your strengths, limitations and triggers very well. It’s easier to win believing in something you understand versus something you don’t. Jordan Spieth believed in Jordan Spieth’s ability to play Augusta. The results followed.
  • Get great coaching matched up to your values and needs. The greatest thing a coach can do for a player is believe in them and believe in their abilities, bolstering their own confidence. A great coach’s belief in you can matter.
  • Create a clear and defined goal plan. If you know where you are going and have the step in place to get there, there will be a sense of security that you are on the right track.
  • Create a positive, supportive internal voice. Your own voice should be the most supportive and create a positive internal environment. A negative voice can erode confidence in your abilities and create doubt in your capabilities.
  • Focus on your good shots, not the bad ones. Ben Hogan, the greatest ball-striker of all-time, felt he only hit about five or six shots in a round that were great. Ben had many misses and so will you. Focus on your good shots and accept there will be many misses.
  • Focus on your development as a player and the process to reach the next level. Focusing on a very solid process will inevitably lead to great results.

Working on your confidence is an investment in you as a golfer, but this skillset is transferable to everything you do in life: business, career, relationships and any other “performance” activity you engage in.

Consider it an investment in your future.

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John Haime is the President of New Edge Performance. He's a Human Performance Coach who prepares performers to be the their best by helping them tap into the elusive 10 percent of their abilities that will get them to the top. This is something that anyone with a goal craves, and John Haime knows how to get performers there. John closes the gap for performers in sports and business by taking them from where they currently are to where they want to go.  The best in the world trust John. They choose him because he doesn’t just talk about the world of high performance – he has lived it and lives in it everyday. He is a former Tournament Professional Golfer with professional wins. He has a best-selling book, “You are a Contender,” which is widely read by world-class athletes, coaches and business performers.  He has worked around the globe for some of the world’s leading companies. Athlete clients include performers who regularly rank in the Top-50 in their respective sports. John has the rare ability to work as seamlessly in the world of professional sports as he does in the world of corporate performance. His primary ambition writing for GolfWRX is to help you become the golfer you'd like to be. See www.johnhaime.com for more. Email: [email protected]

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. James Fairbank

    Apr 25, 2015 at 6:33 pm

    Sigh. Another “psychology” article, written by a non-licensed psychologist. This is effectively equivalent to someone who has an interest in medicine giving medical advice online. Behavioural and cognitive change is incredibly difficult, and no article written online will be enough to eliminate long-standing patterns – especially without individualized and formalized assessment to understand the root of the issue. I guess this is why people such as Marcus above think psychology is a “bogus” science (which couldn’t be further from the truth).

    • John Haime

      Apr 27, 2015 at 3:07 pm

      Hi James,

      Sports Psychology and clinical psychology are very far away from each other. Often, the very best “sports psychologists” are coaches who communicate well, understand the psyche and motivations of an athlete. As an example, John Wooden was a farmer from Indiana with an English degree from Purdue – but his mental/emotional/spiritual platform for athletes was exceptional and he got incredible results – producing great athletes and great people.

      This is a long discussion so I won’t continue at length but I will tell you I hire students from sports psychology programs often and most do not generate results and help the athlete reach their goals. The real world of getting results with athletes and the academic world of fluffy theories are very, very different. Most athletes want someone who has been there done that at the highest levels in sports and can relate to their challenges, feelings and pressures. To turn your argument around – how can anyone who doesn’t have significant experience in sports competition, know the feelings or felt the pressure practically understand someone who has?

      FYI – People today want short, sharp well written content that will give them ideas and help them. It may also be the catalyst to explore further and gain real, long-term results. This is the value of WRX. Great content that can be consumed in a short period, entertain and give people ideas they can further explore or work on. Great communication and connection with athletes can generate results in a short time – I do it everyday and see athletes make major jumps to bigger heights in professional sports, college scholarships and great performances. My objective is always sustainability and creating an independent athlete/person.

      Sports Psychology is much more about coaching, development and motivation and not about clinical psychology – clinical psychologists assess and treat people with psychological problems. They may act as therapists for people experiencing normal psychological crises (e.g., grief) or for individuals suffering from chronic psychiatric disorders. I periodically deal with athletes who have deep rooted emotional problems and professional therapy may be necessary – but that is rare.

      I hope this explanation helps. The only thing that matters is results. Education gets the foot in the door – but the professional and elite athletes I work with aren’t interested in letters after a name – they want to develop, grow and get results.

      I hope this adds value to the conversation.

      The best to you and here’s to great golf!!

      John

  2. marcus

    Apr 17, 2015 at 9:51 am

    This is a great article. And I think psychology is largely a bogus science. But John Halme makes valid points here for sure.

  3. Andy

    Apr 16, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    A huge part of great coaching is creating an environment allowing the player to reach thier potential. This can be done by the parents or high school coaching or other. I too had aspirations of professional baseball, but bad coaching actually derailed that dream. And funny thing, this happened at the same high school Spieth went to only 40 years ago.

  4. Philip

    Apr 16, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    The only aspect I disagree somewhat with is “Get great coaching” as you described it. If the “greatest thing a coach can do for a player is believe in them and believe in their abilities, bolstering their own confidence” then I say the player has not reached a true level of self-confidence and is still relying on an artificial crutch. Of course, maybe the whole point is we all need a fail back whenever we falter and cannot seem to rise again. I suspect for many PGA professionals that great coach is their spouse and children to a large degree.

    • John Haime

      Apr 21, 2015 at 1:57 pm

      Hey Philip,

      Great point – but would like to add something here to help.

      I agree with you that at some point athletes must be responsible for their own confidence – but his comes later. When athletes are young and developing their “foundation” of confidence, it is critical for coaches to believe in them and help them develop this confidence. Trust me, working with athletes everyday, there are issues with athletes related to coaches who do not build this confidence and in fact damage the psyche of the athlete. So, at young ages, the best thing a coach can do is care about the athlete and believe in them. This gives a young athlete permission to believe in themselves.

      Later on, when the foundation has be primarily built, athletes must be responsible for their own confidence. Negative impact of coaches etc. should not “penetrate” this foundation.

      Make sense?

      Thanks for your comment!!

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TXG: Should you carry TWO DRIVERS? // Distance, Accuracy, Draw & Fade Setups

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Some of the best players in the world have been testing a two-driver setup for their bags. Does it make sense to play two drivers if they are set up for two different shot shapes? We test one driver setup for maximum distance and draw flight and another setup for accuracy and fade flight. See whether this could be an advantage for your game—and help you get off the tee better at your course!

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Fixing the shanks: How to stop shanking the golf ball (GolfWRX Explains)

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May you never be concerned about fixing the shanks! But if you’re begging the golf gods for guidance how to stop shanking the golf ball? Ready to offer up your first-born child for the wisdom how to stop shanking irons? Frantically asking Google how to never shank a golf ball again?

Fear not. We’ll get to drills to stop shanking irons shortly that are guaranteed to ingrain the proper feel and anti-shank action, but first, a brief discussion of what exactly a shank is (other than will-to-live crushing).

More often than not, a shank occurs when a player’s weight gets too far onto the toes, causing a lean forward. Instead of the center of the clubface striking the ball—as you intended at address—the hosel makes contact with your Titleist, and—cover your ears and guard your soul—a shank occurs.

How to stop shanking the golf ball

If you’ve ever experienced the dreaded hosel rocket departing your club at a 90-degree angle, you know how quickly confidence can evaporate and terror can set in.

Fortunately, the shanks are curable and largely preventable ailment. While there are drills to fix your fault you once the malady has taken hold, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

How to stop shanking the golf ball

If you’re trying to understand how to stop shanking the golf ball, you need to understand where the ball makes contact with the club during a shank.

Fixing the shanks

To avoid shanking the golf ball, it’s important to lock in on some keys…

  • Have a proper setup and posture…Athletic posture, arms hang down, neither too bent over nor too upright, weight on the balls of the feet.
  • Keep your grip light and arms tension free…If 10 is a death grip of golf club and 1 is the club falling out of your hand, aim for a grip in the 4-6 range. Make sure your forearms aren’t clenched.
  • Maintain proper balance throughout the swing…50/50 weight to start (front foot/back foot). 60/40 at the top of the backswing. 90/10 at impact.
  • Avoid an excessively out-to-in or in-to-out swing path…Take the club straight back to start, rather than excessively inside (closer to the body) or outside (further away from the body).

The best drill to stop shanking the golf ball

Set up properly (as discussed above), flex your toes upward as you begin your swing and keep your chest high (maintain your spine angle) throughout the swing.

Other than those focal points, keep your brain free of any additional chatter, which only exacerbates shankitis.

(For more advice, be sure to check out what our friends at Me and My Golf have to say below)

Now you know how to stop shanking the golf ball and have the tools to never shank the golf ball again.

Praise the golf gods!

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Cameron Smith’s 3-month Covid-19 training block

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Whilst Covid-19 has presented countless grave health and economic challenges to the world’s population, it has also provided opportunity for many people to focus their attention on projects that they normally wouldn’t have time for.

Turns out PGA Tour players are no different, and in the case of Cameron Smith, we used the enforced break from competitive golf to undertake a very rare, uninterrupted 3 month block of strength training.

Cam plays 25-30 events a year spread across 4 continents and this presents a number of challenges to overcome from a training and programming perspective:

– Varying facilities

– Travel fatigue and jet lag

– Concerns around muscle soreness affecting ability to perform on course

– Physical and mental cost of competing

When combined, these challenges can often render even the most carefully planned training programs redundant. So whilst many golf fans were coming to terms with a prolonged absence of PGA Tour events, I was getting stuck into designing programs that would hopefully elicit the following outcomes for Cam:

– More muscle mass

– More strength

– More power

In a normal season, I’m hesitant to prescribe programs that focus on muscle gain, because the nature of the training volume tends to tighten Cam up (reduce his range of motion), reduce his club-head speed and elicit a lot of muscle soreness…..not an ideal combination for short term performance! But I knew in this case, we could get stuck into some higher volume work because we would have plenty of time to recover from any lost mobility, reduced speed and increased soreness before tournaments started again.

 

Mid March – Program 1 – General Hypertrophy Focus

We decided with the global virus outlook looking dire and the PGA Tour promising to deliver a 30 day notice before resumption of play, we should focus on hypertrophy (increasing muscle size) until the 30 day notice period was delivered. At that point we would switch to a more familiar power based program in preparation for tournaments starting up again.

Program Breakdown:

– 4 weeks

– 3 sessions per week

– 1 x lower focus (legs, glutes, core)

– 1 x push focus (chest, shoulders, triceps, core)

– 1 x pull focus (back, biceps, core)

– Gradually increasing volume over 4 weeks (more reps and sets to failure)

Training Variables:

Sets: 3 to 4

Reps: 8 to 12

Tempo: 2-0-2 (2 seconds up, no pause, 2 seconds down)

Weight: around 70% of maximum

Rest: 60 seconds, but this can vary when pairing exercises together in supersets or mini circuits

 

Example Workout – Lower Body Focus (legs, glutes, core):

 

Example Exercises:

 

Mid April – Program 2 – Lower Body Hypertrophy Focus

As Cam was about to finish up his first hypertrophy program, there was a fairly clear indication that there would be no play until mid June at the earliest. Knowing that we had 2 more months of training, we decided to continue with another hypertrophy block. This time increasing the focus on the lower body by breaking down the leg work into 2 seperate sessions and ramping up the training volume.

Program Breakdown:

– 4 weeks

– 4 sessions per week

– 2 x lower body focus (1 x quad focused workout and 1 x hamstring / glute focused workout)

– 1 x push focus (chest, shoulders, triceps, core)

– 1 x pull focus (back, biceps, core)

– Gradually increasing volume over 4 weeks (more reps and sets)

Training Variables:

Sets: 3 to 4

Reps: 8 to 12

Tempo: 2-0-2 (2 seconds up, no pause, 2 seconds down)

Weight: around 70% of maximum

Rest: 60 seconds, but this can vary when pairing exercises together in supersets or mini circuits

 

Example Workout – Pull Focus (back, biceps, core):

 

Example Exercises:

Mid May – Program 3 – Power Focus

Once we received confirmation that play would be resuming 11th June at Colonial, we made the call to switch to a power focused program. Moving back to 3 days per week, lowering the volume and increasing the intensity (more weight and more speed in the main lifts).

The idea is to get the body used to moving fast again, reduce muscle soreness to allow better quality golf practice, and supplement the with more mobility work to re-gain any lost range of motion.

We also added some extra grip work because Cam discovered that with the muscle and strength gain, plus lifting increased weight, his grip was failing on key lifts…..not such a bad problem to have!

Program Breakdown:

– 4 weeks

– 3 sessions per week

– 1 x lower body focus (legs, glutes, core, grip)

– 1 x upper body focus (chest, back, biceps, triceps, core, grip)

– 1 x combined focus (legs, glutes, shoulders, core, grip)

– Volume remains constant (same sets and reps), aiming to increase intensity (either weight or speed) over the 4 weeks.

Training Variables:

Sets: 4 to 5

Reps: 3-5 for main exercises, 8-12 for accessory exercises.

Tempo: X-0-1 for main exercises (as fast as possible in up or effort phase, no pause, 1 second down). 2-0-2 for accessory exercises.

Weight: around 85% of maximum for main exercises, around 70% for accessory exercises.

Rest: 90 seconds, but this can vary when pairing exercises together in supersets or mini circuits

 

Example Workout – Combined (legs, glutes, core, shoulders, grip):

 

Example Exercises:

 

If you are interested in receiving some professional guidance for your training, then check out the services on offer from Nick at Golf Fit Pro

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