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7 ways to improve your focus on the golf course

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Focus is a big buzzword today… in everything. Because of the infinite number of distractions around us, including advancements in technology, our attention spans seem to be shrinking to the point where it is difficult for people to keep their minds on a task for more than a few seconds.

I really became interested in the idea of focus while reflecting on my golf career and realizing that I struggled with focus and keeping my mind and energy centered on my plan to win tournaments. I found that my emotions would knock me off my focus (emotions gone wild) and hurt my chances of being a consistent player. Negative emotions like anger wreaked havoc and often kept my focus on the past, exactly where I didn’t want it. The real competition was always inside of me. You might know the feeling — hit a bad shot or miss a putt and you can find it difficult to get your mind back in the game and create the right internal environment to play the next one. Some call it being “frazzled.”

Dan Goleman, author of Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence explains that we’re also prone to emotions driving focus when our minds are wandering, when we are distracted or when we have information overload — or all three. Think about how this might apply to you in a typical round.

Jordan Spieth

Consider a player like Jordan Spieth. A focused mind is a secret of his consistent play. He has the drill down perfectly. If he hits a shot he doesn’t like, he expresses the emotion and moves forward. We all hear Jordan talking to himself and scolding himself, purging all of the bad energy. He then quickly moves forward to the next shot, considering what it will take to create the lowest score possible. And it appears there is very little information overload for Jordan. A natural player, he really seems to keep things very simple for himself technically.

Emotions off the course impacts performance on it

Something that’s interesting when I work with high-level athlete clients, including professional golfers: their focus is often muddled by events that have happened off the course, not on it. Something may have happened at home, or they are worried about something else in their lives that creates anxiety and hinders them from bringing full focus to their game. For this reason, attention must be given to what’s going on off the course. Those emotions must be acknowledged and expressed, helping to create a clear mind to focus on the task at hand — hitting golf shots to the best of their ability.

What causes you to lose your focus?

Focus is certainly one of the keys to performance excellence. Many performance problems, including a lack of self-confidence, can be traced to problems in the area of focus. The more you lose your focus, the more difficult the game will be.

What causes you to lose focus on the course? Could it be playing partners, off-the-course distractions, too much emphasis on the outcome (your score), unacceptable shots, looking ahead to holes that you will soon play, three putts, unforced errors? Everyone is different — you might have other factors that impact your focus. As an exercise, make a list of things that distract you.

Steps to improve your focus

We all know that functional practice is critical to great performance on the course. Part of your practice should be working on your mental/emotional game. Like hitting balls and working on your swing motion, or working on your putting stroke, effort in practice is required to build your mental and emotional “muscles.”

Here are a seven steps to help you build those muscles and improve your focus on the course:

1. Similar to PGA Tour players, you must be aware of what’s going on off of the course emotionally so the negative energy doesn’t disrupt your focus on it. Express emotions created off of the course before you arrive at the first tee.

2. Construct a routine that works for you — simple, comfortable, reliable actions that put your mind on the task on each shot in practice and when it counts. This creates consistency and predictability in your behavior and begins your process of shotmaking.

3. If you find yourself drifting, bring yourself back to the center by asking yourself “where’s my focus.” This will create awareness and help you keep your mind on the task.

4. Accept that there are things in a round you can and can’t control. Identify what they are and only put focus on those things within your control.

5. Consider a very short, quiet session each day focusing on your breath. In this mental fitness session, the more you catch your mind wandering off and bringing it back to concentrating on the breath, the more your concentration muscles strengthen.

6. Eat high-protein, low-carb meals before playing. Carbs cause quick crashes while proteins become brain fuel more slowly, providing a steady energy level helping to sustain focus.

7. Focus declines quickly when you are tired, and there’s an epidemic of sleep deprivation. Enough sleep can make a difference and help keep your mind on the game.

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John Haime is the President of New Edge Performance. He's a Human Performance Coach who prepares performers to be the their best by helping them tap into the elusive 10 percent of their abilities that will get them to the top. This is something that anyone with a goal craves, and John Haime knows how to get performers there. John closes the gap for performers in sports and business by taking them from where they currently are to where they want to go.  The best in the world trust John. They choose him because he doesn’t just talk about the world of high performance – he has lived it and lives in it everyday. He is a former Tournament Professional Golfer with professional wins. He has a best-selling book, “You are a Contender,” which is widely read by world-class athletes, coaches and business performers.  He has worked around the globe for some of the world’s leading companies. Athlete clients include performers who regularly rank in the Top-50 in their respective sports. John has the rare ability to work as seamlessly in the world of professional sports as he does in the world of corporate performance. His primary ambition writing for GolfWRX is to help you become the golfer you'd like to be. See www.johnhaime.com for more. Email: [email protected]

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Instruction

Kelley: Should a Tour player’s swing be the pattern we copy?

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PGA Tour players are the most gifted golfers on the planet. Their ball striking ability is remarkable to the average, even scratch, golfer. With the time to practice all day, usually perfecting their imperfections in their own swings, why are PGA Tour players’ swings always the model we seek?

Look at the progression and expectations in other sports played recreationally. If you start playing Tennis, you don’t expect to serve as fast and accurate as Rafael Nadal. When joining a gym, do we look and replicate the times and bodies of Olympians? However, in golf, players seek the worlds best trying to emulate them. Examining this idea, could this actually be detrimental?

Let’s start with the speed differential. The average PGA Tour driver club head speed is 113 mph. The average male amateur golfer driver speed is 93.4 mph. The average handicap for the male golfer sits between 14 and 15. Below is a chart from Trackman showing the distribution of clubhead speed among male golfers.

*Trackman research shows there is a direct correlation between clubhead speed and handicap.

Speed is mostly a natural talent developed at an early age. It can be enhanced with speed training, gym work and even lifestyle changes. ?With such a differential in speed?, wouldn’t players first be better served focusing on center contact with the most efficient route to do so? This can include modeling simple looking swings.

Besides the speed differential, the world’s best golfers all have unique swings that have been perfected over time. Take for example the top ten players in the world. Different swings with different match-up moves throughout the motion. They have made it work for themselves with countless practice hours. Usually time the average golfer doesn’t have.

A main example would be Rory McIlroy, often a sought out golf swing among students. Here is a quote regarding his swing swing sequence after visiting the Titleist Performance Institute Center. “At the start of McIlroy’s downswing, his left hip spins violently counterclockwise, as it does for every elite, long-hitting player. but then, and only with the driver, Mcllroy makes a funky move you could not teach. a moment before impact, his left hip suddenly changes direction and jerks back, clockwise, and then rotates again.”

With the average golfer on a time constraint?, golfers could actually look at what the greats do the older they get in their careers. The swings become more simple, using their instincts to get their body in efficient and more teachable positions. This is usually in their set-up then backswing, with less excess movement for an efficient strike. Take for example a young versus older Ben Hogan. (Picture below)

Below is another example of a young Jack Nicklaus compared to an older Nicklaus later in his career.

This is in large part due to the concept that less can be more at times. Unfortunately in golf, all to often players are told to do more with their swing, only to jeopardize center contact even seeking vanity over function.

A concept that could be beneficial is next time you want to work on your swing, focus on efficiency and minimizing the ?motion for center contact and a better face/path relationship. Then you can build. Rather then taking a bit from a Tour player’s swing, understand how your body should move to achieve your desired ball flight. Once you have a foundation, then add speed and your own DNA to the swing.

The argument could be made the opposite should be taught for aspiring junior golfers, especially the way the game as going. This article is intended to open a discussion and perhaps change the view of how the golf swing is being taught based on your skill-set and what you are trying to get out of the game. Also, what may be teachable and not teachable. You can change swings with concepts alone.

www.kelleygolf.com

Twitter: @Kkelley_golf 

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Clement: Why laying up = more power

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You have been there before — you can’t get over the hazard on a par 5 and decide to lay up and take the club you need for the distance and the ball makes it into the hazard after you took this smooth swing that smoked the ball 15 yards farther than you expected? We uncover the mystery right here!

 

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Kelley: Simplify your swing with the hammer drill

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Regardless of your handicap, a simple hammer can teach you how to efficiently address the ball, start the swing and then put your body in a dynamic position at the top. If you can hammer a nail, there is no reason you can’t simplify your swing. This drill can also change the parts in the middle of your swing you have been struggling to change.

To start, grab a hammer with your trail hand as if you are hammering a nail into a wall in front of your body. You will notice how this instinctively gives you a slight tuck of the trail elbow and drops your trail shoulder below the lead with angle in the trail wrist.

Once gripping the hammer, move the weight of the hammer as if hammering a nail. This will give you the feel of the takeaway.

From here, the golf swing is no more then a lifting of the arms as the right arm folds and the body goes around a bit.

From this position, holding your spine angle and placing the left hand on the right hand will pull your body into a coil or “turn”. This places your body in a position to efficiently swing the golf club back down to the ball.

A great way to combine the hammer drill with a golf club is to hold a hammer on the grip of the club or tape the hammer down the middle of the shaft. Start with just your right hand on the club and make slow swings.

Once you have practiced this a few times, the hammer can be removed and this feel can be integrated to a normal golf club. To continue this feel, simply turn the clubhead in as if you are hitting the ball with the toe of the club (below picture). When turning the club like this, the center of balance goes more to the clubhead, helping replicate the actual hammer feel.

What’s great about this drill is that the actual task is driving the technique. Rather than being thoughtful of several technical positions in the golf swing, replicating the instinctive motion of the hammer will put you in the proper positions. This drill will also help you place your focus of attention on the actual club, which is often overlooked.

www.kelvinkelley.com

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