Playing Golf One Shot at a Time

One Shot

Always Focus on Your Present Shot

Why do golfers always talk about taking it one shot at a time? If we already know the “take it one shot at a time” approach is best, why then is this statement so frequently used in golf?

First, let’s take a step back to understand the importance of the “take it one shot at a time” approach.

One-shot at a time means immersing yourself in the present moment with little to no thought about the past or future.

For example, when you ruminate over the last 5-foot putt you pushed wide, you might experience frustration and anger. The more you think about the miss, the more intense your emotions become.

Intense emotions don’t subside on their own. Therefore, the focus on the past, along with the negative emotions, hurt your game for several shots and potentially the rest of the round.

The mind can also wander to outcomes that have yet to happen…

When you focus on the outcome of a shot, round, or tournament, you are not in the moment. Thinking too much about outcomes can lead to muscle tension and worry about bad results, which can impact the ability to swing freely.

The reason is that golfers just TALK about the importance of focusing on one shot at a time instead of putting in the mental work to improve focus.

It’s hard for anyone to focus for long periods or in stressful conditions. Talking about focusing doesn’t give you manage distractions and narrow your focus on the present moment.

If you want to improve your focus, you need to train your mind to focus while competing. Even Tour golfers need to train their minds to handle the ups and downs typical in a round of golf.

After the first round of the 2021 Wells Fargo Championship, Phil Mickelson had a two-shot lead over the field. Mickelson carded a total of eight birdies and only one bogey.

Before the second round, Mickelson talked about his strategy for the rest of the tournament:

MICKELSON: “Just focus, I’m just present on each shot. This course holds my attention. I’ve been doing some mental exercises and so forth just to try to get my focus to elongate over five hours and so forth. That’s been a real struggle for me the last few years because physically, there’s nothing physically holding me back from playing at a high level, but you cannot make mistakes at this level.” 

Focusing only on the current shots is one mental key to success on the golf course. If you are not developing the mental side of your game, you are holding yourself back from reaching your potential.

How to Focus on the Present

A consistent preshot routine helps you focus on the present moment. Immersing yourself in a routine on the important performance cues protects you from thinking about outcomes or dwelling on previous shots.

Also, you want to know your common distractions, such as outcome thinking, worrying about score, what others think, or the last hole you messed up.

Be certain–when over the ball–that you focus on your performance cues. If not, you want to stop and restart your routine.

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