Focus In Golf

How to Focus In Golf: Developing Intention and Awareness

Better focus in golf is all about having a clear process to follow and then learning how to control your attention.

We can’t simply can’t fully apply ourselves to continued improvement without being able to do this, and here’s how to do it:

Better Focus in Golf: Having a Clear Intention

Focus in golf is when your intention for your focus is currently aligned with what you are actually directing your attention to.

This is why the mental scorecard for golf is so important, as it reminds you want you want to focus on. So the first step is deciding on what you actually want to focus on i.e. what is in your Pre Shot Routine, what you will focus on after a bad shot, in between shots, etc.

Better Focus in Golf: Being Present

Being present is when your focus is 100% on what you are doing now, not what just happened, or what might happen in the future. The intention for your focus in golf is aligned with what you are actually directing your attention to. When you are doing this, your mind is quieter, you have a deeper connection with what you are doing, and it’s more likely that your physical movement will be fluid and uninhibited.

The problem that we all face as human beings is that the mind is very hard to keep still. It wants to ruminate and predict, rather than just focus on what’s happening now.
The primary role of the mind is keeping us safe and away from danger. For this reason, it can often remind you of the mistakes you’ve made or what could go wrong in the future. Negative thoughts are a normal part of being human, but if we are unaware, and we allow ourselves to focus on these negative thoughts, it will pull us away from the task and change the way we feel.
Being able to notice where our minds are and redirect our focus back to the present or to the task at hand is a key high performance skill in anything we do. Elite performers don’t have any less negative thoughts than the rest of us, they are just able to redirect back to the present quicker.

A Tour player I work with found herself in contention in a tournament and had a two shot lead with 3 holes to play. With this situation being new to her, she was out of her comfort zone. Her mind kept racing ahead to what might happen next and it was hard not to pay attention to all the mental chatter. But we had practiced for this situation, and we knew she would face this challenge, if she was to reach high levels in her career.

Because she was aware of what her mind was doing, she was able to redirect her attention back to the present by doing something called “walking meditation”. Try this next time you are on the course. Instead of letting your attention go to whatever thoughts appear in your mind, bring your intention to what you are experiencing NOW, such as the feeling of the ground beneath your feet, the wind on your skin, the temperature, the feeling of your breath and your heart rate. Notice, without judgment. This practice not only helped my student stay present and calm at such a critical time in her round, but it helped her win for the first time on tour.

Better Focus in Golf: Developing Awareness

We can’t develop better focus in golf, if we are not aware of where our attention is. The opposite of being aware is day dreaming, where you are unaware of where your attention is, you are letting your mind wander wherever it wants to go.

Being able to notice where your mind is can be trained with a daily practice of meditation.

If you are new to meditation, try sitting and focusing on your breath for 3 mins per day. Just notice the sensation of it, your chest moving out on your inhale and deflating as the air is exhaled. Notice the temperature of the air and the pause in between. Your mind will undoubtedly wander and thoughts will appear, but when they do, notice and gently refocus back to the present. Success is not about not having thoughts, but instead being able to notice them and refocus back to the anchor of the breath. That’s what we’re training. Once you feel good about a 3 minute meditation, increase it to five and so on until you are able to do a 10 minute daily meditation. By doing this daily practice, you’ll notice that you will be in more control of your attention on the course and in practice which will mean you’ll have better focus for golf and be less caught up in negative thinking and get the most out of your sessions.

Photo 118111526 / Tiger Woods © Jerry Coli |

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David MacKenzie

is a mental golf coach and lives in Washington DC. He is the founder of Golf State of Mind, a teaching program designed to help golfers condition their minds to overcome fear and play with confidence.

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