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Cindy Miller: Of all the golf hazards, fear is the worst

Have you ever stood over a shot, ready to pull the trigger, and you hear a small voice say, “Warning! Don't swing! Something is wrong!”  Then you hear another voice say, “Go ahead and hit it.  Everyone is waiting for you.” Then you hit the shot, miss the shot, and say to yourself, “I should have backed off and started over.”

Why does that happen?

Your subconscious mind is your protector.  It is trying to help you in the background.  It takes in all the information you have given it over the hours, days, years that you have played and comes up with solutions for you.  The only trouble is, sometimes those solutions are not the truth.

Let’s say you are trying to improve your game. You are investing in golf lessons from a qualified professional and you play once per week in a league with friends.  Let’s say you start hitting it badly, and your friends start trying to help you. They tell you what you are doing wrong. “You are lifting your head.  Keep your head down!”  Let’s say your instructor says you do not want to try to keep your head down because it inhibits your follow through.  You now have conflicting information in your brain.  You have doubt, confusion, apprehension, and eventually fear.  Been there?  Done that?

I have had some issues with my game for a few years now. My miss goes dead left.  I can sometimes stand over the ball and feel the miss before I even swing.  (trust me, that is no fun). You might say, “Cindy, you are a former LPGA Tour player, current member of the Legends Tour of the LPGA, and a former LPGA National Teacher of the Year.  You are married to a 15-year veteran of the PGA TOUR, and the second purest ball striker Dave Pelz has ever tested. Why in the world do you have doubt, confusion, apprehension, and fear?"  Because I am stubborn.  I didn’t really believe what was wrong.  I thought I could fix it myself.

I recently played in a Legends Tour event in which I either hit it great, or absolutely -- terrible.  My miss went so far left, you would have asked someone if I was really a professional.  I then tried to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Senior Open. Same thing. I either hit it great, or dead left. I missed qualifying. Both my husband Allen, and son Jamie would stand there and say, “You picked it up.”  I would respond, “It didn’t feel like it.”  They would both say, “It may not have felt like it, but that it what you did, and why it went dead left.”  They filmed me, I saw the proof.  My head had trouble grasping the difference in the feel and the truth of what I saw. The question was now, “Do you want to continue to try to play?” If so, you must make the changes.

I am in.  Totally committed to do this.  I have no idea how well I will play, but I refuse to play in fear anymore.  I must face the truth and fix this.

So, what are you afraid of?  Do you keep making the same mistake over and over again?  Do you refuse to reveal the truth?  Expose the elephants?  How good could you be if you were willing to really try?

To all the parents out there who have children who compete, what are you doing to create fear in your child?  Are you encouraging them, or do you put more pressure on them to perform?  I teach a lot of junior golfers who tell me many of their fellow competitors don’t seem to know how to count.  They tell me who the cheaters are.  How sad is it that children feel the need to cheat so they can win a trophy to make mom and dad proud?

Understand that no one tries to miss it on purpose.  We all want to do our best.

I am fortunate to have been named a Top 50 U.S. Kids Master Instructor.  One of the requirements to become certified is to go through the Positive Coaching Alliance Certification.  This company teaches parents, students, and coaches how to build winners on and off the field. What I believe is way more important than a trophy. They encourage focusing on effort rather than results.  They teach us how to elevate the athlete’s emotional state, so they can perform at their peak level.  We teach athletes to compete fiercely, while honoring the game.  What a great idea!

I would like to challenge you to have the courage to look in the mirror. I dare you to be willing to face your fears and be willing to make some changes so you can enjoy playing this wonderful game.  Remember, it is only a game. 

Cindy Miller is a former LPGA Tour Player, a current member of the Legends Tour of the LPGA, and a Golf Channel Academy Lead Coach. She is a Certified Behavior, Motivation, and Judgment Professional who is sought after as a speaker, coach, and corporate trainer. Reach out to her at .  Follow Cindy at  and on InstagramFacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.


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