Golf Tips - Developing the Ability to Focus On Your Golf Game

By Dr. Bob Phillips, Golf Psychologist

Do you grind out each round? Do you try to keep your head deeply focused on golf throughout the entire round? Or have you developed a way of snapping back into focus for each shot?

How you use your time between shots and especially between holes has a very important effect on your final score. Grinders try to stay totally focused during the entire round. They think of nothing other than the next shot or hole. The problem with being a grinder is that it is very difficult to pull off. Most people find that they simply can not do it. Most golfers find that after eight or ten holes they simply become exhausted and drained of energy. Because of this I do not recommend that you even try to be a grinder. The grinders on the major tours tend to be grinders only because they have never learned how to play any other way.

The question of how to develop the ability to snap back is an important one. Snapping back means that you can really take your mind off the next shot until you need to focus on the "planning" and then on the pre-shot routine. I like to separate out the planning phase, which includes the gathering of facts on the hole, judging distance, selecting the club and the swing, as well as the strategy for the hole and the selection of the exact target spot, from the pre-shot routine, which includes visualizing the path of the ball or recalling the feel of the shot, addressing the ball, step-breathing and completing the swing or putt. Your snapping back ability depends on your ability to refocus and let go of any unnecessary thoughts, images or feelings. I am sure if a rattlesnake suddenly appeared at your feet you would have no trouble snapping into focus about it. Some people can go as far as they like and still snap back to the shot at hand. Others find it hard to think of anything other than the next shot. Most golfers can improve their snapping back by practicing.

One way to practice is while you are at home pick up an object and really study it. Notice how it feels. What is its weight? Is it rough or smooth? Move your hand while holding the object. How does it feel? In this way you are bringing your focus into the present and putting all of your attention on the one object. Set the object down and think of a past experience or a recent TV show. Think about it and how you felt in that situation. Now, bring your thinking and feeling back to the present. Focus all of your attention on the current situation. Repeat this little exercise until you can move freely back and fourth. After you have done this for fifteen or twenty times. Move on to another object and practice again. After several sessions begin to experiment at the practice range. Pick an exact target, decide how you will hit the target, complete your pre-shot routine and hit the ball. Now, think of a TV show or past non-golf event. Spend one whole minute thinking of the event. Now, bring your mind back to the next shot. Plane the shot, complete your pre-shot routine and hit. Do this exercise thirty to fifty times. Go slow and notice how you can gradually make yourself snap back with greater ease.

Most people find that emotional topics or memories are harder to let go of. Learn to select energizing, positive or enjoyable topics or memories to use during your between hole thinking breaks. For between shot thinking on the same hole, most people do best by staying mentally close to the current situation. But even here, you can talk to yourself or others, think of music or recall a really great time playing golf in the past. There are some people who can talk about anything and still find it easy to snap back. Explore your limits and build up your abilities. Remember that going inside and giving yourself a hard time is not a good place to go between shots. If you have a habit of beating up on yourself, make sure you take your thinking someplace else, even between shots.

Using the above suggestions you can learn how to not grind it out over the entire course. Yet you will be able to refocus and set up a mental wall between yourself and the current situation as well as the other golfers. You only need to focus when you are gathering information, mentally separating yourself from the situation, completing your pre-shot routine and executing a shot or putt.

Practice hard and enjoy the game. *



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