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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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Clement: This wrist position can add 30 yards to your drive

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Drop the mic on how the wrists should load and be positioned for compressive power, accuracy, and longevity! There is a better way, and this is it!

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Instruction

Short Game University: How to hit wedges 301

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In golf, there is nothing harder than judging a flop shot over a bunker to a tight pin out of long grass. Why? Because there are so many variables to account for — in addition to what you can and cannot do with a wedge. In fact, up until very recently in the world of wedge design, we were limited to only increasing the landing angle to stop the ball, because relying on spin from this lie and this close to the green was next to impossible.

Now with the advent of things like raw faces, different CG locations, new groove design, and micro-ribs between the grooves, we can now spin the ball out of lies that we never could have done so before. This is not to say that you can now zip the ball back from these types of lies, but we are seeing spin rates that have skyrocketed, and this allows us to not open the face as much as we needed to do before in order to stop the ball.

Before we get into the shot around the green itself, let’s talk a bit about wedge design. For that, I called a great friend of mine, Greg Cesario, TaylorMade’s Staff Manager to help us understand a bit more about wedges. Greg was a former PGA Tour Player and had a big hand in designing the new Milled Grind 3 Wedges.

Cesario said: “Wedge technology centers on two key areas- the first is optimizing its overall launch/spin (just like drivers) on all shots and the second is optimum ground interaction through the geometry of the sole (bounce, sole width, and sole shape).”

“Two key things impact spin: Groove design and face texture. Spin is the secondary effect of friction. This friction essentially helps the ball stick to the face a little longer and reduces slippage. We define slippage as how much the ball slides up the face at impact. That happens more when it’s wet outside during those early morning tee times, out of thicker lies, or after a bit of weather hits. Our Raised Micro-Ribs increase friction and reduce slippage on short partial shots around the round – that’s particularly true in wet conditions.”

“We’ve been experimenting with ways to find optimal CG (center of gravity) placement and how new geometries can influence that. We know that CG locations can influence launch, trajectory and spin. Everyone is chasing the ability to produce lower launching and higher spinning wedge shots to help players increase precision distance control. In that space, moving CG just a few millimeters can have big results. Beyond that, we’re continuing to advance our spin and friction capabilities – aiming to reduce the decay of spin from dry to fluffy, or wet conditions.”

Basically, what Greg is saying is that without improvements in design, we would never be able to spin the ball like we would normally when it’s dry and the lie is perfect. So, with this new design in a wedge like the Milled Grind 3 (and others!), how can we make sure we have the optimal opportunity to hit these faster-stopping pitch shots?

  1. Make sure the face is clean and dry
  2. Open the blade slightly, but not too much
  3. Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the AoA
  4. Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

Make sure the face is clean and dry

If your thought is to use spin to stop the ball quicker under any situation, then you must give the club a chance to do its job. When the grooves are full of dirt and grass and the remaining exposed face is wet, then you are basically eliminating any opportunity to create spin. In fact, if you decide to hit the shot under these conditions, you might as well hit a flop shot as this would be the only opportunity to create a successful outcome. Don’t put yourself behind the eight-ball automatically, keep your club in a clean and dry condition so you have the best chance to do what you are capable of doing.

Open the blade slightly, but not too much

Without going into too much extra detail, spinloft is the difference between your angle of attack and your dynamic loft. And this difference is one of the main areas where you can maximize your spin output.

Too little or too much spinloft and you will not be able to get the maximum spin out of the shot at hand. With wedges, people equate an open clubface to spinning the ball, and this can be a problem due to excessive spinloft. Whenever you have too much dynamic loft, the ball will slide up the face (reduced friction equals reduced spin) and the ball will float out higher than expected and roll out upon landing.

My thought around the green is to open the face slightly, but not all the way, in efforts to reduce the probability of having too much spinloft during impact. Don’t forget under this scenario we are relying on additional spin to stop the ball. If you are using increased landing angle to stop the ball, then you would obviously not worry about increasing spinloft! Make sure you have these clear in your mind before you decide how much to open the blade.

Opened slightly

Opened too much

One final note: Please make sure you understand what bounce option you need for the type of conditions you normally play. Your professional can help you but I would say that more bounce is better than less bounce for the average player. You can find the bounce listed on the wedge itself. It will range between 4-14, with the mid-range bounce being around 10 degrees.

Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the angle of attack

As we know, when debris gets in between the clubface and the ball (such as dirt/grass), you will have two problems. One, you will not be able to control the ball as much. Secondly, you will not be able to spin the ball as much due to the loss of friction.

So, what is the key to counteract this problem? Increasing the angle of attack by setting the wrists quicker on the backswing. Making your downswing look more like a V rather than a U allows less junk to get between the club and the ball. We are not using the bounce on this type of shot, we are using the leading edge to slice through the rough en route to the ball. Coming in too shallow is a huge problem with this shot, because you will tend to hit it high on the face reducing control.

Use your increased AoA on all of your crappy lies, and you will have a much better chance to get up and down more often!

Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

The final piece of the puzzle through the ball is speed through the pivot. You cannot hit shots around the green out of tall grass without keeping the club moving and having speed. A reduction of speed is obvious as the club enters into the tall grass, but you don’t want to exacerbate this problem by cutting off your pivot and letting the arms do all the work.

Sure, there are times when you want to cut off the body rotation through the ball, but not on the shot I am discussing here. When we are using spin, you must have speed to generate the spin itself. So, what is the key to maintaining your speed? Keeping the rear shoulder rotating long into the forward swing. If you do this, you will find that your arms, hands, and club will be pulled through the impact zone. If your pivot stalls, then your speed will decrease and your shots will suffer.

Hopefully, by now you understand how to create better shots around the green using the new wedge technology to create more spin with lies that we had no chance to do so before. Remembering these simple tips — coupled with your clean and dry wedge — will give you the best opportunity to be Tiger-like around the greens!

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An awesome drill for lag that works with the ball!

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Many lag drills have come and gone in this game because they have a hard time working when the ball is there! How many times do you hear about someone having a great practice swing and then having it all go away when the ball is there? This one is a keeper!

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