The human brain is quite remarkable, it has the capacity to hold trillions of bits of data yet can only hold a single thought at a time. The brain has the capacity to envision unlimited possibilities yet cannot conceive of a negative. The brain has an amazing ability to act rapidly on even the most minute current stimulus but cannot create a future action. The mind can create a lazer like pinpoint focus and the mind can wander. The brain takes care of our body without our input but requires our input to execute a planned action.
Golf is perhaps a sport that requires the most and highest level of focus. Why? Because golf is a sport devoid of reaction. Golf is a sport of planning, decision making, and precise execution. Planning and decision making create confidence, focus creates precise execution.
I am not talking about thinking or awareness; most sports require much more thinking and awareness than golf. Can you imagine the amount of data the NFL Quarterback or the Indy 500 Driver must process every moment? Most sports require the athlete to develop a tremendous capacity for awareness. No other sport is played in the same unaware vacuum as golf. Golf requires the athlete to block out everything, the pain in the back, the birds chirping and that nagging self-doubt that they can actually execute the required shot. When the golfer suddenly looses that focus they stop play and start over again. Can you imagine the quarterback just stopping, because he lost focus? I can't either.
Golfers who claim that outside noises and activity don't distract them are probably not very focused to begin with. I golf with a guy who claims noises don't distract but just whisper his name at the top of his back swing and he falls apart. If you are not focused you cannot loose focus, the more precisely you are focused the easier it may be to loose focus.
Remember the brain can only hold one thought at a time. If you are truly focused on contacting the back of the ball you cannot be wondering what that sound is coming from your playing partner's pocket. If you are truly focused on the task at hand you cannot be thinking up a retort to your cart mate's stupid comment.
On what should the golfer focus? For sure the focus cannot include the word "not".
- Don't over swing
- Don't rush
- Don't hit it in the water
- Don't leave it short
- Don't top it again
The brain cannot conceive of nothing or a negative so the word not or don't gets eliminated leaving as the focused thought the very thing you want to avoid. Make certain the swing focus is positive.
The brain cannot create the future so why focus on the future? Focusing on the outcome forces away any thoughts about what you must actually do at this moment to get that outcome.
I think the focus trigger must be simple yet meaningful. The word 'home' can create emotion, memory and much more. It might take you an hour to accurately describe your home, if I ask you to imagine your home it's all there; color, floor plan, furniture, people, memories and more. It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. I think one word can create a meaningful picture.
For me I believe focus is in two parts, Physical and mental. Physical focus takes place once the golfer is confidently set over the ball and the eyes are focused precisely on the exact tiny spot on the ball that will be struck by the club's face. (this is called "quiet eye"... more about that in a later blog entry.)
Mental focus is when the mind is 100% in the current moment; calm cool and collected. At this point I am ready to swing and I use a two word key. "ONE TWO". I even say it out loud. Each word has a meaning and is spoken in a meaningful way. They are spoken smoothly and slowly to match my desired tempo
- ONE creates in my mind a clear image of my back swing, an image created after hours, weeks, months and years of trying to understand my swing. I have watched hours of video of my swing and the swings of golfers I want to emulate. In my mind the word "ONE" has a clear and definite end point; the top of my back swing.
- PAUSE is the nothing between the words that is my transition, that moment when my upper body gives over control of the swing to my legs and torso. The pause between the words is never rushed.
- TWO is my down and through swing. When I say the word it is actually longer that the word one. It seems to me that twoooo gets drawn out a bit. I try to say the words with the same tone and inflection because I want my swing to feel balanced and symmetrical.
I challenge you to create your swing thought mantra. The one that perfectly matches you.