The day was Scottish if there ever was one in coastal Georgia. Overcast, misting rain, slight chill in the air, and a springy squish to each step in the fairway. I was playing alone but had plenty of company with all the voices rolling around in my head. Each shot was accompanied by a host of analysis and commentary, sometimes in my head and sometimes out loud. I tried to keep it positive but I also tend to be honest with myself.
I was trying to establish the bogey train and get into my scoring rhythm. I stepped up to my approach shot on the 6th hole, a par 4 straight ahead hole. I looked down the fairway at the remaining one hundred and sixty yards. No real challenge as the bunkers guarding the sides of the green left plenty of room to attack the front door of the green. I withdrew my 3 hybrid’s the grip from up my sleeve as I tried to keep it dry and stepped up to the ball. I entered the meditative ritual of my shot process. Each part led to the next and I settled into my stance over the ball. I took in a breath and before I could exhale like a sniper ready to pull the trigger between heartbeats a doubt entered my mind.
This sliver of insecurity was like a pair of headlights in the distance on a deserted highway. I knew it was nothing but I could feel it getting closer and more menacing with each passing second. I did not invite this idea in but there it was sitting on the couch in my mind eating the last piece of leftover pizza.
“You sure that is the right club with a wet fairway.” It hissed in my ear. Sweet and sour its tone teased me.
I knew I had chosen correctly for this shot but what if I dug in too deep at contact I could miss short. If I clubbed up, I could take this into and over come this possible error but could also over shoot if I hit cleanly. Now the boulder of over-thinking was picking up speed downhill. I was frozen in my stance for seconds trying to figure out how to adapt the shot with the club in my hand. Swing harder. Choke up on the club. Move the ball up in my stance. Change something. Change Anything!!!
What happened next was something I always wanted to do but never had the mental strength to do. I walked away. I stood up and took three paces back away from the ball. I shook my arms and hopped up and down a few times. My muscles wiggled into a relaxed state and the doubt fell out of my head like pool water being shook from my ears on a summer day.
The power of relief I felt was like a wave of warmth crashing over me. I had lost nothing by standing up and yet I had gained so much. The control of my destiny was in my hands and I knew exactly what to do. I would stick with the original plan.
I readdressed the ball on my aiming line. Once I let out my last breath, my swing cycled pure and clean. The ball left the clubface in a clean launch with minimal divot removed from the rain-softened ground. The ball came to rest on the fringe of the green giving me a long but makeable putt for birdie (which I missed two feet past).
My confidence for the rest of round held true even after a few errant shots. I knew I had committed myself to each shot. I stuck to each club selection and aiming point. Most shots ended of slightly off target and that was okay.
I challenge you to try it. Just walk away from one shot in your next round if it feels funky. Take three steps back and literally shake it off. Let loose a barbaric yawp if it helps. If you loose confidence while in your stance, you have the obligation to step away and not waste a shot. Why flub a shot when you can regroup and hit it clean after taking five seconds to regroup? There is no rule on walking away from the ball before the swing starts.
It is like ole Kenny Rogers sang:
You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, and when to run.