Golf Tips - Building Confidence in Junior Golfers

By Dr. Bob Phillips, Golf Psychologist

Confidence is one the most important elements in golf. This is true for golfers of all ages, but it is especially true for younger golfers. Confidence can be divided up into two general areas.

The first is confidence in yourself as a person. This separates you from golf, or any other single endeavor. Do you like yourself? What is your value to you? If you start to question yourself because you play golf poorly you are not putting a very high value on you as a person.

The second type of confidence is performance confidence. This is about how well you expect to perform. Some people have little confidence in their ability to play well even if all the evidence strongly suggests that they will perform well. These people usually have low self-esteem and therefore have little of the first type of confidence mentioned above. Without good confidence in yourself as a person, it is not likely that a golfer will have high performance confidence.

Others have great amounts of confidence in their ability to perform well, even though they have not put in the necessary time and training to build up their level of play. These people begin each tournament or round with the greatest expectation and often feel very disappointed after a few holes of average or poor play. These golfers have not learned how to develop true confidence and instead rely on wishful thinking.

The first step in building up true confidence is to give the youth the understanding that golf is not life and that it is something that develops and improves over time. They do not need to play well to enjoy the game. Talk to them about how uneven and unpredictable the game actually is. Help them be ready for anything so that they can enjoy the experience without tying it to their own value as a person. If you think you are motivating someone by belittling them, think again. You are simply modeling being a bully and if they buy into your thinking they will not develop true confidence because they will strive to satisfy others and not set their own goals and limits.

One way to help a young player is to have them break down their game into five or six categories or components. Make sure that mental preparation is one of the categories. (Didn't think of that one did you?) The other categories could include such things as short putts, long putts, distance, accuracy, sand shots, and other elements that are easily kept track of. Ask the young golfer to make a list and, in a practice round, keep track of what actually went well and what areas were problems. It is hard to mess up in everything.

After the round go over the results and look for the good and the bad. Talk up the strengths and show him or her how to improve. Then go over the problem areas and talk about what is needed to improve. Always have the belief that they are exactly where they should be as to level of play. If you get upset, you teach them that they are wrong or off base or not trying - and you make it hard for them to emotionally be available to put energy into practice. By breaking golf down into these components you help them enjoy the positive and tackle the negative.

Remember the old saying, "A bad day on the golf course is better than a good day at the office". Help the young golfer understand why this is true.

And remember to build up the person, break down the problems, stress the positive and model having fun doing it all. *


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