Ok, you are about to step up to the first tee – your warmup went well, and all of your swing keys clicked. You have a good group – the course is in fine shape – and the weather is perfect. All of the elements are in place for you to play a fine round. Your first swing confirms that you are ready for golf – straight at your target and a decent distance out there. Life is good!
However, somewhere around the 3rd hole self-doubt starts to enter the picture. Your mind either has started to wander or it has jumped in to help your swing “just a bit”. Your well thought out pre-shot routine is not putting your manic mind in a quiet cooperating mode. Your intensity and your tranquility are both fading. Even though you feel good over the ball, at some point during your takeback, you lose touch with your body and your old swing flaws reappear to haunt you. Your thoughts are overwhelming your feel. You are losing focus – there is no flow.
Without a doubt, once one has achieved a certain level of proficiency in golf, the challenges are mostly in one’s mind. If the average round lasts 4.5 hours, it is hard to imagine that anyone (at least anyone who doesn’t play the game for a living) could maintain their focus for all 18 holes. Certainly, you don’t have to concentrate for the entire time you are on the course – in fact that wouldn’t really work anyway. Few golfers have the mental stamina to do so. Since we know that we are going to lose focus (either intentionally or inadvertently) regaining focus becomes a key skill in playing consistent golf.
Today’s world is not conducive to maintaining a focused mind. We are so bombarded with sound bites and flashing advertisements, that many of us have lost our ability to block out extraneous distractions – including our thoughts – for an extended period of time (I.E. during a round of golf).
A lot of literature recently has addressed the inability to focus. The bestselling book Stolen Focus eloquently and comprehensively explains the current inability to focus as do numerous articles on Mindfulness. These works give us clues as to why good golfers with great swings don’t always score as well as they should. The inability to focus deeply for each swing and broadly for the entire round is a byproduct of our information overloaded society. Think of it, how many of us can play a full round without at least glancing at our phones a few times? It seems that our “need” to stay in touch with our virtual world disrupts our actual world.
However, we pay a heavy price for not paying attention. Golf requires a quiet unwavering confidence to play a consistent round. Golf is a game of errors. It’s not about how good your good shots are – it’s more about how bad your bad shots aren’t. It takes two birdies to erase a double bogey. One bad swing can blow up a score card. What can be done to help our golf game from a mental focus perspective? Certainly, having a pre-shot routine that works well, as does implementing lessons from mindfulness or yoga into our golf game. If your golf scores don’t reflect the quality of your golf game, then maybe the issue is that 6” fairway between your ears!