Here’s a painful story from last weekend. The temptation was not to write this. The embarrassment too great and the easiest this to do was hide and ignore it. But the lesson I’m about to share with you is too important to keep hidden.

If you feel you’re not getting the most out of your golf game then this lesson is for you. If you continually stuff up and ruin your score with a bad 2 or 3 holes then listen up. This will be the most important golf lesson I can give.

Here’s the story.

The Club Championships started last weekend. I haven’t been playing that much, but I still wanted to do well. For the most part I’m fairly confident of turning up and playing with a game that is respectable. This is the beauty of automatic golf.

But a friendly warm-up hit on Friday shattered my confidence. Over the last few holes I sprayed a few drives. And I’m not talking about small misses – these two drives went sidewards. I let them worry me. I was thinking about it overnight and I even got to the range early the next morning to iron out any problems. This is something that I haven’t done in years.

Half-way through the warm up I stopped myself. I could see what I was doing – letting a few bad shots get to me and ruin my confidence. I shook myself up and reminded myself to play golf – to get out there and play golf the way that I wanted. This meant I had to stop analysing my swing and all of those bad shots.

The little pep talk had the desired effect. I started well and the ball was finding the target. And don’t think I’m saying I played perfectly – I still hit the odd wayward shot, but they were still acceptable.

During the round I had a surge of confidence. I realised that automatic golf is the only way to play golf. It allowed me to break free from the confusion and self-doubt and play great golf. It allowed me to deal with nerves and the pressure of the moment. It was fun and made me realise what makes golf such a great game.

So what was the painful lesson?

With four holes to go I was only 1 over the card. No course record score but good enough on this tough day. Then self-doubt crept into my game. I became worried about hooking my drive. Instead of letting go and crushing the ball, I tightened up and steered the ball. It sailed way left, lucky to miss serious trouble, and I escaped with a bogey.

On sixteen I hit driver when I should have laid up. I let the pressure get to me and my decision making was poor. On the approach I tried too hard to hit the ball close. When a safety shot was required I went for the pin instead. The ball missed the green in an impossible situation and I made another bogey.

Now three over the card my score was slipping and my good work was undone. But things got worse.

After making a lucky par putt on 17 (I totally messed up my second and third shots) I walked slowly to the 18th tee. My confidence was low and I was concerned about the upcoming tee shot.

Normally I would smash driver but on this occasion I chose the 3 wood. There was nothing wrong with this decision. If you’re in doubt it is often a good idea to drop back a club (or two) and make the best swing that you can.

My first swing was a poor one. I didn’t commit to what I was doing and I was punished for it. The ball took off to the left and headed straight for the trees.

My provisional was no better. I tried to swing with a draw and get the ball in play. It was an abysmal effort. This ball flew straight over the fence and onto the neighboring road. The third attempt was worse.

By now it was becoming funny. I still had high hopes of finding the first ball so I wasn’t too concerned. I took my 4th shot from the 18th tee and saw it follow a similar pattern. Frustrated and thinking my first ball would be ok I took off in searching mode.

It’s amazing how quickly 5 minutes can go when you’re desperate to find a ball.

It was lost and I was now aware of the damage done. I would have to walk back to the tee and play my 9th shot. I’ve been playing golf for a while now and can’t remember the last time I racked up more than 10 on one hole. I had this hollow feeling and realised I still had a lot of work to do to find the hole.

“What would happen if another ball went over the fence? Maybe I’ll hook this one and lose it right? Shit, I could make a 15 here if I don’t get it together.”

In what was a relief, I nailed my 5th tee shot. I found the green and two-putted for a 12. My score had been destroyed in a moment of madness. My confidence shattered, I’ve now got to pick up the pieces and attempt to play next week.

So what went wrong?

The simple answer is I stopped trusting my game. I was too worried about missing the ball right and protecting my score. I stopped believing in auto golf and tried to play in a way that I thought was right.

I’ve never been so disappointed in myself but I think it’s going to be a good lesson. I don’t think I’ll ever take my game for granted and I’ll certainly be attempting to lock in my automatic game.

And this is the lesson that I want you to take from this.

Golf is hard. We get nervous. And sometimes we don’t feel that good. But you can’t let self doubt get you away from playing your game. No matter how good or bad you feel you’ve got to swing with freedom. And here’s another point.

You’ve got to stick with it. As I’ve learned this week automatic golf can leave you quickly. You can’t just assume you’re playing automatically, because if you’re playing poorly the chances are you’ve gotten off track. You can’t have it both ways – you can’t be thinking about your score, playing safely and playing automatically at the same time. It’s not possible.

So if your automatic game has left you you’ve got to make a decision. You’ve got to re-asses why you play the game and decide whether you’re going to turn up and go through the motions or really let go and play the game without fear or doubt.

The first option is easy. It really is. The second option takes courage and requires a level of honesty that you’re not going to find in a golf magazine.

I’m up for the challenge. Are you?