Two Golf Focus Tips To Sharpen Your Game + Improve Your Scores
Golf is not only a highly technical and physical… It is a game of mental tug-of-war. You thoughts are being pulled in so many directions. Tug-of-war is a game that pits two teams against each other in a test of strength. The same is true of focusing in golf, the only difference is that in golf there are hundreds of things tugging at your attention competing for your focus. It takes mental strength to pull all your thoughts in one direction that allow you to play your best golf.
5 Distractions that Tug at your Golf Focus
- Fatigue – A 4-5 hour round of golf can wear down any golfer and play with their mind. Physical fatigue can pull your focus away from your game as you think about feeling exhausted, excessive heat, tired legs or tense muscles. Physical fatigue can create fluctuations in your swing causing inconsistent play. Mental fatigue is another battle golfers will face. When the game wears on you mentally, you expend a lot more mental energy. Every mishit, bad bounce or short putt creates more anxiety and pressure pulling your focus away from what you need to do for each shot.
- Over-analyzing your Swing – Thinking about your swing in the middle of the swing process or between shots can be a devastating distraction that is counter-productive to a good score. It would be like a fan yelling instructions at you from the gallery just as you started your swing. Thinking interferes with the fluidity of your swing. Thinking interferes with doing and causes shots to be off-line.
- Over-thinking your Shot – Of course you need to choose the best strategy for each shot but many golfers over-think their strategy and waver back and forth. These golfers will question their ability to carry their plan for the shot and often decide to play the safest shot. With all the buildup of tension, the safe shot will likely veer off course.
- Worrying about Results – Your score is obviously important. Knowing the situation you are in will influence your strategy for each shot. The trouble comes when you become fixated on the outcome of every shot. You focus will be scattered when you become preoccupied with results: “What are scores of those in my group?” “What if I double bogey?” How many strokes do I need on this hole to have a good final score?” “How many strokes do I need to make up?” “What if this shot lands in the bunker?” So many ‘what ifs’ can pull at your attention taking and breaking your concentration interfering with the important things needing your attention.
- Going to the Emotional Bad – Too many golfers allow emotion to dictate their mood on the golf course. A bad shot will be met with negative thoughts such as, “What the heck am I doing?” or “”I’m pathetic today.” As your thoughts go, your emotions will follow. Beating yourself up mentally leads to unproductive emotions (anger, frustration, resignation, hopelessness). When you ruminate on pessimistic thoughts, your focus gets stuck on those negative emotions. No golfer performs at their peak when they wallow in negative thoughts and emotions.
Even Future Hall of Famers Lose Focus
Phil Mickelson, 45, is battling through his longest winless streak of his career with his last victory coming at the 2013 British Open. Entering the2016 Cadillac Championship, Mickelson (45 years old) was the oldest player in the field. Despite a solid early showing, Mickelson finished tied for fifth and attributed his poor finish to a lack of focus.
Mickelson began the Cadillac Championship shooting the second best score of the day (67) in Round One. Mickelson started off strong in the second round birding four consecutive holes and carding a front-nine of 32 putting him 9-under with a two-shot lead.
Unfortunately, Mickelson started to unravel on the back nine with a three-putt on the 13th, a double-bogey on the 15th and a bogey on the 17th hole. Mickelson carded a -40 on the back nine which put him five strokes off the lead heading into the final round.
MICKELSON: “I don’t know what happened. Sometimes I just lose focus. I’ve been out a little early, and I maybe overdid it and got a little tired in the end and just lost my train of thought.”
Mickelson highlighted slight changes in focus dramatically affect his game. When Mickelson is playing his best golf, he is fully immersed in what he is doing.
MICKELSON: “When I’m playing well, golf is an instinctive sport. I see the shot I want to hit, I feel the shot, and then I just execute. Somewhere, I lost one of those on the back nine… It’s always a challenge but the tough thing for me right now is to not focus on results, to just be patient. This is the best I’ve played in a long time, and the results will come if I’m patient. I just have to stay sharp.”
If Mickelson is to regain his winning form, he will need to develop the proper focus and stop giving in to all the distractions to tug at his attention.
Is it really possible to improve your focus?
This is the big question that most golfers ask, “With all the things battling for your attention during a round of golf, is it even possible to maintain focus over that 4-5 hour period?”
The answer is not as simple as you would think. Focus is definitely a matter of choice. So, yes, you are ultimately the controller of your focus. But it is true that your mind is being bombarded by a vast array of thoughts: how you are playing, what you are going to do after the round, a noisy fan, being hungry, your dinner plans, your girlfriend or wife that is upset with you, the greens are slow, you like so-and-so’s shirt, etc. It is normal for your mind to move constantly from one thought to the next. So how do we deal with this if we want to play our best golf?
This is actually only a problem in the critical period when you prepare and execute your shots. The relatively short period of time your actually playing golf. This is when your pre shot routine is worth its weight in golf. The Tour Pro’s mentally switch into a more focused state as soon as the start their routines and switch off when they have finished their post shot routines. This way they preserve their tank of focusing power. The other key skill Tour Pro’s have developed is to recognise when they have been distracted during their pre shot routine. This then enables them to back off and restart the routine with more focus. These skills can definately be learnt and improved. Its just needs practice. Working with a good mental game coach everyone can learn how to do this.
Another performance trap to be aware of is when your focus drifts to a “bad place” or the downward spiral of negativity that can kill your confidence and ruin your performance. Again you need to become aware whenever this happens and say “STOP” thats not helping me to play well. Then refocus on something more enjoyable like your last vacation or a great film you saw recently.
Pro tip: Decide on your, “go to” happy thought before you put on your golf shoes.
Since, focus is a matter of choice, assuming you have not used up your tank, you have the ability to re-focus quickly and get back on track if you know the tricks of the trade. By learning how successful golfers maintain a sharpen focus, you too can improve your concentration and your golf scores.
Two Top Strategies to Sharpen your Golf Focus:
Strategy #1: Develop Awareness – Write down the times when you normally lose focus. What was happening at that moment? Perhaps, you were focused on a bad shot in the past or fretting about some future shot. The possible distractions are many and varied. When you become more aware of what tugs at your attention and when it occurs, you will be able to take effective steps to help you refocus on playing your shot.
Strategy #2: Be the Director of your Focus – Consciously choose what to pay attention to. Developing solid pre-shot and post-shot routines will help immerse you in the moment. Have a plan for re-focusing when your mind drifts. You can repeat the key word “Focus” or have a positive internal talk with yourself to process thoughts and emotions and get back on track.
Fully commit to trying these strategies, without judgment, for a period of three weeks and you will notice a great sense of ease, focus and enjoyment along with… BETTER SCORES!
Please share with me your experiences as you explore your power of focus.
To further understand how your mental game affects your golf performance, take the 4 minute mental game assessment.