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The Faith Factor

Silent Mind Golf brings a refreshingly simple yet original approach to mental aspects of golf. It is written by a business professional and lifelong golfer, Robin Sieger, who directly relates to "the average golfer's love-hate relationship with the game". The book guides golfers of all skill levels to "get out of their own way" and learn to play intuitively and instinctively. This is also the first golf book to be accompanied by a mental conditioning audio CD that teaches the learner the 'how to'.

"Improving mental excellence takes practice, just like improving your swing to be more consistent," says Sieger. "It came to me several years ago that I could apply the theories of best performance, those I'd traditionally used in a business context, to my golf. Almost immediately I reduced my handicap from 16 to 8."

We cannot guarantee that this exclusive series of extracts from the book will halve your handicap, but we are certain it will help to give you valuable direction in what is the most over-looked aspect of the game.

Part 1 - Silent Mind Golf
Part 2 - The Art of Focus

Part 3 - Presence - Being in the Moment
Part 4 - The Faith Factor
Part 5 - Ovecoming the Fear Factor
Part 6 - What makes a Winner?
Part 7 - The Fear Factor
Part 8 - The Four Foot Putt

In golf – as in life – confidence is a major factor in determining our ability to succeed at a given task. When we look at the great sportsmen and women over the years, one quality they seem to possess in abundance is confidence. Those golfers who have endured as great champions over the years take every opportunity to say that they can win, they truly believe it. There is a major difference between saying something and believing it. Success on the golf course demands that we believe we can succeed and not simply employ hollow rhetoric.

Faith lies at the heart of confidence. The word confidence comes from the Latin cum-fides, which literally translated means ‘with great trust’. A more common interpretation is ‘with faith’. In Silent Mind Golf, faith in ourselves is critical to the successful realisation of our swing. As Jack Nicklaus once said: “Confidence is the single most important factor in this game”.

The brain is a beautifully complex and sophisticated organ. It tries to bring into realisation the thoughts you have imagined. If you believe something to be true the brain will look for evidence to validate that belief. In the absence of any evidence, it will help you create it. Isn’t that great? It is why some people who are positive in their outlook towards life are always happy and see the good in every situation, while others who are negative in the exact same situation find the faults and the things to complain about.


Have you heard the expression ‘getting out of your own way’? We intuitively know what ‘getting in your own way’ means. It is when we try too hard to let things occur naturally, when we try to control all aspects of our movements, and in the process we inhibit the natural flow of actions and events.

A simple example would be watching a young child walking across a kitchen with a bowl of soup. They are walking confidently and all seems well until someone, usually a parent (with the best of intentions), says, ‘Don’t spill it.’ What happens? The child then starts to walk more slowly and concentrates entirely on not spilling the soup, the same soup they had been carrying with complete confidence only moments before. So, rather than let their actions flow (co-ordination, balance, muscle memory and focus), the child is now trying to control the actions that had previously allowed them to carry the soup bowl perfectly and with no thought whatsoever. They may or may not spill the soup, but the very act of trying hard not to spill the soup paradoxically increases the likelihood of them doing so.

Applied to golf, we are all aware of how complex the mechanics of the golf swing are, and yet when we let the swing flow, and trust it, more often than not we execute an acceptable shot. Over-analysis and self-chatter are the problems that have to be overcome.

So the challenge to us is, how do we ‘get out of our own way? Well, the first thing we have to do is banish conscious thought during physical action. In golfing terms, it is the same: the mind is always looking at the hazards and the problems related to the shot. We frequently fail to trust our swing and therefore we feel we need to control it by overriding our instinctive abilities.

The reason we do this is because it is difficult to keep our mind on the result, because our focus has gone from the outcome (the target) to process (swing technique). Here’s something to keep in mind this weekend: the ball has no knowledge of how the club was swung. It responds only to the strike. However to produce a consistent strike we need a consistent swing. The more we think about the swing while we are swinging, the less likely we are to create a consistent, repeating swing.

However, the more faith we have in our swing, and the more we are willing to trust it and not consciously interfere with it, the more consistent it will become.

The more confidence we have the more likely we are to trust our natural ability to produce the swing we need. In other words, we stop getting in our own way. Which is easier said than done. How do we build up our confidence? There are no lessons for it, someone telling you to “be more confident” doesn’t work, so how do we go about the business of building our confidence, when we either have very little or none at all.

It begs the question, ‘where do all those players who exude confidence get their self belief from?’. I think part of it is upbringing – i.e. they have been fortunate enough to receive consistent and positive reinforcement from their peers and family in their formative years. But more than anything else, it comes from within, in the form of having a positive self-belief, not allowing themselves to be distracted by negative self-talk, and not beating themselves up when they make a mistake. They put a positive spin on it, seeing it as something to learn from and not evidence of their being ‘a loser’. In short, they build up a positive self image and not a negative one.

It is interesting to note that it is estimated that 96% of four-year-olds have high self-esteem and confidence, but by the age of 18 it is less that 4% who still have those qualities. Why? I believe our self image is created by the feedback the world gives us, (parents, teachers friends and peers), but more importantly it is the self-talk we give ourselves that sustains our self image, and confidence (or lack of it). So, what self talk do you give yourself, before, during and after a round of golf?

An area where confidence is most evident is on the putting green – when a player loses his or her self belief the subsequent outcome can (and has been for many) career ending. In fact, it would be fair to say that for the majority of the great champions it is the putting that is the first thing to go. In their early careers many of the finest players in the game – Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Tom Watson among them – were blessed with the ability to seemingly ‘will’ the ball into the hole.

Watson and Palmer, in particular, would rattle in the shorter putts, denting the back of the hole; if they missed they would go three or four feet past – but that’s not a problem when you are certain in the knowledge they would hole the return. They appeared to be supremely confident, and there’s a good reason for this: they were. Yet as the years rolled on it was the putting that deserted them. Snead developed a form of side-saddle putting that was subsequently banned by the USGA; Hogan used to freeze over the ball, seemingly unable to draw the putter back. And while his long game is almost as good today as it has ever been, just think back to the putt that Tom Watson missed at Turnberry last year in the Open Championship.

Such is the cruel nature of this game that for all his brilliance around the links, Tom’s inability – or I should say his confidence in his own ability – is now such that he did not believe he could make that putt on the 72nd green. Had he still had that self belief he would be the reigning Open champion.

Interestingly, it is not only individuals who benefit from being confident. We can observe the phenomenon in team events, when, for example, one missed putt (or made putt) can affect the confidence of the whole team. On the second day of the 1985 Ryder Cup at The Belfry, the American Craig Stadler had a putt of no more than two feet to win his match. This win would have put the USA in the lead heading into the afternoon fourballs. In one of the great dramatic moments from that Ryder Cup, Stadler missed the putt, and in that instant the whole momentum of the match changed – the confidence of the United States’ team dipped while that of the European team grew stronger.

It is subtle, it is intangible but it is real. In all accounts of the 1985 Ryder Cup that one missed putt, above all others, is remembered for changing the momentum of the event. This confidence or faith in oneself or ones team is a critical factor in playing the best golf we are capable of playing.


We have all faced a putt that was very difficult to read. You look at it from one side, then the other. Eventually you convince yourself that it might break this way – or if you read it wrongly, that way! In a situation like this it actually doesn’t matter too much if you got the read right or wrong. Any time you have any doubt about a putt you are unlikely to hit the ball with any confidence, or certainty, which will only plant further seeds of doubt in your mind.

When we miss short putts we rapidly lose confidence in our putting stroke. So how do you recapture that lost confidence? How do you turn those negatives into positives? Well, it is done gradually through repeatedly increasing your sense of accomplishment. Think of the child you once were: feel again the belief you once had in your mind that anything is possible.

It will help if you take as much pleasure in your putting as you do in launching your drives or striking crisp iron approach shots. Do not be afraid of putting. Enjoy it as much as any other part of the game. The green is the place where we need to be most relaxed and in control of our stroke. But if our self-talk is negative, if we tell ourselves over and over that we have a tough putt, then it is inevitable that we tense up and our sense of touch is the first thing to go.

So keep a strong sense of faith in your stroke and your ability to make whatever putt you face. This obviously does not mean you will make every putt by telling yourself you can, but it stops you experiencing self-doubt and reduces tension. Most importantly, enjoy your putting. When a child sets a goal theymay have little prior knowledge or experience of success; just a belief it can be done – whatever ‘it’ is. The resources they draw on are imagination and determination. You have still got that imagination; and though sometimes youmay need to dig deep to find the determination, you’ve still got that too.

And just as a child’s confidence grows through praise and positive experiences, so will yours. Somake it an ongoing process – feel good about yourself and about your personal achievements; and if you do something well, something that pleases you, give yourself a quiet, ‘Well done!’

I find it odd when I see somebody with a flat tyre or who has just spilt a glass of milk or missed a short putt getting upset and losing their temper. Life and death are life and death, and we should treat them as such; everything else should be put into perspective. It reminds me of the story of the American tourist on holiday in the north of Scotland, who asked an old fellow sitting on a wall, ‘What’s the weather going to be like tomorrow?’

Without looking at the sky, the old man replied, ‘The kind of weather I like.’ The tourist tried again, ‘Is it going to be sunny?’ ‘I don’t know,’ was the reply. ‘Well, is it going to rain?’ ‘Wouldn’t know about that.’ By now the visitor was pretty perplexed. ‘OK,’ he said, ‘if it’s the kind of weather you like, what kind of weather is it going to be?’ The old man looked at the American and answered, ‘I learned long ago that I had no control over the weather, so I taught myself to like whatever weather comes along.’

Moral: You have the power to determine your emotional response to events. If you don’t control them, they have a habit of controlling you.

So don’t act as if a missed putt or drive that goes OB is the worst thing imaginable, as to do so will erode your confidence and over time rob you of it completely (remember the great champions who lost the ability to putt). These events, when they happen, are setbacks. But they are small setbacks, and everybody gets them. It’s what you do next that’s important. It’s not what happens to you that matters; it’s what you do about it that counts. When a setback occurs, don’t identify with it. Use it simply as something to learn from.

PITCHING - Learn to ‘see’ a variety of shots using just one club

When we think of players such as Seve Ballesteros, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, it is their recovery shots around the green that we remember, rather than the many perfectly normal shots we see them hit in the course of a tournament. These players have the ability to see the shot in their mind’s eye before they execute it.

All players have the ability to imagine, but few players are able to eliminate self-doubt and translate what they imagine into reality. Until you can see the shot and focus on what you see, your brain cannot plot the swing you require to execute it. (Time for this exercise : one hour. Yep, that’s right, 60 minutes.)

1. Take a sand-wedge and a dozen balls and drop them at least 20 yards from the putting surface. Then pick an area on the green were you want the ball to finish.

2. Now imagine hitting a high lob shot with the sand-wedge and see the ball coming to rest in the spot you want it to finish.

3. Take six practice swings for the lob shot and then hit six actual shots at the target. Don’t worry or concern yourself with the outcome at this stage.

4. Using the same club from exactly the same spot, imagine playing a bump-and-run shot with the same club. This exercise is about imagination and execution, and so even though this is not a club you would normally use from 20 yards off the green for a bump-and-run, I want you to use it on this occasion.

5. Again take six practice swings. Again then hit six actual shots at the target.

6. Repeat this exercise a number of times until you are consistently hitting the majority of high lobs and bumpand- runs as you have imagined them. Over time, this will build up your confidence to execute even unconventional shots, and trust (have faith) in yourself.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

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