The inability to control one’s attention is a common problem that plagues golfers at every level from professional to amateurs. We think we are focused on one thing when in fact our attention is fixed on something else, and unless we know that that’s happening, that “something else” will become our new target. Let me give you a classic example, you’re standing on the tee box ready to tee off, when out of the corner of your eye you see a pond that hugs the right side of the fairway. Immediately, your attention shifts from “stripe it down the middle of the fairway” to “don’t go right”. You take the club back, swing, and sure enough the ball goes right, splashing into the middle of the pond. At the root of this problem is the simple lack of awareness as to what our target is at the moment when we chose to execute a shot. If you’re worrying about a pond, the pond will become your target. If you’re thinking about your grip, your grip will become your target. If you’re anxious about being embarrassed, embarrassment will become your target.
The bottom line is that whatever your attention is focused on will become your target, and as such, you will physically react accordingly. In other words, you will swing to the target that is in the sites of your attention. Focus on the pond and, more likely than not, you will create a swing that finds the pond. As noted earlier, the more successful target focused golfers are not distracted by external or internal interference. They stay fully committed to their original targets throughout their golf swing, and when they do get distracted, they are able to refocus undeterred. Target focus is one of the many psychological skills I teach the players I work with, but it might be one of the most important. My experience tells me that if you hold a golfer’s technical ability to swing a club as a constant, working only on improving target focus can dramatically improve scoring ability. I fully understand that being aware of how your attention “toggles” back and forth from one thing to another is difficult and takes time, but with work it can be the key component to taking your game to the next level.