If you don’t trust yourself, you’ll only trust your swing when it’s working perfectly -Dr Bob Rotella
Trust begins to play a vital role within our performance, trust not only in the context of our game and our ability but also in the context of ourselves in a generic sense. Trust in self can play a huge part in terms of performance and importantly, in life in general. It can certainly become a determining factor in several different scenarios on the golf course. This was something I could very much resonate with during my earlier years of playing and competing. On reflection at the time I lacked an internal trust in my own abilities as a whole and as a result focused heavily on perfecting the technical elements of the golf swing. It felt a more reliable source to trust. I was always taken aback when playing with or competing against a fellow competitor and being intrigued as to what they were working on in their swing technically and their response being ‘nothing!’ I used to find it fascinating as I was always bound up in perfecting a certain movement or position. This certainly became a detriment to my game and I think it was the technical fascination that led me into led me into the world of coaching, of which I certainly have no regrets! Having trust in self, not just in a golfing context, is so important to all levels of golfer and for sure was a missing factor for me personally and one that would have been a huge road block towards a successful career competing professionally had the opportunity arisen.
Let’s look at the role trust plays in different situations within the context of our golf game. Firstly looking at the all too common scenario of our performance on the driving range versus the golf course, how it can differ and in particular when working on a swing change or any change within our game following professional guidance or a coaching session. There are many times when working on a new movement can feel a little different during the initial stages, which is natural when the body has been used to doing something in a certain way for a period of time. When making these changes on the practice ground/driving range the benefits may be two-fold. Firstly being able to build in some form of repetition enables greater opportunity of developing the new feeling/movement replacing the old habits and pattern of movement. The second factor brings the trust element into play. In a practice scenario where we have a volume of balls to get through and we have several attempts in an environment where there isn’t any perceived consequence to the result of the shot, we will trust a new feeling much more. On the golf course where we only have one attempt each time and we potentially attach a consequence to the result, as much as intellectually we know the ideal movement or feeling we have been working on we still want to trust and hang on to the old movement/feeling, it almost becomes a bit of a safety blanket. This is one of the reasons why, when developing your game, things may feel positive on the driving range or short game area and yet when transitioning on to the course it can feel a little more hit and miss. There can be times where we may feel in between the old and the new, as with many patterns of habit, it can feel tough initially to trust the new fully and let go of the old, particularly in an environment where we may feel under a little more pressure, i.e. in a tournament or event. Ideally, if we can begin to develop some form of trust in the new feeling initially through repetition in an environment where we perceive there to be little consequence to the result of the outcome and can relax into the process such as the driving range, it creates a greater opportunity of a smoother transition and a level of trust on the golf course.
Trust on the golf course can also begin to make an impact on our performance from a technical perspective. When trust is limited, either in ourselves, our ability or golf swing, there are often times where, from a technical view point, it can begin to suffer. This is primarily due to tension and feeling the need to control the movement and the outcome. So how does this specifically transpire? In relation to the golf swing, it often feels safer to keep the bigger muscles, i.e. the upper body, thorax and shoulders closer to or over the ball, rather than allowing the body to effectively and efficient rotate both during the back swing, through swing and post impact. Tension builds and the movement relies either on the smaller muscles, i.e. the hands and arms to do the work which when used in isolation of a relaxed and efficient body motion can affect both distance and accuracy, or the body will move in a more lateral or vertical motion. All of the above create a feeling of remaining safer and more in control by staying over the ball rather than allowing the body to create an efficient rotary motion. A more rotary motion, which in effect generates the feeling of turning away from the ball and target during the backswing and freely turning towards the target during and post impact won’t feel as comfortable to do if trust is lacking in ourselves or golf swing. One of the biggest links between the physiology of trust and the golf swing lies in the degree of tension. In trying to excessively control the golf club or the outcome there lies a greater chance of producing a less technically efficient movement and potentially creating more of the shot we are trying to avoid. Trusting, letting go and releasing excessive tension moves us closer to the desired result.
Creating a clear visual of the shot we are aiming to produce can also provide a positive platform where trust is concerned. It creates a clear focal point and reduces the potential of internal negative chatter, shifting the focus of what could go wrong to what we are aiming to achieve. This allows a greater opportunity of trusting the process. It also allows our natural instinct and ability to respond to and reproduce the positive visual.
Another effective approach is once the club choice has been made, target chosen and shot confirmed, simply from that point play the shot with the perspective that it really doesn’t matter where the ball goes beyond that point. It can feel quite a liberating experience and pleasantly surprising how easy it feels, letting go can provide a great feeling of relief and in turn creates the opportunity to produce the positive results we were after all along. This is often the mindset we have on the range that allows us to trust the process a little more. Golf can often be played from a place of control, either trying to excessively control the golf club or the outcome of the result. The more this can be replaced with a feeling of letting go and trusting of both the self and the process the more enjoyable the game becomes and the greater chance of the outcome more closely matching our desired results. Very often as simple as it sounds, physical tension will provide the feedback and gauge as to whether we are trying to control the outcome or whether we are placing trust in both ourselves and the process.
‘Self Trust is the first secret of success’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson