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How To Stay Focused

by Kenny Jacobs, PGA Professional

"I just can't ever seem to keep a good round going." "I never play good on the back nine." "I can't handle slow play." "I play good in practice rounds, but never in tournaments." If any of these common complaints sound like you, you have a problem maintaining poise and focus on the golf course.

As an instructor, I meet people every day who want to improve their golf games. Most of these people do not understand that improving requires more than just changing the golf swing. Real results only come by improving the entire package. The most overlooked aspect is the mental side of golf.

Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Ben Hogan, Ray Floyd, David Duval, and Nick Faldo are all great players who are known for their ability to stay focused on the task at hand. They all have a certain look when they are in contention that oozes confidence. While we may not all possess the same physical abilities as these great players, if we are willing to work hard enough, we can learn to focus as well.

There are common traits all great players have. These traits include: a pre-shot routine, an ability to block out distractions, a focused awareness of their environment (also known as tunnel vision), the ability to stay positive, a desire to succeed, and confidence in their ability. Confidence in ability comes from improving technique to a point where it can be trusted. This is the first step in becoming a complete player. Unfortunately most people never move past this step.

If you want to improve you need a pre-shot routine to keep you focused in the present. Your routine should include the following; assess the wind, lie, distance, hazards, and required shot. Make a practice swing to rehearse the tempo and swing shape for the required shot. Visualize the ball flight you want. Align to a target, like a tree or part of a bunker. Your target must be clear and specific. Waggle the club and fire! You never want to hit the ball without committing 100% to the shot. A rushed or unsure swing is usually a wasted swing. Never hit if you realize your mind is on the last putt you missed, or the out of bounds on the right. Only hit if you are focused on making a confident swing toward your target. Outside distractions such as slow play are outside distractions. You can't do anything about them. Let your ability to focus give you an advantage during tough conditions. Bad weather, slow play, and bad golf course conditions will eliminate most people because they do not possess the mental toughness to handle them.

The last area that can cause you to leave the present is either excessively poor or extremely good play. When you are struggling it is easy to get upset or down on yourself. However, if you learn to take the good with the bad, and it may take work, you will learn to salvage a round of golf. Sometimes the truly satisfying rounds are when you start off bad, but are able to get it together and finish strong. Another source of problems can be a great start to round. If you start off with three birdies or shoot a great front nine, it is likely you will get uncomfortable and lose your ability to think clearly and make good swings. Use your pre-shot routine to occupy your mind and stay relaxed. A fast start should give you confidence. Let the fact that you are playing well give you the boost you need to keep the round going. You must not think ahead. Stay in your routine and you can stay focused. Good rounds are made up of several good shots played one at a time, with some bad shots mixed in! No doubt David Duval understands this and used his routine to keep him focused during his 59! One final help is to divide the 18 hole round into 6 hole rounds. Play the first six holes and see how good you can play them. Then, good or bad, forget them. Then play the next six holes and so on. This makes it easier to focus and helps take your mind off the pressure of playing well for 4 hours.

We have a program at Towne Lake Hills called the Player Development Consulting Program. This program is to help the player develop an awareness and understanding of his or her game. We track all of your statistics and scoring averages and provide you with a weekly report that maps out a plan for your improvement. This program is only $45 a month and has been a great success. If you have any questions you may reach Kenny Jacobs at (770) 592-9969.

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