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The Power of Trust and Focus

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Whether you’re playing in the Presidents Cup with the world watching, or in a $5 nassau with your buddies, there are shots presented during a round of golf that have immense pressure on them; when your back is against the wall and you must hit that chip shot to get up-and-down, or hole a 4-footer to continue the match.

If you’re able to control your emotions and funnel your focus, however, you have a great chance to do what you’re capable of when the moment matters most.

The mind is an asset when used correctly. As we all know, however, when you let your emotions get the best of you, it can also be quite the deterrent for success. I’d like to remind each of you that you can only focus on the process NOT the outcome, and if you do so, you have conquered all you can… the rest is up to the golf gods.

So here are a few ways I suggest you work on the power of your mind and its ability to focus, and for you to TRUST you can make the shots when it matters.

The Trusting Mentality

After training and focusing extra hard on changing an old swing flaw, there comes a time when you have to trust what you have done on the range and in front of the mirror. You must allow your body to react in the new manner naturally; that is why you practice. You take these conscious feelings and manipulations of new swing motions and, through lessons and proper practice, you must allow them to move into your subconscious. This will allow you to simply play golf, and not keep 4,000 swing thoughts swimming through your mind. Unfortunately, most people never achieve this trusting mindset due to their over-analytical state. When people ask me to describe this sensation to them, I cite two examples.

1) Perspective  

If I put a 2×10-foot board on the floor and told you to walk across it, you would have no trouble at all. If I placed it 50 feet in the air, however, all of a sudden after years and years of walking you would suddenly forget how to put one foot in front of the other.

Why does this happen? You lose that Trusting Mentality, which is necessary to walk across that plank, and you rob yourself of success by thinking about how to walk instead of simply walking. By letting your mind get in the way, it will only be a matter of a few feet before you cause yourself to interfere with your body’s natural homeostatic mechanisms that we use for balance. Guess what happens next… another one bites the dust.

It is the same on the golf course; after working on a new motion on the range, allow yourself to slip back to Trusting Mode when you are on the course. You do this in stages by using small partial swings on the range with a high percentage of successful repetitions, building your way slowly up to full swings. My theory is that if you cannot hit small shots the proper way then it will be impossible to do them at full speed. If the ball goes sideways, it only tells you that you need more practice on the practice facility and in your mirror. You cannot expect to have ANY shot consistency on the course, and especially under pressure, if your golf swing checklist is longer than your grocery list.

2) Effortlessness 

My second example of Trusting comes from everyone’s experience of hitting balls or putting while talking with one of your friends… something weird happens. Every shot is effortlessly straight and pure. Why does this happen? For a brief moment in time, you allow your body to do what is natural for it to do. You propel the ball at your target without allowing your mind to tell you how to do it. Your body knows how to swing if you will let it work thought-free. Doubt comes from the mind intercepting the muscles’ natural motions, especially on the big shots. You know, such as trying to kill the ball on a long par 4, the stigma of trying to hit long irons in the air off a tight lie, or trying not to chunk the ball into the pond on No. 8. This Trust must be gained slowly and in stages; if not you will never reach the level of shot purity that you can; that is a promise from me!

The Test

If you don’t believe in this idea, I will give you one test. Hit 50 balls with your 5-iron and consciously think all during the swing about your mechanics and how to make your swing correct during that full shot. I bet you hit 80 percent of those balls horribly unsolid and offline. Now, wear headphones playing soothing slow music, and hit the same number of balls allowing your mind to only do one thing: be free of any thoughts. I’ll bet you hit a far greater percentage of those shots better and tension free.

Any teaching professional worth his salt will tell you that they do NOT encourage you to focus on too many things on the course — that is what the range is for. The practice facility is a conscious place for thought and swing mechanic experiments while the course is for getting the ball into the hole, pretty or not. I teach my students to identify their problems and solve them objectively though mirror work, follow-up lessons, and proper, efficient practice. My goal is not to tie my students’ minds up in knots on the golf course. I firmly advocate keeping the mind free and keeping things simple on the golf course; leave mechanics on the practice facility and in the mirror.

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Fredo

    Oct 2, 2017 at 9:50 pm

    Great article, love the practicing in front of the mirror, it has helped me bigly! In my younger days when I did a lot of skiing I would always practice by mental visualization when trying to hone my carving technique… and it works for golf as well, at least for me haha.

  2. ac

    Oct 2, 2017 at 6:51 pm

    keep trolling and soon ob will stand for obese because you spend to much time typing long witty comments you think are getting a rise out of people. the only thing rising will be your body mass index and blood pressure from sitting on your cpu.

  3. OB

    Sep 30, 2017 at 1:04 pm

    What Tom is telling us is that ‘unconscious’ performance is for the golf course and ‘conscious’ practice is for the golf range and then transition to the unconscious automatic focused golf swing.
    Most recreational golfers read a golf ‘tip’, try it on the range and then carry it consciously to the golf course. The results are obvious and no amount of ‘trying hard’ to focus will cure the problem.
    What I find questionable is somebody posting on a golf forum and telling us that he watched a video of a pro golfer and noticed how his right elbow folded and unfolded in the downswing, tried it with miraculous results. Such postings are cynical attempts to get into the heads of other golfers-in-need to mess them up. They are lies.
    If you want to incorporate a swing change, you must practice that change consciously for at least 90 days until it’s happening “semi-consciously/unconsciously” and before you take it on the golf course. Of course your swing will suffer while you attempt to incorporate the change. This happens to the pro golfers and it will happen to you.
    There is no ‘miracle’ swing tip and if you believe otherwise you are ignorant about reality.

    • The dude

      Oct 1, 2017 at 6:18 pm

      Your comment is too long

      • doesnotno

        Oct 2, 2017 at 8:41 am

        Perhaps your brain is too small

        • Triple Mocha Man

          Oct 2, 2017 at 4:17 pm

          OB writes the most boring, foolish know-it-all comments of all the ladies on this site.

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