If confidence is the number one psychological characteristic of elite performers, understanding how to develop laser sharp focus is a close second.
When you’re looking to make a long putt or pull off a tricky shot, it can be difficult to quiet distractions and focus on the task at hand. That’s why developing your golf mental game is so important and one of The Golf Performance Center’s 5 Elements of Success.
When we think about elite performers who have developed this ability to silence outside thoughts and perform despite distractions and pressure, many of us think of Tiger Woods’ focus. Tiger Woods took the time to develop his golf mental game practice even as a young golfer and received golf psychology coaching from an important man in his life.
Many people know that Tiger Woods’ dad, Earl Woods, played a significant role in his development as a player from a very young age. There’s a lot we can learn about how to develop laser sharp focus by studying Earl Woods and the way he taught Tiger Woods to focus.
Laser Focus Meaning in Golf Psychology
But why should any golfer take the time to learn how to improve their mental golf game and how can they develop laser sharp focus? It’s not like average golfers are competing in The Masters like Tiger Woods.
Even outside of sports performance, the ability to sort through the billions of bits of sensory information that our nervous systems are constantly being bombarded with is critical to our survival. We need to sift the relevant from the irrelevant and focus our attention on those things that matter most in any given situation.
This type of attention is called selective attention. A classic example of selective attention is the “cocktail party effect” which demonstrates that if you were at a noisy cocktail party, you would be ignoring most of the irrelevant stimuli around you. Yet, if someone were to mention your name from across the room, your attention would be instantly grabbed given the personal meaning of the message.
Selective attention allows us to focus on those things that matter most and ignore those things that don’t. Not only has this skill allowed humans to survive for thousands of years, but it also separates the extraordinary from the ordinary athlete. The best athletes in the world are able to focus on those things that enhance performance and disregard those things that interfere with it.
In golf, this is particularly challenging given the solitary nature of the sport, which allows for more time to be distracted by both external and internal stimuli. So, how can we practice focusing on what matters and ignore those things that don’t?
For the answer, let’s turn to the genius of Tiger Woods’ dad, Earl Woods.
How Earl Woods Taught Tiger Woods to Focus
It’s widely known that Earl Woods played a critical role in helping develop Tiger Woods’ focus and mental game. When it came to nurturing the skill of selective attention, Earl had Tiger do something very interesting; he had him practice reading while watching television.
Having witnessed the amount of attention Tiger received every time he teed it up, it was clear to Earl that Tiger would benefit from learning how to ignore all of the distractions and pressure that goes along with playing in front of thousands of hypercritical eyes. By having Tiger read a book while watching television, he essentially trained Tiger to ignore the background noise while focusing on a single task at hand.
Being able to intentionally and meaningfully focus your attention is paramount to a golfer’s success and has worked pretty well for Tiger.
How to Improve Your Mental Golf Game Through Focus
So, should you practice reading while watching television? Yes, though there’s a better way to hone your selective attention skills and do some golf mental game practice.
The next time you are practicing, bring your phone with you and play something to serve as a distraction. You can play around with how distracting you want the stimuli to be. Familiar soothing music might be least distracting while loud obnoxious crowd noises (which you can find on YouTube) might be more distracting.
Ideally, you want to find the level of distraction that challenges you to focus. If the sound is too distracting, it will be counterproductive. Spend at least 15 minutes going through your routine and practice ignoring the background noise by deliberately focusing on each shot. Your measure of success will be simple: were you able to block out the background noise or not?
This can be difficult at first, but with repetition, you will be able to lock in on your shots. This type of golf psychology coaching might feel weird at first, but with practice, you won’t even hear the background noise. Soon you will see how to improve your mental golf game with Tiger Woods-level focus and improve your ability to tune out the noise.