How To Improve Focus For Golf

focusThis year I am making a concerted effort to simplify every aspect of my game from my fundamentals to my thinking.  A key component is improved focus during play and practice.  During early rounds, I have met with my share of successes and failures but have noticed that during periods of good play my focus is laser sharp.  During a stretch of poor play, I found my mind wandering and have tried to force myself to concentrate better.  Is good focus a byproduct of good play or can you force it?  The ultimate chicken and the egg scenario appears to be a bit of both.  I have found a few tricks to help me improve my focus and thought I would share.

If you’ve read, Putting Out of Your Mind by Bob Rotella, one of the key concepts he keeps coming back to is focusing on the smallest target possible.  Olympic target shooters have always attempted to “aim small, miss small” and I’ve found this helpful, not just in putting, but for chipping and full swing.

Putting:  On the green and especially for short putts, if you zero in on a blade of grass on the edge of the cup you expect your ball to enter on, and keep focused in on that spot, right up to the point before you pull the trigger, it seems to free up your mind and body to make a better stroke.  Jordan Spieth leverages this concept by looking at his target even while making the stroke and who’s to argue with his results?

The Masters champ focuses in. Photo by wsj.com

The Masters champ focuses in.
Photo by wsj.com

Chipping:  While practicing chipping or pitching, I’ve found it useful to place two tees on the green a few yards apart and work to land my ball as close to each using different clubs.  If you practice chipping without focusing on a landing point, sometimes you’ll hit a poor chip that may end up close to the hole.  May make you feel good at the time but won’t help you out on the course.  By zeroing in on your landing spot, you can use the same club and learn how different swings produce different ball flights and spin patterns.  I’ve got some work to do in eliminating the chip yips that infected me from late last season, but this technique has helped improve my concentration and ability to trust my practice swing.  Side note:  if you have the chip yips, it’s either a technique issue or one of trust, which was true in my case.

Full Swing:  On your full swings, try and zero in on the smallest point in the distance and as high off the ground as possible.  This can be a tree top, apex of a distant building’s roof, power pole, or anything.  Keep that target in your mind’s eye, even while you start your swing, and you’ll free yourself up to make a move free of mechanical thoughts.  I do use an intermediate spot on the ground to set my initial alignment, but always ensure it corresponds to a distant high point I can focus on as a target.  Not sure why the high point strategy works, it just does.

Finally, you’ll find that rehearsing good focus techniques on small targets is not easy, especially during practice.  It’s hard when your mind tends to wander because the shots don’t matter.  But if you can focus on improving your ability to focus, you will play better.   Got any techniques that have helped improve your focus?   Please share and good luck!

 

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About Brian Penn

Avid sports fan and golf nut. I am a lifelong resident of the Washington D.C. area and love to follow the local teams. Also worked as a golf professional in the Middle Atlantic PGA for several years and am intrigued by the game to no end. I love to play and practice and am dedicated to continual improvement.
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9 Responses to How To Improve Focus For Golf

  1. Brian

    I completely agree that focus is a key component to great golf. I have found that having a consistent pre-shot routine helps me stay focused on my surroundings and conditions of my golf shot. Additionally, a consistent pre-shot routine clears my mind of negative thoughts and concerns about swing mechanics. Again, mental focus is extremely important. Thanks for the tips.

    Cheers
    Jim

    • Brian Penn says:

      Jim, you are so right about that pre-shot routine. It is the bedfellow of confidence and what I’d like to do is find a way to leverage the two off each other, especially with chipping and pitching. That’s the weakest part of my game and it’s no surprise that my pre-shot routine needs work there. Thanks for the excellent reminder!

      Brian

  2. Real focus is probably my biggest fault.

  3. Wayne Halm says:

    Aloha Brian,

    Good post and excellent tips.

    I believe I appreciate focus more than most because I don’t get to do it often.

    Most of my rounds are resort golf and I am entertaining. I still want to hit good shots and score well but there is a lot in the back of my mind ( jokes to tell, pictures to take, tag lines to find, and schedules to keep). It’s still a lot of fun but the distraction shows up on the score card (I don’t post those rounds).

    Compare that to skins games where I am allowed to concentrate (and mind you, my concentration is shabby compared to yours). There I will shoot 8 to 10 strokes better. 8 to 10 strokes, same guy, the difference is focus!! And I’m going to try some of your tips to make the range even wider. Thanks.

    A Hui Hou,
    Wayne

    • Brian Penn says:

      Wayne, good luck and don’t forget to post the bad scores too! Not advocating for sandbagging but it will help in those full handicap events!

      Brian

  4. Brian,

    I’m with you here. Some days my focus comes easily and feels laser sharp, and good scoring follows. Other days I feel distracted, and the decision making and scoring shows.

    Sometimes I can reel it in, and sometimes it’s more difficult. If I rush to the tee after a busy day at work, I can usually reel it in after 5 or 6 holes since I just need time to unwind. When I don’t know what is causing the lack of focus, it can be harder. I like your tips, and the small target small miss theory.

    One of my goals this season is to work on my focus as well, and maintain it no matter the results.

    Cheers!
    Josh

    • Brian Penn says:

      Josh, the rush to the tee thing is extremely difficult on focus and I’ve been working hard to practice short warm-up and long warm-up techniques to help with pre-game focus. Getting your brain zero’d in on the first tee is the objective. I’ve found that if you have time for a bucket of balls, reserve the last dozen and play about 4 or 5 simulated holes on the course you’re about to play. If you only have a few minutes, grab one ball, a wedge and a putter and take three chips from different lies and try to get the ball up and down on each. Should only take five minutes and gets your brain into scoring mode fast. Good luck!

      Brian

      • Thanks Brian, those are some good strategies that I’ll have to give a try. I’d love to find a good remedy to transition from a busy day at work to a calm state of mind on the first tee.

        Cheers!
        Josh

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