Your Focus to Improve Your Play
Machamer, Lomas Santa Fe Country Club
Much has been written and said in sports about focus and the role it plays in peak performance. Athletes from all walks talk about “being in the zone” when they are at their best. This ability to focus is not limited to professional athletes however, and I would like to give you some exercises that can help you develop a more relaxed attitude and clarity of mind, which should help you improve on the golf links.
I believe that to improve your focus you have to be very alert and relaxed. Not the kind of relaxation you feel when you are about to go to sleep, but rather a more alert attentive state, without the anxiousness that sometimes comes with heightened states of awareness.
The important thing here is not how we describe focus, or even what my definition of it is. The important thing is to be willing to spend some time considering and putting into practice three steps I am going to give you that if applied, will help you play your golf shots in a more joyous and free state of mind.
Self Observation. What I call self observation is different than being self centered or self conscious. The kind of self observation that I am speaking of is more objective. The next time you play a round of golf, pay attention to your state of mind as you play shots. Also notice your emotional state. Pay attention to your level of nervousness as you play certain shots. Pay attention to the dialog in you head and see if you can catch yourself when you start having negative thoughts or emotions. Don’t turn a negative thought or emotion more negative by telling yourself, “I shouldn’t think or feel this way”, that isn’t productive. Instead, just see if you can observe your thoughts and feelings objectively. That is to say, just pay attention to what is going on in your thoughts and feelings without judgment. I am convinced that many of us don’t even realize how our thinking and feelings determine our success and failure on the golf course. When you notice yourself getting uptight, angry, frustrated, or the like, just observe, don’t judge or criticize. You will soon get a clear picture of where improvement or change may be needed.
Re-Program your computer. Once you have completed the first step in this process, you will probably be aware of some things about yourself on the golf course that you may not have noticed before. It may be evident that you are not having as much fun playing as you would like. In fact, you may be aware that you rarely play a shot with any sense of ease or relaxation. Rhythm and tempo, both vital aspects of a good golf swing, have their root in and are tied to a person’s internal clock. If the internal clock is wound to tight, guess what?
When I talk about re-programming your computer, I am really talking about changing your thinking. If you continue to think on the course the same way, you will get the same results; even if you take lessons, you will probably see only short-term improvement. Even modern equipment won’t solve the thinking problem. So how then do we change our thinking?
Start small. You have to build brick by brick. There are many great books to help you with this process, but for now let me give you a really fun exercise to try. You must do this for at least four full rounds to notice anything, but you can start the next time you play. Make a positive statement to yourself after EVERY shot the next time you play, and try to do it for four rounds. Make it into a game. See if you can find something good about every shot. Try not to leave any shot out. If you forget, just start up again as soon as you remember, but stay with it. Your statement must be honest, so the challenge will be to find something good in a shot that you just hit out of bounds, or finding something positive you did if you missed a three foot putt. If you are sincere about changing, you can always find something positive. For example: let’s say I just shanked a wedge way to the right of my target. Pretty bad shot I would say. My first impulse will be to feel bad about the shot and maybe use some not so nice words. However, if I am doing this exercise, I am going to have to find something positive about a shank. What could that possibly be? Well... perhaps my grip was perfect for the shot. I could also note how my posture was good, as well as giving myself a gentle reminder of just how fortunate I am to be on a golf course. That’s just an example and if you are sincere, it can be done. The idea with this exercise is to get you started on a new path. Once you do this and experience how transformative it can be, you will be well on your way.
Practice Relaxation. With so much emphasis on equipment and physical fitness in golf today, I feel anyone striving to improve must not only pay attention to these, but also must look for ways to think better. One of the keys to better focus and concentration is relaxation. The third step is to find time each day to do relaxation exercises. There are many helpful books for this area as well. You can also Google relaxation on your computer and find different suggestions with which you can experiment. Find out what works best for you, but do find out. It is often only when people start to learn to relax that they become aware of just how tense they have been. Once you get into the healthy habit of practicing relaxation, you will see how it carries into your golf experience. It is impossible, I think, to walk around up-tight and rushed all week, and then somehow magically relax for you Saturday tee time. It will take some practice, and I suggest you start as soon as you can.
These three steps should help you transform the way you see the game of golf, and help you toward peak performance. There is a saying I recently heard that I would like to share here, “When you change the way you look at things, things you look at change.” So give these three steps an honest attempt and see what happens. I would love to hear about your experience should you undertake this approach to improving your game.