When you’re new to golf, you don’t have a history of success to draw from to build your confidence. Most experiences are new, and you’re not always sure if you can handle them. Whether it’s one of your first times playing a whole round, a tough shot on the course or you’re picking up a club for the first time, doubts and what-ifs are normal (for all golfers, but especially when you’re still new to the sport).

You are not alone!

Doubts are totally normal. Every golfer has moments where they wonder, for example, if the ball will land on the green or they doubt their ability to get the ball there. It’s normal to have reservations about your abilities as a golfer.

Similarly, having “what-ifs” running through your mind is something that every golfer will go through (some of us more than others). While it can be helpful to consider how to handle a situation when it occurs, sometimes what-ifs run through your head non-stop: What if the ball lands in the bunker? What if I can’t hit it out? What if I can’t play as well as the other golfers? What if I embarrass myself?

When you’re new to golf, you don’t always have the information and experience to help quiet your mind and these doubts and what-ifs can get in the way of how you want to play. Unfortunately, you end up with a self-fulfilling prophecy where the worries end up coming true because of how much energy and focus you put on them.

What You Can Do:

1. Limit your worry-time and find solutions

Plan when you let yourself worry or allow lots of what-ifs. For example, on the drive to the course, you can wonder, what if I miss a shot? What if I look foolish? And let those thoughts run free, but when you get to the course, then the worry time is done. This will get easier the more you practice.

As part of this time, answer the what-ifs and worries. What if you miss a shot? Well, the next one will be tougher and your score might be higher, but that’s it.

Then, find a positive. So, if I have a tougher shot then I get more practice at that, and a high score is normal right now. That’s okay.

2. Reflect later

Ideally, you have your worrying and what-if time before you get to the course or your lesson. Over time, you’ll get better at keeping this contained, rather than having them be constantly on your mind. Regardless of what happens, when you’re done with your lesson or time on the course, check back in with yourself. Were those worries needed? If they happened (or a different scenario took place), what actually occurred? Did you look as foolish as you thought? Did you come back like you planned? Often times the worries are bigger in our minds, and they don’t happen in the way or in the extreme manner we think, so through this reflection, we begin to see that we don’t really need to worry as much as we did.

3)  Keep a running list of the things that go well

Confidence can become a buffer to these doubts and what-ifs, so make sure you keep track of what goes well. Consider creating a note on your phone, or writing the moments down in a journal. Then, review the list of your successes and positive moments when those worries are getting out of control. Remember that when you’re a newer golfer, any small improvement, success, or proud moment should be added to this list.

Worries are normal and everyone has them; they can be especially prevalent when you’re new to the sport. But- that doesn’t mean you need to let them take over. Use the strategies above to help put the what-is and worries to rest. Over time, you’ll find that you spend less time worrying and focusing on the what-ifs, and more time enjoying yourself on the course.