Focus On Before A Golf Shot

Eye on the ball, Mind on the Target.

The ability to separate what you are looking at from what you are thinking about is an essential skill for playing golf. What to focus on before hitting a golf shot is a huge factor in how well it’s executed.

The good news is that your visual and attentional focus are different brain functions. Golfers who struggle with or say they can’t visualize often let their eyes cloud their visualization for golf, especially when fixating on the golf ball in front of them. If you think about the water, bunker or OOB as you stare at the ball you ARE visualizing and you know where the ball often goes as a result! So it’s not an inability to visualize which is the problem but what you visualize!

It’s important to know your ability to learn how and when to focus your attention when hitting golf balls IS NOT predicated by your technical skills but your ability to play your best golf IS predicated by your ability to focus.

What to focus on before a golf shot

Your eyes and attention are not physically bound together within the brain. If you’ve ever read a book and found yourself day dreaming whilst staring at the page, you’ll recognize this separation. Your eyes go quiet and your mind wanders. What you may perceive at the time as your inability to focus on the text in front of you actually leverages EXACTLY the same mental skill you can be using when trying to hit golf balls at a target. If you can day dream you can play golf. The critical difference being that you must direct your day dream to play a golf shot, not leave it to chance, then you will be focusing your attention. This mental skill is NOT a function of the eyes but your BRAIN. Do you like the sound of this technique?

Golf is a challenging game. We have to look away from our target in order to execute a physical action. An Archer, Rifle Shooter, Basketball free-thrower do not. They can focus their eyes and attention on the target. Like Tigers.

Serving a tennis ball, rugby goal kickers and golfers have to look at the ball but maintain their attention on where to send it. Without systematic training in this skill, for this moment of action, golfers unwittingly switch their focus of  attention to the ball, club, body, swing, outcome or potential hazards. The target is nowhere to be seen.  There is little point visualizing your shot before you step in and play it if you think about something else whilst executing it.

It is not co-incidental that ALL golfers complain of inconsistency but how many take the time to get trained in this essential psychological skill? From our very first golf lessons on grip, alignment, stance and posture our attention is on everything other than the target. It is actually possible to spend a golfing life believing your technique is never good enough. I can’t wish that on any golfer and there is much more to learning how to focus than meets your eye.

So what do you focus on before a golf shot? HOW do you achieve this focus consistently? Maybe, you think the ball is the target or it’s important to be thinking about your swing? Is this working for you? If you don’t have a clear answer to these questions, use this off season productively and take the time to learn how to focus your attention in the right place, at the right time consistently when learning, practicing and playing by taking this introductory, online course:

We can’t offer tips or quick fixes but you will discover why your golf swing isn’t as bad as you believe it to be! When you learn how to lock your conscious mind on Target, you’ll find it can’t interfere with your swing or putting stroke.

To borrow from the powerful words of Martin Luther King — you’ll finally be FREE at last!

Photo by John Halsam

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Colin Cromack

is the creator of Target Oriented Golf, an independently produced applied golf psychology coaching program. He specialises in the brain function of Attentional Focus. This lies at the heart of skills acquisition (how we learn) and psychology (how we perform). His work is supported by the very latest academic research. He is a PGA UK recognised Coaching Specialist and presents his work to PGA coaches, Pro players and dedicated amateurs.

This Post Has 7 Comments

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    I just came across this article on looking at the ball and visualizing the target at the same time. I find it a stimulating thought. I haven’t been doing this in golf, but I did it while serving a tennis ball as the article mentions, and I did it as a setter in volleyball. So, I can’t say that I can’t do it. All I can say is that the thought never entered my conscious thought before. Can’t wait to try it.

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      David MacKenzie

      Appreciate you reading and commenting Charlie, please let me know how you get on!

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        David, I just read your #4 about practicing and playing and thought about it in the context of “eyes on ball; mind on visual image of path of the ball.” I have been giving it some thought as to why I can do that in tennis and volleyball but hadn’t thought about it in golf. I have concluded that in golf, I have not separated play from swing development. I tennis and volleyball, it is a lot easier to separate the two because we drill a lot on the tennis court and volleyball court. In golf, I seem to be playing for score all the time. I’m going to try to separate practice on the golf course and playing on the golf course. One more thing–in tennis and volleyball, you play against an opponent of similar capability, but in golf, you play against par and the course–a big difference.

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          David MacKenzie

          Hi Charlie, thanks again for your feedback. Golf is a hard game because a) you’re only “playing” for about 10% of the time you’re on the course and b) it’s a non-reactive sport (pro-active). In tennis for example, you don’t have time to think, you just react for the most part. However, there are techniques to change this and make golf more reactive. The more reactive you can make your shot process, (once you’ve selected the shot), the better. This means that you’re responding to the imagery you’ve created in your mind, not swing mechanics, score, how you look etc. If you saw any of the Masters last week you would have noticed Jordan Spieth taking several looks at the target before putting the trigger, so his body would be reacting to that. You also need to be able to quieten the mind during the time “in between” shots.

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            Martin Newkirk

            Would also like to say how much this techniqued helped me in my last round. I first read about it here a while back, but didn’t understand it fully until recently. The key is to keep the mental image of the target in the mind THROUGHOUT the swing, not just to visualise it before hand. This is where I was going wrong. Similar to Charlie my miss hits all but disappeared, I hit much straighter as well, but my short game was the biggest winner, making some really long putts and even getting close with chip ins which never happened before.

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        Hello, David. since you asked to let you know how things worked, I thought I would let you know that I played two successive days, and my bad contacts (my way of measuring how well I did) dropped from my normal 10-12 in a round of 18 to 4-6. My golf friends were surprised. They thought I had practiced a lot during the winter months. I told them that the only change I made was using your advice of eyes on the ball and mind on the target. The biggest improvement was that all of a sudden, I could hit my lob wedge. I was totally useless with the lob wedge prior to this. I hope this encourages others to give it a try. P.S. it worked with putts also. I didn’t push or pull a single putt during the two rounds.

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          David MacKenzie

          Superb! A great golf season awaits! Now try it on your short game…

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