Jun
22

Focus your golf mind on your target not the hazard for better golf scores

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One thing I’ve learned from golf psychology is how my unconscious mind automatically follows where my conscious mind leads. Have you ever noticed that if one of your playing partners warns you about a particularly difficult bunker or some hidden golf hazard on a hole, your ball seems to be mysteriously drawn to that hazard? And it doesn’t matter whether they were trying to help you or to put you off. So if you’re standing over the ball thinking or saying to yourself, "Don’t hit it in that bunker," then you are unconsciously focussed on the bunker and that’s where you’ll probably hit the ball.

This can also work in reverse. Many years ago, I was selected to play with a good friend of mine as my partner in the Hertfordshire County Foursomes team event at the old East Herts Golf Club, on a course I had never played before. Despite my best endeavours, I didn’t have the time to play the course before the event, so I had to play the course blind. When I got there, there were no yardage charts available and no distance yardage markers on the course, so my foursomes partner, who had played there several times and knew the course well, suggested that he would have to tell me where to hit the ball when it was my turn to hit our ball, as there were many doglegs and blind shots on the course. On every shot I had to play, my partner would tell me the length and style of shot I needed to play and gave me a specific target to aim at – a particular tree, bunker or tree – and that was all I had to think about. He never told me about any of the hazards to avoid. As a result, I was the perfect partner, hit the ball where and how he told me and we scored far better than we could have possibly expected.

Now, the action of unconsciously following your conscious thoughts doesn’t just happen when you play golf. Have you ever been driving happily along a long straight road, perhaps a motorway, and someone points out a landmark way off to the right or left? Even if you do no more than glance at it a few times, you’ll probably notice that you will unconsciously start deviating towards it. Thankfully, your unconscious programme for safe driving is likely to be more grooved in your mind than your interest in the landmark and your unconscious mind will soon bring you back to the straight and narrow of the road. As it’s an unconscious and instinctive reaction you may not even be aware as the driver, but your passengers may well let you know what happened!

So what can I do to avoid hitting the ball in the hazard when I’m already thinking about it and isn’t it better no know about it than not? Wouldn’t I rather know it’s there, so I can avoid it? Well, if you’re going to focus on the hazard when you hit the ball, it may almost seem to be better not to know it’s there. However, if you take the hazard into account when planning your shot, you can consciously choose a style of shot and an appropriate target that will reduce the likelihood of your ball going into the hazard. If you then focus on that alternative target when you hit the ball, then as I described above, your unconscious mind will always do it’s best to follow your conscious thoughts. So when you’re standing over the ball about to hit, focus your thoughts on the shot you want to play and the place you want the ball to land safely rather than on the hazard where you don’t want it to land.

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