commitment issues

How often do you stand over a shot or putt feeling uncertain about your aim, the club you've chosen or how the ball might break on the green?

On those occasions, how often do you make a confident swing or stroke that produces a good result? Rarely, right?

Fact is, golf's endless variables force you to make several decisions on even the simplest shots. You're bound to be indecisive at least a few times each round. As everyone knows, a tentative mindset diminishes confidence, and a lack of self-trust is absolutely fatal in golf.

Since moments of doubt are inevitable, how do you overcome them? Here are several keys:

  • Do your thinking before addressing the ball: This seems obvious, but failing to make up your mind completely before stepping to the ball is the root of unconfident swings. Make a decision and commit to it 100 percent, then address the ball. Standing over it, your thoughts should be only on producing the shot you've decided on, not whether the decision is correct.
  • Make practice swings to mimic the shot: Once you've decided how to proceed, make a couple of practice swings or strokes at the exact pace and strength with which you want to hit the ball – with a sense of commitment and purpose. Then hit the shot just like you rehearsed it.
  • If you feel indecisive, back off: Don't linger over the ball letting doubt rule your thoughts. Step back, re-commit to the club and shot, and hit it with only positive images in mind.

Analyze poor results: After a bad shot in a tricky situation, ask yourself if you were completely committed to the swing. If not, there's your answer. If you were committed, determine exactly what went happened – you picked the wrong club, misjudged a putt's break, hit the ball too hard -- and use that information to make a better decision when faced with similar variables.

Commitment Issues – Become More Decisive on the Course

Commitment Issues – Become More Decisive on the Course

At its core, golf is a very simple game. Your task is to get the ball from the tee to the green in as few strokes as possible. Sure, there are some rules you have to follow along the way, but the basic object of the game is as simple as could be. The beauty of golf is that you have a tremendous amount of freedom in deciding how you are going to get the job done. Some players like to hit shots which stay close to the ground and take big bounces, while others like to hit the ball high in the sky. The choice is yours regarding how you are going to approach each hole, as long as you stay within the established rules of play.

As is often the case, freedom can be both a blessing and a curse. Yes, you have the freedom to choose how you are going to navigate each hole. However, the freedom can lead to doubt. Without many restrictions on how you can get the job done, your mind will be left to wander free. Thanks to the plethora of options that you have at your disposal, you might find it hard to commit to any one direction – and this is exactly where many amateur golfers get into trouble.

In this article, we are going to talk about commitment on the golf course. What does it mean to be committed to your shots, and why is it important? And, of course, how can you do a better job of being more decisive in your game? It is common for amateur players to look for improvements through better physical technique, but the shortest path to lower scores is often found between your ears. Improve the way you think on the course and better play is sure to follow.

It should be noted that the instruction provided in this article is meant to help golfers of all skill levels. Accomplished players can certainly benefit from fine tuning the way they think, but this information can help beginning players just the same. Whether you strive to shoot in the 70s or are lucky to break 100, this article is filled with tips that have the potential to change your game.

All of the content below is written from the perspective of a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

What It Means to Be Committed

What It Means to Be Committed

You can't strive to reach a goal that you don't understand. Before you can work on improving the level of commitment in your game, you have to first know what it means to be committed on the golf course. This isn't something that most average players think about from round to round. If you are like most golfers, you just step up to the ball, look at the target, and make a swing. There isn't much strategy for forethought used by the average player. That is a shame –but it can be changed.

Commitment on the golf course has to do with making a specific plan for each shot you attempt, and then trusting completely in that plan. Without hitting on both sides of that equation, you will never have your mental game where it needs to be in order to play great golf. Let's review each of the two components of commitment a little closer –

  • Making a plan. This is where it all starts. When you step up to the ball – no matter where you happen to be on the course – you need to have a specific plan in mind for the type of shot you are trying to hit. Are you going to hit a draw or a fade? Are you aiming right at the hole, or are you playing to one side specifically to stay out of trouble? Do you have the right club to reach your target? There are a million different items which could potentially come into play while creating your plan. Since it can be somewhat challenging to create a plan for all of your shots, some golfers simply skip this step altogether. They decide that it is good enough to just swing away without giving it a second thought. That is a 'strategy' which is destined to fail, of course. If you are serious about your game, you will plan your shots – it's just that simple.
  • Trusting your plan. Believe it or not, this is the harder of the two steps. Sure, it will take some effort to build your plan, but anyone can do it with a little attention to detail and practice. The more difficult skill to learn is the ability to trust completely in the plan you have created. Once you are standing over the ball, there should be no second thoughts – you should just be ready to fire away with complete confidence in a successful outcome. If there are any doubts rolling around in the back of your mind, those doubts will be manifested in the form of a poor swing. Confidence is critical on the golf course, and one of the most important ways to be confident is to trust in the plan you conceive for each shot.

If you have never before focused on the mental side of your game, these points might seem a bit intimidating at first. Fortunately, they get rather easy with practice. In fact, they will soon become an engrained part of your on-course process, as long as you are willing to work on them on the driving range first. By learning how to think properly, it is possible to take your game to a new level without making any changes at all to your physical swing.

It is going to be important during this process to be as honest with yourself as possible. You know when you are standing over the ball whether or not you are fully committed to the shot you have picked out – but you need to be willing to admit when the commitment just isn't there. Admitting your failings is always difficult, but necessary for growth. Be honest with yourself as you review your current game and think about how many shots you actually hit without being fully committed to the game plan.

Stumbling Blocks

Stumbling Blocks

For a simple game, golf can be awfully complicated. Many of the complications come from the way courses are designed, while others come from places like social pressures, internal pressure, and more. It is easy to let your mind race in a thousand different directions while you are on course, and that distracted state of mind is certainly going to make it difficult to play the game at a high level.

So what are some of the biggest stumbling blocks you will encounter in terms of remaining committed to your shots? Let's take a look.

  • Personal doubts regarding your skills. This is the biggest issue for the amateur golfer. Simply put, most amateur golfers don't truly believe they are good enough to hit the shots they are attempting. You might set yourself up to hit a small draw into a hole located on the left side of the green, but do you believe you can pull it off? Probably not. You will never be able to commit fully to your shots until you trust yourself to execute successfully. So how do you get from here to there? Simple – you have to practice. As you practice, you will see yourself hitting some good shots, and you will start to believe that more good shots can follow. It will take time, but your confidence can grow naturally through the process of working on your technique at the driving range.
  • Hazards on the course. Golf course designers are skilled at getting inside the mind of the average golfer. A well-placed water hazard or bunker can do serious damage to your ability to commit to a shot. For example, picture an approach shot of 125 yards where there is nothing but green grass between your ball and the hole. For most golfers, this kind of shot is not particularly intimidating. You might not hit it close to the hole every time, but you would probably hit the green with regularity. And, the shots that do miss the green probably won't miss by much. Now, add a pond to this scenario. Simply by placing a water hazard in front of the green, the whole equation changes. Without the mental hurdle, this would remain an easy shot, as you should be able to clear that water hazard without much trouble. However, the threat of the hazard gets into your mind, and it causes you to doubt yourself. You think twice about the club you are using, and you debate whether or not you have picked out the right target. To play great golf, you have to learn how to plan around hazards on the course without letting them impact your confidence. It is a delicate balance, to be sure.
  • Pressure from other players. If you are a competitive person – and most golfers are – you probably want to play your best in front of other people. Whether you are playing with a group of friends, or you have been paired up with some strangers at the course, you want to show your best stuff. And, if at all possible, you would like to have the lowest score at the end of the day. There is nothing wrong with being competitive, but placing too much emphasis on other players can lead to negative outcomes. For instance, if you plan one kind of shot, but then another player in your group takes a different approach, you might wind up doubting yourself while making the swing. Never let another player's plan influence what you are going to do. Every golfer has his or her own unique set of skills and abilities. Play the game that you know how to play, regardless of what the others in your group say or do.
  • Loss of focus. Sometimes, failing to commit to a shot is as simple as losing your focus. Golf takes a long time to play – often more than four hours – and it is hard to remain focused that whole time. If you take a 'mental break' for a shot or two, you might end up making some costly mistakes. The best way to keep your mind on track is to intentionally take mental breaks when they aren't going to affect your scorecard. For instance, if you wind up waiting for a few minutes on the tee of a par three, use that time to think about something else. Bring up a non-golf topic with your playing partners, or just let your mind wander to life off of the course. When the green is clear, you can refocus and get ready to play your best. This method works incredibly well, so consider giving it a try during your next round.

Most people think of golf as a hard game, but they view it in that context because of the physical challenge. Sure, it is hard to hit the golf ball a long distance while controlling its direction, but the physical side of the game is only half the battle. The mental game is just as difficult, and in some cases, it is the bigger problem. Learn how to get around your commitment issues on the course and the game will suddenly be less intimidating.

How to Make Confident Decisions

How to Make Confident Decisions

The best way to build confidence in your swing technique is to practice. When it comes to making more confident decisions, however, building up your belief is not quite as easy. You can't exactly practice good decision making on the driving range, because the range doesn't present you with the same number of variables and challenges that you will find on the course.

To make choices with more belief, you need to have a routine that you use time after time. By working through your decision process before each shot, you will come to a smart conclusion and confidence will be a natural byproduct. The following step-by-step guide highlights a quality decision making process that any golfer can use.

  • Lie and distance. The first two building blocks of your decision making process are the lie of the ball and the distance of the shot. If you have a good lie, you will be able to hit just about any shot you choose. A bad lie, on the other hand, dictates that you need to take a safer, more conservative path. The distance you have to the target can be viewed in a similar light. With a short yardage to the target, you can be relatively confident in your ability to hit a good shot. As you move farther back, it is important to think cautiously and understand that bad shots are more likely to occur with a bigger swing. Once you have a firm grasp on the lie of the ball and the distance to the target, you can move on to other elements.
  • Wind conditions. Another crucial point, this is one which does not get the respect it deserves from the average golfer. Sure, you might take an extra club because the wind is blowing in your face, but is that one club really enough? Do you alter the plan you have for the shot to account for the wind? Professional golfers give tremendous respect to the wind, and you should do the same. As a general rule of thumb, you should always think about hitting the ball lower when you are playing on a windy day. Even if you aren't hitting into the wind, you will have better control over the ball if you are willing to bring your ball flight down closer to the earth.
  • Picking a target. This is probably not the point you expect to find at this step. If you were thinking that now would be the time to pick a club, you are a bit premature. We are getting there, but first you need to pick a target for the shot. On an approach shot, many golfers think the target is always the hole itself. That should not be the case. Sometimes you will aim at the hole, but only when it is safe to do so. If hitting a 200-yard approach shot to a hole cut near a pond, it would be a terrible decision to aim right at the cup. You need to take strategy into consideration when picking a target. Balance aggressiveness with safety and pick out a target that gives you some margin for error while still putting you in a good position.
  • Select your club. Finally, at the last step in our process, you are going to pick out a club. Only now do you know everything you need to know in order to pick a club. You know how far you have to the target, you know what kind of lie you are dealing with, and you know specifically where you are going to aim the shot. Also, you have taken wind conditions into consideration. By saving club selection until the end, you will be far more likely to make a smart pick.

It is okay to slightly alter the process above in order to suit your personal tastes and preferences. However, it would be best if you could leave club selection until the end of the list. Start using this process during upcoming rounds and you should find that your performance improves quickly even with no other changes.

Commitment in the Short Game

Commitment in the Short Game

Believe it or not, it might be more difficult to commit to short game shots than it is to commit with your full swing. The problem here is the fact that you are so close to the target. You can usually see the hole in your peripheral vision when hitting a short game shot, especially if that shot is a putt. The pressure that comes along with being able to see the hole may cause you to doubt yourself, and those doubts will lead to trouble more often than not.

The key to committing to your short game shots is to believe in your read. You should be reading all of these shots, not just your putts. A chip or pitch shot needs to be read just like a putt, as the slope of the ground is going to have a tremendous impact on the eventual outcome of the shot. If you believe you have made a good read, you will be more willing to trust your swing or stroke and send the ball on its way. Take your time to get an accurate read and you'll come out better in the long run.

Just as with the full swing, preparation is key to commitment in this area. Before you start any round, spend some time on the practice green getting comfortable with the speed of the putting surfaces. Even hitting just a handful of practice putts can go a long way toward improving your play on the course. Preparation is all about eliminating variables and question marks in the back of your mind. If you are prepared, you won't have to guess how fast the greens are – you will already know. Invest in your short game by spending a few minutes getting ready and your results will benefit greatly.

Commitment issues plague millions of golfers. It isn't easy to believe in yourself while playing this difficult game, but it is important nonetheless. We hope the advice provided in this article will help you commit to your shots from the first hole all the way through to the last. If you fail to commit to a certain shot during a round and you hit a bad one as a result, don't be too hard on yourself. The only thing you can do is refocus, commit to the next shot, and do your best. Good luck!