Picture this; you are on the 18th hole in your club championship, after splitting the fairway with your drive, standing there awaiting your second shot. You turn to your caddie and whisper, “I just don’t want to chunk this shot in front of the people watching by the green.” What follows, you chunk your shot! Why does this happen? Does it happen to everyone? The answer is – yes, it happens because you are not present for the process of hitting your best shot.
None of us are immune from hitting bad shots and especially when we are unaware of ourselves not being in the present. Jack Nicklaus used to talk about how difficult it was for him to maintain focus for 4 to 5 hours on the course and how he used his glove or some other outside agency to help him stay present for his shots. Jack was the master of pressure. He often talked about how much he enjoyed the feeling of competition, wanting to be in a spot to take the lead, or win a golf tournament. His way of staying in the present was to learn how to remove himself from focus after each shot and then re-enter focus right before his next shot. Over the years, he has mentioned a few of his techniques, like unsnapping his glove 3-5 seconds after each shot and while walking down the fairways he would look for different birds and listen to their sounds and try to identify them. As he got within 10 yards of his ball, he would pull on his glove, attach the Velcro. This helped him bounce back into focus for his next shot. Like all of us, he would admit that it didn’t always work, but he also believed in the process. Even though he didn’t always get back to his highest levels of focus, it certainly helped. By having a process or system to help improve his focus, he generally did much better at being present for each shot, therefore creating better outcomes more consistently.
If you are struggling with pressure, staying focused or being nervous, try creating a process you have full control over, like breathing! Beyond breathing, create a routine that will best help you play and understand how you focus. Maybe you too struggle with long periods of concentration. Find a way to use the time between shots to enjoy the walk or ride, create a trigger to help snap you back into play mode. Some players wear rubber bands to snap on their wrist or use a que, like pulling their club at a certain point in preparation for the next shot. I bet if you became more aware of your mental tendencies and what pulls you in and out of focus, you will be able to improve your scores by being more present for each shot. Golf is a marathon for your mind. It can be overwhelming for many players. For you to play your best you cannot overlook the small incremental aspects that can ruin your scorecard. Your swing technique is only part of the equation! What’s pulling you out of the present or your focus? If you haven’t worked with Dr. Josh Brant, Clinical Psychologist and Sports Performance Coach here at GPC, I would highly recommend setting up a session with him to have better understanding of what might be pulling you out of the present and preventing you from performing at your peak level!
Enjoy Your Journey!