How many times have you stood over a golf shot feeling uncommitted about the club or target… only to hit a bad shot? Compared to standing over a shot with complete confidence in your distance, club, and target and hitting a great shot?
The results are night and day. To play your best you learn how to commit to a golf shot – much of this process happens behind the golf ball.
As the great Jack Nicklaus said, “Confidence is the most important single factor in this game, and no matter how great your natural talent, there is only one way to abstain and sustain it. Work.”
Commitment equals confidence, which leads to lower scores in golf. When you stand over any shot with commitment – whether it’s the first tee, an iron shot on #12, or the final putt of the round – you will play better.
Keep reading to learn how to master your mindset and commit to every shot in golf.
So, how do you commit to every shot in golf?
It’s part skill and part mental game. We’ll break down the mental side today so you can gain more confidence and certainty over every shot.
- Commitment is needed to swing and putt with confidence.
- Without commitment over the shot it’s easy to let doubt and indecision affect your swing.
- Having more commitment is a combination of club selection, strategy, and a good pre-shot routine.
Keep reading to learn how to have more commitment over every shot you face on the golf course.
The first step to commitment is to have a strategy for every shot during the round – don’t try to “wing it” and hope for the best. It’s typically the times you don’t have a strategy that you have the least amount of commitment over the shot.
If you’re teeing off, this means creating a tee-box strategy as it’s important to figure out what is the best club to hit off the tee. Before each hole, always ask yourself, “What is the best club for this tee shot?” Once you have the right club, then we’ll get into the next steps below.
If you’re hitting a 2nd or 3rd shot, you need an approach shot strategy. This will help you figure out the right club for the shot and pick the correct targets.
Always start with a big picture strategy to ease your nerves and create a solid mental game strategy.
Once you have a strategy for your tee shot or approach shot, it’s time to find the distance for the shot.
For most par 4s and par 5s, this will be a driver off the tee to give yourself a shorter (and easier) second shot. But if it’s a shorter hole, you might use a hybrid or fairway wood to get yourself in a better position off the tee.
But for approach shots, you need to find the distance to the flagstick with a rangefinder, golf watch, or golf GPS device. Since most golf courses don’t have marked sprinkler heads anymore, it’s crucial to have some sort of technology to find the distance on every shot.
Once you have the distance, don’t just pick a club out of your bag yet. The biggest mistake most golfers make is shooting the flagstick then picking a club.
Instead, think about where the pin is located, where you want to end up, and what areas around the green you want to avoid. By spending more time analyzing the shot you’re already setting yourself up for more success.
For example, if you laser the flag at 175 yards, that doesn’t mean you need to hit a 175-yard shot. Depending on the club and pin location, you might only want to hit it 165 or 170 yards to avoid trouble.
Plus, you need to anticipate how much the ball will roll out once it hits the green too. Longer clubs – like irons and hybrids – will release more once they hit the green. While shorter clubs like wedges will hit the green with more spin and stop quickly.
Once you have the right distance you want to hit the shot, it’s time to find the right “weapon of choice.”
To pick the right club you need to know how far you carry every club in the bag. This is known as creating a distance chart so you know how far each club will go in typical playing conditions.
Use a personal launch monitor and learn how far each club travels. Hit 15–20 shots (over a few range sessions) and throw away any bad shots to average out a distance for every club.
Make sure to adapt your distances for playing conditions as well. Colder weather will hurt your distances while warmer weather might help them. Don’t forget about altitude in golf too.
The second part of picking the right club is making sure you choose a club that you can get there 90% of the time. Unfortunately most golfers take a club they have to hit perfectly just to make it to the green. But since most of us don’t flush iron shots regularly, this is a failing formula.
Instead, take more club and choke up slightly for a more controlled swing (aka a knockdown shot). This will help you find the green more often, even if you don’t hit it perfectly. Plus, you’ll have more commitment because you know that you have plenty of club to reach the green.
After you pick the right club, it’s time to confirm your target; this can happen in two ways:
- Small target: This is the common advice “Aim small, miss small” from mental golf coaches like Dr. Bob Rotella. This works great for some players who want to pick a small target – like the window of a house or the branch of a tree. But for some people this might feel too restrictive and should pick target zones.
- Large target zones: Target zones are easier for some players to visualize the shot going between two targets. This might be two trees, two power lines, or between the flag and the fringe. The longer the shot, the wider the zone.
On the driving range pick small and large targets to see which one helps you hit better shots. Then, when you’re on the golf course focus on that target selection method to have more confidence over every shot.
Once your target is confirmed in your mind, take 1-2 practice swings behind the golf ball mimicking the swing you want to make. Try to take these practice swings at 70-90% speed to get your mind and body ready for the shot.
Once you have the right distance, club, and target, it’s time to go through your pre-shot routine. This is one of the best mental hacks in golf and when used consistently, can have a big impact on your confidence levels.
After you practice swings, take a big deep breath and walk into the shot. Line the club face up with your intermediary target, build your stance, look at your target, and take the club back.
Now that you know how to commit to a full shot in golf, let’s not forget about putting either.
I’d argue that committing to a putt is just as important (if not more important) than with a full swing. Because with putting the smallest things matter.
The number one piece of advice to help you have more confidence over every putt is to trust your instincts. If you walk up to a putt and instantly think, “This is left to right” , trust that the putt will break from left to right.
While your instincts aren’t right 100% of the time, I’d guess it’s more than 90% right. Plus, when you hit a putt with commitment, you’re more likely to hit it solid.
Think about it… how many times have you stood over a putt and still aren’t sure on the line. There’s nothing worse than thinking “Is this putt breaking right or left?” When you have that type of doubt, it almost always leads to a timid putt where you try to guide it in the hole.
Instead, trust your gut instincts so you can hit the putt with certainty. When you do you’re more likely to make more putts and shoot lower scores.
To have even more certainty with the flat stick, make sure to:
- Use the right putter. The right putter can have a huge impact on your confidence – especially one that matches your stroke. Don’t forget to pick one with built-in alignment too to get the ball rolling correctly off the face.
- Adopt a green reading technique. Another important part of putting with certainty comes from being able to read greens. If you want a different approach you can also check out the AimPoint method too.
- Go through your pre-shot routine. Just like a full shot, a putting routine is crucial to staying positive and trusting your read of the putt.
The more you play this great game, the more commitment you should develop.
As I mentioned in the beginning, commitment is part skill – from a lot of work on the range and short game area – and part mental. The tips above are based on the mental side of things but don’t forget to keep working on your game as well.
The easiest way to improve your skill set so you have more skills for different shots is to track your statistics. When you do, it’s easy to identify your weaknesses, practice them more regularly, and make them a strength.
Also, don’t be afraid to step off a shot or a putt if you’re not 100% committed to the club, target, or break of the putt. Don’t stand over the golf ball until you’re ready to pull the trigger.
When you have more skills, paired with the right clubs for your game and the mental tips above, you will become unstoppable.
Golf is a harder sport than most due to the time for mental doubts and indecision to creep in. But I’m confident that when you follow the tips above you will start playing better from tee to green.
Follow this process on every shot and eventually it will become automatic. If you’re ever over the ball and not committed, step back, go through your routine again, and walk back into it.