Golf Tips - Boxing Out the Next Shot - Practice Your Focus

By Dr. Bob Phillips, Golf Psychologist

A major problem with even professional golfers is that it is so easy to let our minds take a wide sweeping view of what the next shot means:

  • "How will it affect my score?"
  • "What does it mean to me personally?"
  • "Is this the best round I have ever played? Is it the worse round?"
  • "If I sink this putt it will put me one up on Harry!"
  • "My dad is watching, I really want to do well."

All of these comments, questions and statements are possible, along with hundreds more, at the very time you need to be focused on the elements of planning and executing the shot. If you are doing this, you are not "boxing out" the shot.

"Boxing out" means that you mentally put up a fence around what you need to do, so that you are not distracted by the things and thoughts that have no real bearing on the shot or putt. By not "boxing out" you allow your mind to wander to distractions.

Remember: even pleasant thoughts of success are not relevant to making the shot. Sometimes this lack of limiting your thoughts is called "outcome thinking". In other words, you spend time and energy thinking of what the outcome could be and how that would feel. This is truly an unwise way of spending the time and energy needed to make the shot.

Think of a piece of paper with words and pictures covering it. All of these words and pictures are in some way related to the next shot, but only a few of them are helpful in making the shot. Now group the needed and useful elements together on the page. Now draw a box around these few things.

Some of the things in the box would be: a solid plan to make the shot, a solid pre-shot routine, feeling the swing or putt in your mind, seeing the ball go to where you want it, and ending up looking at the back of the ball as you swing or putt.

Things left out of the box are: past mistakes, thoughts of how bad it would be to miss the target, thoughts of how good it would be to make the shot, or just about anything else you could think of. All of these are left out of the box because they do not help you make the shot.

It is important to really understand what should be in the box. Make a list of what is important to making the shot. You may even what to consider the sequence or order of the included thoughts. Any other thought or picture is out of the box and not allowed. If you find anything in the box that does not belong in there, simply pick it up by its tail and drop it outside the box. Practice limiting your thinking to only what is in the box.

Begin by practicing at home. Practice "boxing out" fifty times at home before you begin to practice it in physical practice. After two or three weeks of practice you will be ready to begin to use this in competition. Remember, you must first practice mental training at home and then in physical practice before you can expect to use it in competion.

Read More Professional Golf Tips and Watch Instructional Golf Videos