I still remember the famous interview with Tiger Woods and Curtis Strange in 1996 when Tiger was coming out on the Tour for his first pro tournament. Curtis asked him what a “successful week” would look like in Milwaukie. Tiger said he wanted four solid rounds, then added “and a victory would be nice.” He went on to say that he always told his Dad “second sucks and third is even worse.” My thought when I first heard the interview was that here is a young player who had an incredible amount of confidence and wasn’t afraid to let you know about it.
In 1997, I went to the Masters Tournament for the first time. I had been teaching golf for four years after graduating from college. After I took in the aura of my first live view of the course, after I broke through all the merchandise tents passed the entrance, I wandered over to the practice area. Just as I was walking towards the putting green, a group of security guards were escorting Tiger towards the putting green. What struck me was the posture and cadence of Tiger’s walk. It was only Wednesday, which was a practice round, but the focus and determination in his eyes was etched in my mind. His body language was that of an athlete who was on a mission. Needless to say, he went on to win the tournament by 12 shots and broke the scoring record with an -18 under par score of 270. Tiger had just won his fourth professional event and first Major championship. He showed the world just how good he really was.
Since that time, I have tried to instill in my players the concept of body language. Body language is important for maintaining a positive mental attitude on the course. Our body language affects our emotions and our emotions affect our performance. One exercise I have my players do is called the Acting Exercise. Find a quiet room and pretend you are an actor and exaggerate the role of a confident person. How are you going to stand, hold your head, hold your shoulders, breathe, look of your face and what will you do with your hands? Then, start moving around the room. Gauge the speed you move and gestures you make. Make adjustments in your body language until you feel more confident and a sense of power. Now its time to shift gears and act the role of a negative and defeated person. Pretend you are a person with low self-confidence. Again, ask yourself how you would stand, hold your head and shoulders, breathe, the look of your face and what you would do with your hands. How would you move around the room and at what speed? Do this for a few minutes. Then, while maintaining this body language, try to feel confident and positive. It’s near impossible. Now shift your body language back to the confident person with a clap of your hand. You will find that it is much easier to feel confident and self-assured.
There are two important takeaways from this exercise. The first is that you have discovered a blue print for how you should be holding yourself on the course to align with confidence and peak performance. Second, you understand that if you are feeling negative and in a state of low confidence and self-esteem, you need to change your body language to break the pattern and shift back to a state of confidence. I tell my players not to wait for good things to happen in golf to act confident and self-assured. Act like you are the most confident player on the course. The feelings will follow. Work on this process just as you would any other area of your game. In other words, “fake it till you make it.” So, stand up tall, shoulders back and walk the course with confidence!
By Brech Spradley, PGA
Director of Instruction
Barton Creek Golf Academy
Golf Channel Academy