When speaking about the topics of trust and commitment, many people's first impression is that we're discussing one's relationships with others. In this column, the trust and commitment to which I'm referring has to do with the relationship you have with your golf swing, your putt or your shot selection.
The ultimate place to be as a player is to be so confident in your game that you can simply "trust your swing" or "free it up" as many of my fellow mental game gurus would advocate. That sounds good in theory, but how do you trust your swing if you're struggling? How do you trust you're going to make this putt if you've missed four like it previously? How do you trust that you've made the correct club selection? The answer is that you don't need to trust.
The best case is the situation where you do trust, but that doesn't mean that complete trust is a necessary component of hitting good golf shots. Again, ideally, it would be great if players trusted their games completely. This would make their mind less cluttered, create less worry and probably inspire them to new heights of confidence.
However, virtually 100 percent of the players with whom I've worked over nearly two decades in the field of mental training have had times when they don't trust one aspect of their game or another.
When trusting is very difficult, then the idea of commitment becomes important. I look at trust and commitment as being at different points on the continuum shown below, where trust is the ultimate place to be from a mental perspective:
No commitment or trust >>> Commitment without trust >>> Full trust
Committing to a plan of action, a shot selection, or a putting line and actually striking the ball with authority can be done without full trust. The fascinating thing is that shots hit with commitment but without complete trust still have a high probability of being successful.
Playing with commitment is how players learn to develop trust. Without commitment, there's the tendency to be mentally distracted, have doubts and second guess yourself prior to executing.
While the full trust may not be achieved, with commitment you give yourself the best chance for something good to happen. As Payne Stewart was once quoted as saying, "better to commit to the wrong thing in golf than to be uncommitted to the correct thing."
So, put in practical terms, how can you implement this notion into your game? If you are in between clubs on a shot, pick one, be decisive and commit fully to that choice. If you aren't sure if the putt breaks four inches or two inches left to right, choose one and make an authoritative stroke.
Another example: You have calculated that the shot that is in front of you is a hard 8-iron or an easy 7-iron. You feel as though you are between clubs. If you're uncommitted, you may choose the 8-iron, but still be thinking about the 7-iron possibility, even as you stand at address or swing the club. This is the recipe for disaster in a golf shot!
If, however, you've made a full commitment to the 8-iron shot, you are going to swing with full assertiveness, which gives your shot a reasonable chance to be successful. If I asked you prior to the shot if you fully trusted whether or not the 8-iron was the correct choice, your honest answer would probably be "no." But the fact that you're swinging with commitment means that you will likely hit a solid golf shot.
A solid golf shot swung with full commitment typically misses only slightly. A golf shot swung without full commitment can go anywhere. On the golf course, begin to recognize the times when you hit a shot without being committed and challenge yourself to pull the trigger only after you've completely eliminated the other options out of your mind.
Remember there are many "right" ways to play a golf hole and/or golf shot, make sure you're fully committed to only one of those "right" ways.
Every time you're on the golf course is an opportunity for you to get feedback about yourself as a player and the most accurate feedback you'll receive is when you've made full commitments to the shots that you hit. This feedback help you make quality adjustments for the future. Without that type of accurate feedback, you may never trust certain aspects of your game, no matter how regularly you practice or play!
June 8, 2005
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.