A recurring question I get asked is, “How can you concentrate for so long out on the golf course?” The simple answer is, “I can’t, and don’t even try to.”
A round of golf takes a while – four hours, give or take, depending on who you’re playing with and the difficulty of the golf course. There’s no way anyone can effectively concentrate for that long, although many have tried, myself included. On those days, I’ve felt mentally exhausted which usually reflects my score on the card.
So what I do is break my round into numerous bursts of short focus. For example, if I shoot 70 for the day, then I want 70 short periods of focus – using a method I like to call ‘Switch on and off’. Remembering to switch on and off for each shot is the hard part sometimes, so I use a physical key to get my mind into both modes: my glove. If you use one when you play, this is where it comes in very handy.
After I hit a shot, the sound of undoing the Velcro on my glove switches me into off mode. I put the glove in my pocket and take my thoughts away from the shot I’ve just hit (the past), and the next one (the future), by occupying my mind with something else (thoughts about the past and future are what we want to avoid). I’ll chat with my caddie about sport or with my playing partners about any subject other than golf, just so I can be ‘in the present’. As a young pro I was taking Japanese lessons, so I’d start reciting new words I was learning as I walked down the fairway (hey, whatever works!). Looking at the trees and wildlife on the course is a good distraction too, but it’s funny how often we walk these beautiful golf courses and see only a little white ball and where it might go.
As I get closer to my ball (within about 20 metres or so), I take out my glove, and again use the Velcro sound to switch me into on mode. I begin taking in all the information about the upcoming shot by moving into my Pre-Shot Routine (see last month’s article). If my next shot is a putt, the act of walking onto the putting green is my trigger to switch on again. Walking off the green is the off switch.
If I can switch on and off successfully, over and over throughout a round of golf, I always feel calmer and more relaxed at the end rather than uptight and stressed out – and believe me, the latter is never a good thing when you’re facing an important shot late in a round. Once you have this system in place, you’ll be able to breeze around a golf course like it’s a walk in the park, momentarily stopping to hit your ball, and finish mentally fresher than you’ve ever been.
So in your next round, try using the ‘Switch on and off’ method and see how you feel once you’re finished. Your score will probably reflect how successful you were in doing it that day.