Focus, Again

By Drew Morgan

Take a second and consider all the things that compete for your attention while on the golf course. The wind, your lie, your mechanics, club selection, yardage, target, shot shape, strategy. These are all examples of things you would want to pay attention to during a round. Then there are the things demanding your attention that you don’t want to pay attention to during a round such as the putt you missed on the last hole, your opponent, your score, your phone, the argument you had with your significant other last night, or the smell of burgers from the half-way house.

Our ability to focus is one of the most precious recourses at our disposal on the golf course. It is one of the few things we have 100% control over. Research has found that lower handicapped golfers tend to have higher levels of focus as compared to higher handicappers (Thomas & Over, 1994). It is when our focus becomes consumed by things that are not relevant to the task at hand (i.e. putting the ball in the hole) that our performance suffers.

One of the common misconceptions about being focused is that it is not necessarily about staying completely locked in for the entirety a four-to-five hour round. This is unrealistic, distractions are inevitable. Focus is more about your ability to re-focus than anything else. The question then becomes, do you have a go-to technique for refocusing? Furthermore, do you have a firm understanding of exactly what you need to be focused on and when?

Here are three techniques you can employ for your next round to improve your ability to focus.

  • Know what you don’t want to focus on
    1. Knowing what you do not want to focus on during the round is as important as knowing what to focus on. Ask yourself before each round: What thoughts or distractions might I have to battle today? Then, when you notice yourself going to those places, gently turn your attention to something that is more productive (your lie, the next shot, the target, and your breath are always good options).
  • Have a solid pre-shot routine
    1. The walk to your ball may be filled with all sorts of thoughts. That can be okay – as previously mentioned staying focused 100% of the time during the round is unrealistic and can be mentally draining. Like a baseball player stepping into the batter’s box, walking up to the ball is an indication to focus on the shot. Having a solid pre-shot routine will help you put your mind where it needs to be when addressing the ball.
  •  Have a focus cue
    1. Write a reminder somewhere easily visible, such as on your golf glove or on the inside of your shoe for what you need to be focused on when you step up to the ball. Maybe your reminder is “smooth” to remind yourself of your tempo or it is “turn” to remind yourself to turn through the ball. You might also have different cues for different types of shots (putts, wedges, full swings). Whatever it is, make it short and sweet.

Our ability to stay focused is a lot like golf – somedays it comes easily and others it is a struggle. Being able to catch your mind when it becomes distracted and then purposefully placing your attention to what is directly in front of you is the definition of being present.  Enhancing our ability to stay focused on the present moment will help you get the most out of your golf game and put yourself in the best position to play well.