Focusing Your Emotions On The Green
Focusing is the most important and, often, most challenging mental skill to master in golf.
Golf tournaments are filled with potential distractions, in particular negative thoughts and counter-productive emotions.
Focusing on your emotions will, without a doubt, impede your golf game.
The golfers that are the most successful are the ones who have the ability to direct their attention to the cues that produce successful shots and can replicate that focus throughout the round.
Lydia Ko, 18, is a golfer who has many potential distractions to manage.
Ko won her first LPGA Tournament at the age of 14, ever since, there has been clamoring and questions of when she would potentially win her first Major.
Ko answered those questions by winning the 2015 Evian Championship shooting a record-low final round of 63. Ko came back from 1 stroke down after the third round and won the tournament by six strokes.
With the victory, Ko became the youngest woman to win a golf major and reach the No. 1 ranking.
Ko has been working with a mental performance coach, Dave Niethe, since the age of seven to master the mental side of golf, in particular the ability to focus under pressure. Niethe points to Ko’s ability management of pressure as the key to her success.
“Lydia is no different in that she does get nervous. Where she is very different, though, is her desire to control it.”
Niethe taught Ko to maintain a consistent mental state rather than giving in to emotion.
NIETHE: “It’s called the performance window, where we don’t want her excited but we don’t want her passive either. We want her concentrating on her shot, focused on the shot, but you’ll find that if the crowd goes crazy with a great approach shot, she’ll just subtly say ‘thank you’, not get overexcited.”
The “performance window” is that place or mindset where you take control of what you focus on.
NIETHE: “In the performance window we don’t get passive, we don’t get aggressive, we maintain an assertive mindset.” “If you’re confident out there having fun, then you can perform in a way where even if you hit a bad shot, you can stay in that performance window.”
When golfers focus on their emotions is what normally steers them in a downward direction. Getting anger, frustrated, depressed or anxious about a shot does not help you play better on the next shot but so many golfers give in to their self-destructive emotions and take themselves out of their game.
The goal is not taking emotion out of the game, which is impossible! It is lessening the impact of emotions by not focusing then allowing you to spend more energy and attention on the cues that produce successful shots.
Tip for Developing the Champion Golfer’s Mindset:
- Managing emotions and focusing on your game does not require strained effort but it does require practice.
- Emotions will exist whether you want them to or not. If you learn to gently shift your focus to what you need to do in the present moment, you see improved and consistent results.
One strategy to help you focus is to recite key phrases or instructions to yourself that help you remain centered in the present. Keep the phrases simple and stay in that performance window.
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