Mental Edge: Focus
by Dr. Deborah Graham
"To play any golf shot correctly requires an unwavering concentration. The most perfect swing in the world needs direction, and plenty of it, and when its possessor begins to do a little mental daisy picking, something always goes wrong."
-- from Bobby Jones on Golf
by Robert Tyre Jones
The ability to concentrate is critical to your ability to play golf. You must learn to concentrate for the shot and then widen your focus between shots to conserve energy. Most people are trying to focus for the entire round, which is a mistake and very tiring.
Your personality will determine the best way for you to control your Focus. The width of your focus between shots is also determined by your personality.
Players with naturally broad and external focus (usually with outgoing, bold and enthusiastic personalities) are better letting their focus between shots widen to their natural state by talking, joking, or communicating with the crowd. Care must be taken to not go so wide in focus that you are not prepared to narrow your focus for your next shot.
Players with naturally narrow and internal focus (usually with detached, shy and serious personalities) are better keeping their focus between shots more open by daydreaming, using internal dialogue, or occasionally small-talking with their caddie, or another player with whom they are comfortable. Care must be taken that your focus does not become too narrow and "golf intense" between shots, mentally fatiguing you before the end of the round.
Imagine when you are playing golf that you are wearing blinders.
As you approach your shot or putt, narrow your blinders to focus only on execution. This is greatly facilitated with the use of a solid mental routine that accompanies your physical routine. The blinders should shut out both internal and external distractions.
Calculations: As you approach your ball begin narrowing your focus by turning your thoughts to the analysis of your next shot. Quickly sort through the analytical details, such as wind, slope, lie, ground firmness, target, yardage, type of shot, and club. Make your decision with as little vacillation as possible, try to COMMIT FULLY to your shot and your club. For the putt, consider the break, grain, and speed, then COMMIT to a line or spot and to your stroke. Once you pull your club, END ANALYSIS and begin step two.
Visualization: Narrow your focus a bit farther by standing behind your ball and clearly seeing your target. Now, visualize as clearly as possible, the flight of your ball to your target. If it is a putt, see your line to the cup, or to your spot, and the ball rolling on that line to the hole. There should be no more "left brain" analysis, such as second guessing your swing, club, target, line, break or stroke. If necessary, repeat step one enough to fully commit, then start step two again.
Feel: Finish narrowing your focus using the third step. Consciously try to feel the exact swing or stroke that you have committed to use. Some players achieve the swing feel purely by imagining it, some with waggles and imagery, some with partial swings and imagery, and some with full swings. Use one, simple feel-type swing thought, no mechanical thoughts. It is equally important to feel the putting stroke, either with imagery or the practice stroke, before execution.
Make doing good mental routines more important than the outcome of your shots or putts. You may be surprised how well this works.
Dr. Graham is a sports psychologist who has more than 200 clients on Tour. To subscribe to her newsletter, GolfPsych Today, call 800-322-5044 or visit her website at http://www.GolfPsych.com
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