Got Focus? Get Better Golf

Focus, Tiger Woods

How are you doing with your setup routine? Developing and using a short routine will add a tremendous amount of focus and consistency to your game. It may take some time to add all the parts, but it will pay off in the long run. When it is all said and done it should take you no more than 30 seconds or so to make your decisions, address the ball and make your shot. There is no substitute for a good setup; it gives you the ability to correct many faults before they occur. This insures that you can have the best possible shot for your efforts.

Today I want to take a look at focus.

Tiger Woods, making yet another come-back from an injury, finished the second round today at 2 over par and dead last among the players. He was 4 under par on the 18th when they called a 1 hour rain delay:

    Woods was making progress toward his goal of getting back to even par for the tournament. He hit a 5-iron out of the rough to 4 feet for eagle on the par-5 13th, followed with a flip wedge into 3 feet for birdie on the 14th, and he hit another wedge to 5 feet for birdie on the 16th.


    But after the rain, Woods had mud on his ball in the fairway and could only smile as it sailed left and long of the green. What followed was another bad chip – that’s six already in two rounds – that traveled only about 10 feet. He wound up with a double bogey for a 70. He remained in last place, 14 shots behind Spieth.


    “It’s not very good,” Woods said of his short game.
Ute Bronzes

These Bronzes are Permanently Focused

(For an excellent analysis of his “old Swing” look at this video from the Ultimate Golf Blog)

So what happened after an hour of sitting waiting for it to stop raining? Besides the obvious fact that the conditions had changed with super wet fairways, he needed to maintain the focus he had when the game was delayed. He had been in the “zone” which is clear from the report he was even on the front and had a string of birdies on the back to put him at 4 under. He was into his game, doing well (as a pro should) and then required to put the whole thing on hold for an hour. His competition is playing exceptional golf, Jordan Spieth for instance had carded a 66 the day before and 9 other golfers were also in the clubhouse with scores under 70 as you can imagine the competition is stiff.[/caption]

What is focus?

We want to have a clear picture of what we want and how we will execute the golf shot to get it.  Just like pointing a telephoto lens at a tree to look at the plumage of a bird, you can see the bird with the naked eye, but the lens brings the picture up close and refines the detail of the picture. Focus in golf acts in a similar way, except that it cannot be forced. On the binoculars you can tweak the dial and stop it just so when the picture is in focus. On the golf course even if the picture of what you want is perfect you are communicating with your limbic brain making demands that may or may not happen. If you try to force it, you introduce tension into your swing, clamp down on the club like a hammer and pound.  The ball rewards you by promptly duck hooking or banana slicing.

The idea is to find a way to communicate our picture to the subconscious in a way that the body will say; Yep! Here you are! And produce it. I know you have been there in both situations. Grip it and Rip it does not work and a casual distraction can sometimes cause you to hit your ball right at the cart lady parked mid-way down the fairway, it is all in the focus.

As recreational golfers we will not likely find ourselves under the kind of pressure to perform that the professionals face every week they are on the tour. We do, however, sometimes put ourselves under similar pressure as we begin to berate ourselves after a poor shot or find our ball in a place where we need a shot that we know in our heart of hearts (there is no way) that we have not practiced before.

Have you ever read any books about meditation? In Zen meditation they talk about clearing your mind. “Think about nothing” they say. When you try that you quickly discover that thinking itself is indeed “something,’ soon you are embroiled in a self conversation that is basically telling yourself to shut up. They describe the process as “Quieting the Chattering Monkey,” he is the little voice going off in the back of your brain. That little voice can be accusing, mocking, or just generally rattling on with things that you do not want to hear. The more you try to shut him up the louder he becomes until you find that the only way to deal with him is to ignore him and eventually he gives up and goes away.

Another part of this is that you often find that you have brought the monkey to the course with you, and perhaps have fed him on the way with the latest music, disc jockey, news report or personal challenges that you may be experiencing. These are best left in the car before you pay and start to play; otherwise you are wasting your time and money. The practice sand trap is another great place to bury the monkey.

The important thing is to have a goal for the day, or a small affirmation that you can continuously repeat during your swing like “Timing” which you can stretch out as you swing to remind yourself to slow down and wait for the body to unwind before rushing in with your hands. The very nature of a repetitious saying is a great aid for getting and keeping you focused on the task at hand. On this note please remember to start keeping some basic statistics. At the very least you want to know FR, GR, Putts and score; Fairways in regulation, Greens in regulation, the actual number of putts and of naturally, your score. The saying goes “What gets measured is what improves” so grab an extra score card and put those categories in the spots for the names of the other 3 players and keep track of how you do for the round. This gives you a goal for your round the next time you play. If you want to get more extensive with your stats, you can visit long-drive champion Eric Jones website and he will give you a free course called how to practice like the pros.

To recap, focus is not something that you can necessarily get on demand; it requires the subject matter to be interesting enough to concentrate for a while. A “while” is all that you need; just long enough to go through your setup routine and see an image of your best possible shot for the outcome you desire. In poor Tiger’s case the hour he spent in the club-house was far too long to re-create the focus he had established as he was playing on the back nine. Beware of the “Chattering Monkey,” he will not help your game. And finally keep track of what you are doing on the course so you can set goals for the next time you play.

Until next time, Hit them straight and seldom.

Michael Brown

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Michael Brown

I am not a professional golfer. Rather, I am passionate about the game of golf. I am constantly looking for ways to improve and as I discover them I am anxious to share. If you agree or disagree with my ideas please leave a comment below.

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