I’m guessing that the term “confidence circle” is something that most of you have heard of before. If you keep up with this blog, you definitely have. I use the term a lot because I thought I knew what it meant. I recently discovered I was wrong.
For those of you that haven’t heard the term, the confidence circle is a putting reference. It’s traditionally been defined as the distance from the basket at which you can make 90% or more of your putts. It comes into play in many ways.
First, it’s your scoring zone. If your confidence circle is 20 feet out from the basket, then you have a 40 foot diameter circle to throw at when approaching the basket. Get it within that 40 feet and the theory is that you will then make the putt and “score”.
Second, it provides you with a larger area to shoot at than trying to park everything directly under the basket. You might not always have a clean shot to the base of the pole, but throwing at a 40 foot diameter circle will leave you with a lot more choices.
Third, it lets you know where you need to practice putting from. You always want to reinforce your confidence circle. You also always want to try to expand it. If you have the above mentioned 40 foot circle, your practice might focus on moving that to 50. That’s where you would want to spend your time working on your putts. You wouldn’t want to devote much time to 60 feet or further.
There are a bunch of other reasons that knowing your confidence circle is important. At the heart of all of them, though, is being able to accurately measure what that circle is in the first place. And this is where I have been making a grave mistake.
If you had asked me a few weeks ago what my confidence circle was, I would have told you I had worked on that a lot. I would have looked you in the eye and without hesitation told you 21 feet. I have a putting log with thousands of putts recorded that proves it.
That’s all well and good, but my emotions say something different. What do emotions have to do with your putting circle? Everything. And that’s why I’m renaming the confidence circle to the oh crap circle.
You see, the “confidence circle” has a distinct measurement. The “oh crap” circle does not. The “confidence circle” is measured with a tape measure and statistics. The “oh crap” circle is measured with your eyeballs and your gut. The “confidence circle” is a set measurement. The “oh crap” circle is fluid and changes all the time. The “confidence circle” sounds great on paper. The “oh crap” circle is what works in real life.
Let me explain… When you throw an approach shot and watch it fly toward the basket, you immediately form an opinion in your mind as to whether it was a good shot or not. When it settles around the basket somewhere, you instinctively react in one of two ways. You immediately think either “Yes!” or “Oh Crap!”. You know right away whether or not this is a makable putt for you. If your first reaction is “oh crap”, you know you are outside your oh crap circle.
Some days, that circle is really big. Those are the days when the basket is huge and you couldn’t miss if you tried. You putt with your bag on, standing on one foot, drinking a Gatorade with your off hand. Some days, that circle is tiny and even 10 footers can elicit that oh crap response.
Deep down inside, you know where you can make putts from. Deep down inside, you don’t need a tape measure or putting log. Deep down inside, you can’t lie to yourself.
So how does this help you play better disc golf? First, you can’t fake it. If your reaction is “oh crap” every time you have to make something longer than 10 feet in a tournament, then your circle is set at a 10 foot radius. That’s where you need to start your practicing. Pretending your circle is bigger than that doesn’t help you get better.
Second, the most important thing in becoming a great putter is, actually, confidence. If you are thinking “oh crap” before you ever get to your putt, you are doomed before you grab your putter. You don’t need to work on a certain number of feet, you need to work on moving that feeling of doubt further and further away from the basket.
Third, understanding that your oh crap circle fluctuates allows you to change how you are playing mid round. If that circle is big today, you can now run at more approaches. You can play a little more aggressively. If the circle is small, you know you need to play more conservatively. There’s no use telling yourself your circle is 30 feet out if you haven’t hit a 15 footer all day. In the middle of a round it doesn’t matter what your practice log says your circle should be, your gut is screaming at you to tell you what it really is.
Doing this might be a blow to some egos out there. When standing at the practice basket, you might be bulletproof from 30 feet. You can fire all ten of your practice putters in from that distance one right after the other. Can you do that when it counts, though? Can you do that in the heat of competition with the game on the line? Can you do it when faced with a 30 foot death putt? Are you standing at the basket full of confidence, or is there a voice inside saying “oh crap”?
One of the first steps to improving is an accurate measure of where you are now. I would venture to guess that most people have an “oh crap” circle that’s much smaller than they would describe their “confidence circle”. Remember, the whole point is to have 100% confidence. If there is any doubt inside as you line up your putt, you are outside of your circle.
I can’t impress upon you enough just how important growing this circle is. Imagine going out on the course and knowing all the way to the marrow of your bones that you were going to make every putt within 25 feet. What would that do for your game? You would play off the tee differently. You would approach differently. You would do everything differently.
Knowing that you are money inside your circle is one of the best feelings you can have on the course. Getting to that point is a two step process. Step one – know what your real, oh crap, circle is. Step two – start practicing.
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