This 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?
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!