Don’t let one bad shot ruin your round


It only takes a few bad shots or a couple of poor rounds and your confidence can take a real hit – whether it’s a particular type of shot like a chip off a tight lie, or your entire game. You start doubting your ability to successfully hit shots you used to take for granted and it can become a vicious downward spiral.

Every player loses confidence at one stage of his or her golfing life. For some golfers, they lose confidence for a short period of time, but for others the loss of confidence can be much longer and last for years. The latter occurrence is an unfortunate circumstance because this loss of confidence, or slump, is reversible – the player just needs to get the mental game back on track.

The solution

Losing your confidence is most often associated with less effort and enthusiasm for practice as well as not paying attention to the fundamentals of the game. And this adds to the downward spiral of your game.

If you’ve lost your confidence, it is best to review the segments of your game and see what needs adjustment – not necessarily complete changes. In some instances, it might simply be best to allow yourself to reduce the demands on yourself in practice and competition. Because confidence in golf encapsulates skills such as driving, iron play, pitching and putting, it’s likely that you will rate your confidence differently on these different skills. This is the first step in the process to regaining lost confidence.

Once you have honestly rated your confidence for each element of the game, you can rate the skill that is most important to you and begin with a diet of success on this skill. In putting, for example, you might stroke the ball into the hole 10 times from one foot before moving the ball to two feet, then three feet, and so on. Next, you can reinforce yourself positively by encouraging effort and attention to your routine, and accepting the outcome of each shot. Then, you can create more elaborate practice plans that build your skills in the game. For example, you might choose to hit 10 consecutive 60-yard pitch shots to within 20 feet of the pin.

As you gain more and more confidence at this skill, you might aim to hit 10 consecutive 60-yard pitch shots to within 15 feet of the pin and so on. The aim here is to choose a challenging goal that has a specific target which you can measure, but which is within your capabilities at that time. Confidence is a belief in your ability to complete a task. Build your confidence with a diet of success and begin to act as if you are already a confident golfer.

Proof this process works

The study
Seven amateur golfers indicated on their scorecard how they felt on three psychological dimensions before each hole of an 18-hole tournament – worry, the physical symptoms of anxiety such as a racing heart, and self-confidence. Each golfer’s tee shots were judged by two assessors.

The results
When lacking in self-confidence, high levels of anxiety are bad for performance. In contrast, when the players were self-confident and had lots of physical symptoms of anxiety, an increase in worry did not have a negative influence on their performance. 

What you can learn
This study illustrates how confidence may help buffer the potential negative effects of anxiety on performance. 

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The Successful Golfer


Get the book for more mental tips like this

This is an excerpt from ‘The Successful Golfer: Practical Fixes for the Mental Game of Golf’ by sports psychologists Dr Paul McCarthy and Dr Marc Jones. Available now for £13.99. Visit for more information.