Connect with us


5 Strategies To Keep Your Mind in the Present on the Golf Course



Staying in the present is one of the most important areas of the mental game that sport psychologists work on with golfers. Nearly every week, winners from the PGA Tour to the LPGA Tour will attribute a part of their victory to their ability to stay in the present. They may use different terms (staying in the moment, focusing on the task at hand, or concentrating on the process), but their overall message is the same; they were able to manage their mind and stay focused on the present. Keeping your mind focused on the present is not a principle only reserved for golf’s best players; it’s one that should be practiced by all golfers who want to play their best.

Being focused on the present is a relatively straightforward concept in golf psychology. While a golfer’s body can only be found physically in the present moment, a golfer’s mind can wander nearly anywhere. It can think back to past circumstances like a mistake a golfer made on a previous hole. It can also go into the future and think about a shot or hole that’s coming up. Sometimes a golfer’s mind will even stroll to thoughts outside of the course to something like an errand or a business deal. There is no shortage of places the mind can go that are not occurring in that present moment.

Unfortunately, the more a golfer’s mind strays away from the present moment, the harder it is for that golfer to play his or her best golf. This is especially true right before a shot. There is no time more important to be in the present than during the pre-shot routine and while swinging the club. Being immersed in the moment and giving each shot 100 percent is one of the most important factors to a sound mindset and mental game.

While being in the present moment is one of the simplest concepts for golfers to understand, it is also one of the most challenging skills for them to consistently implement in their mental game. No golfer has ever mastered it, and no golfer probably ever will. I see countless golfers put so much pressure on themselves to do it perfect or not do it at all. They impose an all-or-none attitude on themselves, and this is potentially one of the biggest reasons in golf psychology that players struggle to stay in the present. They figure, “I tried it, but my mind wandered after two holes (or maybe two seconds). So, I might as well just accept my mind can’t stay in the present.”

The truth is that everyone from Jack Nicklaus to Arnold Palmer to Jason Day to Dustin Johnson are tested by the golf gods; on the course, their minds wander more than you would believe. That’s because no golfer’s mind comes “golf ready.” Staying in the present is a part of the game we all battle each time we go out on the course. In golf, you have “outer-game challenges” like bunker shots and “inner-game challenges” like staying in the present. Just as you wouldn’t abandon your swing after one bad shot or bad round, you shouldn’t abandon being focused in the moment on the course. The more time and energy you dedicate to staying in the present, the better you will become at managing your mind to stay in the moment.

Just as the idea of being focused on the present is a simple concept, and so are many of the solutions. I have found from my experience as a mental coach that the simplest solutions are often the most powerful and easiest to implement. As with every strategy in sport psychology, the more time you dedicate to practicing these techniques (on and off the golf course) the more ingrained these mental skills will become.

Each of the 5 strategies are great ways to manage your mind to be present focused on the golf course. The key is finding the strategies that work best for you. Try each of the strategies and use the one(s) that fit your personality.

1. Gain a Better Awareness for When You Start to Lose Focus with Self-Monitoring

Many times, golfers lose focus without even realizing it. They will be on autopilot thinking about something from the past or in the future without any awareness that they are even doing it. Just learning to become aware of when your mind shifts out of the present is often enough to help it get back into the moment.

In psychology, the practice of paying attention to your thoughts and actions is called self-monitoring. It is a very powerful strategy that helps people learn to manage bad habits that they would like to learn to control. In this case, it would include golfers setting a goal to monitor their thoughts and pay attention to when and how their mind wanders from the present moment.

One simple exercise I use to help golfers learn to monitor their thoughts is called: “Left Pocket – Right Pocket.” I recommend you do this drill during a non-competitive round the next time you want to work on staying in the present. Put about 50 golf tees in your left pocket and start with your right pocket empty. Every time your mind wanders out of the present, take a tee out of your left pocket and put it in your right pocket. Do not judge the thought or even try to shift your thoughts in the beginning. The initial purpose of this exercise is to heighten your awareness. If you naturally have fewer thoughts or manage the thoughts you have, that is even better. But when starting, let the primary purpose be to recognize the thoughts and over time you can build on the exercise – especially with some of the other suggestions from this article.

2. Know What You Want to Focus on Before You Start to Lose Focus

Many times, when a golfer tries to refocus they either try to do too much or refocus on the “wrong” thing. For instance, a golfer’s mind may begin to focus on the future and think about birdieing a hole. Their mind then refocuses to the present, but they make an overly aggressive decision or decide to make a swing that doesn’t fit their game.

I encourage all my players to have a game plan and process goals established before they tee off. A game plan is a strategy for how they want to play the course. Part of that game plan are process goals, which are a few objectives that are under the direct control of golfer. These are things they want to focus on during the round like their pre-shot routine, a swing thought, etc. Having a game plan and process goals established before you tee off will help you know what to think about when you want to refocus so you don’t overthink when your mind begins to wander.

3. What’s Important Now: Ask “” Questions 

Often times, when a golfer’s mind starts to focus away from the present moment, their thoughts can go in a million directions and they have difficulty grounding themselves to one key thought. They have many thoughts about what they could do or have to do. This is rarely helpful. The mind works best when it has one clear thought. A great objective is to identify the most important priority in that moment.

Asking “” questions is a powerful way to identify the most important thing to do in that moment. W.I.N. stands for: “What’s important now?” When you ask yourself this question, your mind will have little choice but to focus in the moment.

4. Have Well-Established Routines

As previously mentioned, before the shot and during the shot are the two most important moments for your mind to be in the present. A close third place is directly following the shot. This is the time you process the shot by accepting it, learning from it, or managing your emotions. Well-established and practiced routines are a great way to help you manage these three critical times.

  • A solid pre-shot routine helps golfers get into the moment before the shot and prepare them for the shot.
  • A solid execution routine helps golfers get into the moment during the shot and make a fluid trusting swing.
  • A solid post-shot routine helps golfers manage the moment after the shot and either accept or build confidence from the shot.

Golfers should practice these three critical areas on the range so they know how to best be in the moment before, during, and after the shot. The best routines are a combination of mental skills and physical actions.

In addition to these three critical routines, I also encourage golfers to develop solid morning routines, practice routines, warm-up routines, and end-of-the-day routines. The more golfers know how they want to manage themselves in important moments, the better ability they will have to conquer that moment with a present mind.

5. Harness the Moment with the Power of Breath

There is perhaps no more time-tested method to get back into the moment then to focus on your breathing. The practice of focusing on one’s breathing dates back to before 1500 B.C. with the practice of meditation. You don’t have to be a monk or cleric to enjoy the benefits, though. Golfers can adapt this practice into their game without any major changes to their beliefs or lifestyle. Sport psychologist have been using breathing as a method to enhance performance, manage emotions, and regain focus for nearly a century.

Breathing is one of the simplest and most powerful ways to regain composure and get back into the moment. When a golfer is truly focused on their breath, they are in the moment because they really can’t be anywhere else. Breathing is one consistent function within the body that follows golfers around no matter where their mind might want to wander to. I do not recommend golfers wait to realize they are getting out of the present moment to begin building a solid breathing practice. Just like with all the mental training strategies discussed, the more you practice honing in on your breath the better you will be able to successfully implement it when you need to.

There are many schools of thoughts on breathing ratios and methods of practicing breathing that I discuss with golfers. If you have one already, I recommend you continue doing it. If you don’t, one of the most popular I teach is inhaling for 3 seconds and exhaling for 6 seconds. Set aside time each day to practice your breathing. It can be as little as 3 minutes or as much as 40 minutes (20 minutes twice a day).

Your Reaction?
  • 111
  • LEGIT17
  • WOW16
  • LOL1
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP1
  • OB0
  • SHANK2

Dan Vosgerichian Ph.D. is owner of Elite Performance Solutions. Dr. Dan earned his doctorate in Sport Psychology from Florida State University and has more than 10 years of experience working with golfers to maximize their mental game. His clients have included golfers from The PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Tour, PGA Latin America, as well as some of the top junior and collegiate players in the country. Dr. Dan has experience training elite golfers on every aspect of the game. He served as The Director of Mental Training at Gary Gilchrist Golf Academy, as well as a Mental Game Coach for Nike Golf Schools. He’s also worked as an instructor at The PGA Tour Golf Academy and assistant golf coach at Springfield College. Dan's worked as a professional caddie at TPC Sawgrass, Home of The Players Championship, as well as an assistant to Florida State University's PGA Professional Golf Management Program.



  1. Scott

    Sep 5, 2017 at 9:10 am

    good ideas. thanks.

  2. Radim Pavlicek

    Sep 5, 2017 at 3:24 am

    You cannot stay in the present the whole round of 6 hours. That’s not possible.

  3. Chipolte

    Sep 3, 2017 at 1:26 am

    staying in the present…. aka dumbing down

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


WATCH: How to take your hands out of your swing



In this video, I share two great drills that help golfers take their hands out of the golf swing. These drills encourage more rotation through impact with quieter hands to improve consistency.

Your Reaction?
  • 1
  • LEGIT2
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK1

Continue Reading


A simple formula to figure out the right ball position for you



In this video, I offer my simple formula on ball position that has seen my students produce more consistency. Watch to see how you can adapt your ball position to hit more shots on target.

Your Reaction?
  • 21
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP3
  • OB1
  • SHANK8

Continue Reading


How to fix the root cause of hitting your golf shots fat



Of all the shots golfers fear, hitting the ball FAT has to be right up at the top of the list. At least it heads the list of commonly hit poor shots (let’s leave the shank and the whiff out for now). After fat, I’d list topping, followed by slicing and then hooking. They are all round-killers, although the order of the list is an individual thing based on ability. Professionals despise a hook, but club golfers by and large fear FAT. Why?

First of all, it’s embarrassing. Secondly, it goes nowhere — at least compared to thin — and it can be physically painful! So to avoid this dreaded miss, golfers do any number of things (consciously or subconsciously) to avoid it. The pattern develops very early in one’s golf life. It does not take very many fat shots for golfers to realize that they need to do something differently. But rather than correct the problem with the correct move(s), golfers often correct a fault with a fault.

Shortening the radius (chicken-winging), raising the swing center, early lower-body extension, holding on through impact (saving it), running the upper body ahead of the golf ball and even coming over the top are all ways of avoiding fat shots. No matter how many drills I may offer for correcting any of those mistakes, none will work if the root cause of fat is not addressed.

So what causes fat? We have to start with posture. Some players simply do not have enough room to deliver the golf club on a good plane from inside to inside. Next on the list of causes is a wide, early cast of the club head. This move is invariably followed by a break down in the lead arm, holding on for dear life into impact, or any of the others…

“Swaying” (getting the swing center too far off the golf ball) is another cause of fat, as well as falling to the rear foot or “reversing the weight.” Both of these moves can cause one to bottom out well behind the ball. Finally, an excessive inside-out swing path (usually the fault of those who hook the ball) also causes an early bottom or fat shot, particularly if the release is even remotely early. 

Here are 4 things to try if you’re hitting fat shots

  1. Better Posture: Bend forward from the hips so that arms hang from the shoulders and directly over the tips of the toes, knees slightly flexed over the shoelaces, seat out for balance and chin off the chest!
  2. Maintaining the Angles: Casting, the natural urge to throw the clubhead at the golf ball, is a very difficult habit to break if one is not trained from the start. The real correction is maintaining the angle of the trail wrist (lag) a little longer so that the downswing is considerably more narrow than the backswing. But as I said, if you have been playing for some time, this is risky business. Talk to your instructor before working on this!
  3. Maintaining the Swing Center Over the Golf Ball: In your backswing, focus on keeping your sternum more directly over the golf ball (turning in a barrel, as Ernest Jones recommended). For many, this may feel like a “reverse pivot,” but if you are actually swaying off the ball it’s not likely you will suddenly get stuck with too much weight on your lead foot.
  4. Setting Up a Little More Open: If your swing direction is too much in-to-out, you may need to align your body more open (or feel that way). You could also work with a teaching aid that helps you feel the golf club is being swung more out in front of you and more left (for right-handers) coming through — something as simple as a head cover inside the golf ball. You’ll hit the headcover if you are stuck too far inside coming down.

The point is that most players do what they have to do to avoid their disastrous result. Slicers swing way left, players who fight a hook swing inside out and anybody who has ever laid sod over the golf ball will find a way to avoid doing it again. This, in my opinion, is the evolution of most swing faults, and trying to correct a fault with a fault almost never ends up well.

Get with an instructor, get some good videos (and perhaps even some radar numbers) to see what you are actually doing. Then work on the real corrections, not ones that will cause more trouble.

Your Reaction?
  • 147
  • LEGIT22
  • WOW6
  • LOL5
  • IDHT4
  • FLOP6
  • OB2
  • SHANK14

Continue Reading

19th Hole