Which camp do you fall in? When you play your best on the golf course how do you feel, confident or cocky? Try to align yourself with one of today’s top professionals. Jason Day is confident. Henrik Stenson is confident. Dustin Johnson is surprisingly confident and a little bit humble. Just look at Rory McIlroy’s gait when he is winning. Tremendously cocky. Jordan Speith has transitioned from a cocky youth to confident consummate professional. When he was at his peak, Tiger Woods was the most cocky AND confident player on the planet. Now he exhibits neither, which is why I’m skeptical of his comeback attempt. Phil Mickelson, the ultimate showman, is both. Bottom line: To play effectively, you need one or the other.
WARNING ALARM! I hope this isn’t you. The last time I played my best, I was neither confident nor cocky but rather surprised. This is not a good state to be in. It was probably due to my lower level of preparation and infrequent play. However, five years ago, I was in an excellent hot streak and exhibited a high level of confidence. When I play and practice a lot, my confidence rises. Normally, I’m a 95% confident type, but when the 5% cocky appears, I’ll try some boneheaded shot that I haven’t practiced, which leads to a triple bogey. Have any of you confident types experienced this?
Our personality leads us to either a confident or cocky on-course persona and it’s best to play to your personality. Unless your on-course behavior is horrible, when we deviate from our personality is when we screw up. If you are a gregarious show-off, normally you’ll fall in the cocky camp and need to play as such to be comfortable, but if you’re a more quiet unassuming strategist, you’ll play as a confident type. This is why it took Phil Mickelson so long to adjust his on course behavior away from taking unnecessary risks that cost him several major championships. He’s still cocky at heart but has learned to become more of a tactician that always plays with a game plan. I think fans still love when “Phil The Thrill” comes out, but watch him in the majors and especially at The Masters. He’ll come out with a confident game plan and rarely deviates.
To be successful, you need one or the other. To find yours, think back when you were in competition and playing your best (and your worst). What did you have and what were you missing? As mentioned earlier, at my best I was supremely confident. At my worst I had nothing and was completely intimidated.
Confident vs. cocky; what works for you? Shoot me a comment with your type and a story if you’ve got one. Play well!
I’ve been experimenting with several warm-up techniques this season and have finally hit on one that fully prepares me to play. Several routines have left me fidgety and uncomfortable for the first few holes until my natural rhythm takes over, and usually with some bad scores on the card. My goal is to feel as comfortable and confident on the first tee as I am after playing five holes. Here we go:
Start by getting to the course early. Normally, I’ll arrive 50-60 minutes before my tee time but have recently found that an additional 15 minutes is required to eliminate any feeling of being rushed. I’ll start the warm up on the driving range by slowly swinging my 4-iron with a weighted doughnut around the hosel. I’ll deliberately hold the finish position on each swing to ensure I’m fully rotated, weight is distributed correctly on my forward foot, and my rotational muscles have been fully stretched. I’ll take about 15 of these. Next I’ll hit about 15 balls off a tee with my pitching wedge. I use the tee to promote good contact and to build confidence. Next I’ll hit about half a dozen 7-irons, again off a tee to build more confidence. Next, I’ll move to driver and hit half a dozen. If I feel really good, I’ll try to shape a few because drawing or fading the ball on command is a tremendous confidence boost, but only try this if you understand how to shape your shots. The warm up is for getting loose and building confidence, NOT for experimenting with new moves or getting overly mechanical. Finally I’ll wrap up with about 10 shots off the turf with my 56 degree wedge. On every shot, I’ll alter the target because I don’t want to get robotic and do want to get my mind in game mode. I find it helps to pause between shots and maybe chat up a friend or fellow competitor, just to remove any focus on yourself and set your mind in a relaxed state.
Next I’ll move to the short game area (hopefully you’ll have one), and hit some easy chips off good lies to a flag that has ample room to run out. Very important to hit easy shots because you want to see the ball getting close (or in) to build confidence. Chip for about 5-10 minutes. Then take a few pitch shots from good lies to easily accessible holes, again to build confidence. See a pattern developing here? Finally wrap up with some lag putts of 10-20 feet. You want to see the ball get close or go in and not end up in three putt range. Finish up by making half a dozen very short putts of two feet or less, just to make sure you make them all. It’s VERY important to see the ball go in the hole.
Want to be prepared for success on the first tee? Try this routine. Let me know how it goes and good luck!
What should you work on to improve your golf? Easy for a PGA professional; they work on everything because they have the time and generally spare no expense. For amateurs it’s a balancing act based on time, money, skills, and determination. If you’re like me, you don’t play as much as you like, and even on good days you feel something is missing from your game, and while you’d love to put it all together, you rarely do. There’s ALWAYS something to work on, so what approach do you take?
The answer is to work on whatever builds confidence. Improve your confidence and your play will improve along with your satisfaction level. Start by developing a personal confidence report card and be as honest and as detailed as possible. The profile you create will help guide your approach. Here was mine at the beginning of the season:
- Driving length: C
- Driving accuracy: B-
- Fairway woods: D
- 3-6 iron play: C-
- 7-9 iron play: B-
- Full swing scoring shots <120 yards: B
- Pitching: B
- Chipping: B+
- Lag putting: C-
- Short putting: B+
- Physical conditioning: C-
- Mental approach: A-
How would you profile the above? I’d see someone who is clearly a dissatisfied ball striker, who gets more confident the closer they get to the flag stick, who manages their game well, but puts inordinate pressure on their short game. This player would clearly struggle on courses with long par three and par four holes but probably scores well on the fives by laying up to preferred yardages. Since this is me, I can confirm 🙂 So if you were me, what would you work on?
Conventional thinking is to just go work on short game and watch your scores drop, but I have done that extensively over the past several years and while I have improved around the green, the only true KPI (handicap) has not improved. Consequently, I’ve decided on an approach where I address my weaknesses off the course (conditioning and ball striking) and play around them on the course until my confidence is elevated. While it’s still early in the season, the conditioning work I’m doing for my back has allowed me to correct a serious swing flaw with my spine angle and pick up consistency and length. Confidence level is going up!
Now your personal confidence report card may look considerably different from mine, but I’d urge you to make one, and in doing so, take the same approach to work on your weaknesses until your confidence level improves, and play around them while you do the work. If you want to send me your self confidence report card, I’d be happy to make an assessment and develop an improvement plan for you. Sometimes another set of eyes can be beneficial. Good luck!