Have you ever heard someone say, “He had a great round today, he was really focused?” When a professional is playing very well, the adjective that is often used to describe his mental state is “focused.” What does it mean to say that someone is focused? Focus is defined as “a point at which rays of light appear to diverge, or the clarity of an image rendered by an optical system.” Of all our different senses, focus is associated mostly with sight or the eyes. It is the ability of our eyes to zoom in on an object, or, in the case of golf, the target. For example, look at an object such as a book. Focus on the book. Now focus on the book with an increase in intensity. Next, focus on the book with an even higher increase in energy. Notice what happens when you increase your intensity. You get more absorbed into the object, and you may notice more details. The energy from your eyes to the object increases with greater fervour and all the other senses move to the background as you eyes become primary. The more you see with your eyes, the less you think with your brain. Let me repeat this truth, the more you see with your eyes, the less you think with your brain.
We know from a variety of studies that athletes performing at a high level have very little chatter in their brain, and their focus is extremely high. What happens when you are nervous or struggling on the golf course? Often you begin to increase the self talk and thinking, while decreasing the energy available for focusing. In an attempt to think through the struggle on the course, one often makes the problem worst by increasing the thinking, and diminishing the focus. I am not saying that thinking is bad,I am simply saying that lots of thinking during actual performance is usually detrimental.
Over the last 60 years technological advances in clubs and balls have helped golfers hit the ball farther and straighter than any time in history. The science of bio-mechanics has identified the perfect swing for every body type and improvements in error detection equipment help professionals pinpoint exactly where a golfer’s swing deviates from the ideal. How much have golfers, as a whole, improved their ability to score. According to the USGA, nothing! Both amateurs and professionals alike still score, on average, exactly the same as their counterparts of six decades ago. Not to minimize the great strides a small percentage of golfers make in their own journey, one would expect that these advances would lead to lower scores. They haven’t. In fact, USGA statistics show, that as a whole, golfers don’t improve after the third year in the game.
One of the Most Costly Mental Mistakes in Golf is the Easiest to Eliminate. Here’s How…
Golf is a game that is played mostly from within, and for this reason, it is important to know when you are putting too much pressure on yourself to perform. Having too high expectations of yourself is one of the biggest causes of a loss of self confidence and not playing to your potential. But by simply re-framing your mind-set and being more disciplined in your approach, you can easily eliminate this pressure and play better, more enjoyable golf.
Expectation is a self-created pressure we need to eliminate if we want to become better golfers. It demands that we should play in a certain way, and if we don’t, something is wrong, leading to frustration and self-doubt. The general opinion is that expectation and confidence are one in the same thing. If we expect to win a tournament or expect to hit great golf shots, this will increase our confidence. But in fact the opposite is true. Confidence is how much self belief you have in executing a given shot, not trying to continually meet expectations.
Whether it be your performance relative to your pre-round driving range session, your playing partners or your last round, continuously measuring yourself will you make you frustrated and further remove you from the process needed to execute good golf shots. For example, let’s say your last round was one of your best and you are getting closer to becoming the player you always knew you could be. Then during your next round you find yourself quickly several shots over your new expectation (target) of yourself. Thoughts of “what am I doing wrong?” and “this is not how I know I can play!” will result and you will quickly find yourself becoming frustrated and losing focus over the ball.
The opposite can occur if we are playing better than our expectations. If we go into self-assessment mode and measure our performance vs our expectations, we will feel out of our comfort zone and the result is likely to be a quick retreat back to our usual level of play.
Success in golf is playing each and every shot as best you can. This sounds obvious, but your score is an aggregate of all these individual shots. We need to focus on the execution process of each individual shot (THE PRESENT), not the target of a good score (THE FUTURE). I like to tell my students to focus on the steps of their shot routine and make that their goal for the round instead of going out there to shoot their best score. As hard as it is to do, mark your score card, but don’t think about your running total. At the end of each hole write down the number of shots that you felt you successfully stuck to your routine. Total these numbers and make this your target for your next round. If you can make this a habit, I’ve no doubt you will start to see the results and get more enjoyment from the game whether you shoot your best score or not.
Believe that your ultimate success in the game relies on being “in the zone” for every shot and making the best decisions you can for the shot at hand. Your best golf will come when you are in the present moment for each shot and truly enjoying the experience of the game.