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Confidence is a belief in our ability to achieve a goal.

For example, “I am confident I can make this four-foot putt”. Because confidence is a belief, it means that we can choose to believe what we wish to believe. However, there is a catch. If I believe I can play on the European Tour but I never practice any of the skills required to play on the tour, my chances of success are low. If I practice and believe in my ability then my chances of playing on the European Tour grow day by day.

Learn the Skill

1 Because confidence is also a skill, we can practise to improve it. Confidence is a skill in how we think, feel and act in the world around us. It also means that we need to be reasonable and rationale about how we make sense of what happens to us. In other words, the way we interpret things that happen on the golf course will help us to maintain our confidence rather than seek it drift away.

2 How we talk to ourselves is most important in developing confidence. Without realising it, we can undermine all our good physical practice on the golf range by setting impossible standards and blaming, judging and criticising ourselves harshly. We need to be compassion in the way in which we speak to ourselves all the time.

3 Note down some of the ways in which you speak to yourself at the driving range or on the golf course. Write these statements in your notebook.

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Practise the Skill

1 Once you have written these statements from the last section in your notebook, you give yourself the chance to change them. When statements about yourself are harsh, unhelpful and unjustified, you begin to lower your sense of control and confidence. You give yourself the message that you cannot do what you wish to do. We can do two things: 1. Change the way we talk to ourselves and 2. Change the way we make sense of what happens to us

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2 When we change how we talk to ourselves, we learn to respect and value who we are regardless of our achievements. Achiever-fever is everywhere so we need to treat ourselves with care and compassion as we pursue our goals.

3 When any unhelpful comments come from yourself or others, you can learn to take the comment to court where the prosecution and defence can establish the truth or falsehood. For instance, if you say: “I’m terrible at golf’, you will need to provide evidence to support and dispute this statement.

Play with the Skill

1 Most golfers long to play golf with confidence when it matters most. Unfortunately, this longing does come with a plan of action to play with confidence. Playing with confidence means: acting confidently on the golf course; accepting the zig-zag path of golf; learn from your mistakes, then let them go; and finally, limit blame. It is important to act confidently because a confident posture bring confident thoughts and feelings.

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2 Remember that golf brings moments of good golf and moments of less good golf. This zig-zag path means that flexibility and confidence complement each other. We hope for things to go our way but we are flexible not to demand that things should go our way. This zig-zag path also means that the mistakes we make should be learning moments and then let the mistakes go.

3 The last part of the jigsaw is to limit self-blame. Blaming ourselves for the outcome of events assumes that we have entire control over everything that happens to us, yet, this is hardly ever the case. We need to learn from our mistakes and work on encouraging ourselves with statements like “good preparation, well done” and “keep up the intensity, you’re not letting up”.

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Ben Craggs teaches at Laurel Oak Country Club, Sarasota’s premier private country club. You can follow Ben on Twitter @bencraggsgolf

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