Golf is unlike other sports. There is no whistle telling us when to start, or a referee to stop us from playing. Because of that, our brain does not know WHEN it’s time to play and WHEN it’s time to have a mental break from concentration. Some golfers may think that they have to sustain attention during the whole round. The fact is that human beings cannot concentrate for such a long period of time.
Golfers need to focus their attention for a few seconds every time they hit a shot. However, some golfers struggle with keeping their attention focused on their intention (the shot they want to create). One way of coming back to the present, to the task at hand, is to have a pre-shot routine that you can rely on when your mind starts wandering (i.e., too much thinking, paying attention to noises, the conversation your playing partners are having…)
A pre-shot routine helps golfers get grounded and focus on the task. A while ago I was watching an LPGA tournament on the Golf Channel. Brittany Lang had a four footer for a win. The commentator said, ‘She has completely abandoned her pre-shot routine’ and, guess what, she missed the putt and four players went on a play-off, which she eventually won. She was probably nervous, thinking of what the putt meant: a win. It is at those times when golfers need to rely more on their pre-shot routine, to avoid any mental distractions, and to pay as much attention as possible to the task at hand. Moreover, a pre-shot routine also provides golfers with a sense of ‘perceived control’. When your mind perceives that you are in control of a situation (regardless if it does or doesn’t) the mind experiences a sense of calmness, and the body is less tense (all good things for golf, right?) The pre-shot routine grounds you and helps you focus on the present, on the task at hand. It helps you pay attention to what you CAN do, independently of outcome. As a consequence, your mind feels more in control of the situation.
Do you have a pre-shot routine? Have you noticed what happens when you don’t stick to it compared to the times when you do? Pay attention to the differences. Next month I’ll talk about why it makes sense, from a psychological perspective, to have a pre-shot routine. We will also talk about the importance of having a post-shot routine, and how a pre and post-shot routine can help you focus your attention when you most need it.