Golfers compete against the course to shoot their best score. So many of us look at the superstars in an attempt to garner some improvement in our own game. In fact you need to shift your focus from out there to ‘in here’. Watching the best players on TV is not really going to help you that much on your golfing journey. If it did we would all be great players rubbing elbows with the elite players on the PGA tour. Manifestly this is not happening and therefore a new approach is called for.
Get Inside Yourself & Your Swing
The single most important factor in playing your best golf is to get inside yourself and stay there. Be your golf swing and not outside of it worrying about the outcome. Shift your focus from out there to in here. First tee nerves can strand your awareness on the wrong side of where it needs to be. The golfer has to be inside his or her own swing. It is very easy to get caught up in the concerns and judgements of others when you should be 100% focused inside your swing. Modern human beings are overly concerned with what other people think.
Turn Your Perspective Around
The rise of social media is testimony to this fact. The majority of us are now trained to post images of ourselves doing things with accompanying commentary online. Why do we do this? It is almost as if something is not real unless it has been posted on Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok, Twitter, or the myriad of other platforms. Perhaps, this is a natural evolution due to the expanded urban populations in which we live. The digital revolution captures the millions and billions of bites and pixels documenting the lives of modern human beings.
What does golf have to do with this phenomenon? In a world devoted to the view from outside of yourself it is hard to break that habit when it comes to playing golf. Golf is an extraordinary game because you cannot see yourself swinging the club. There aren’t any mirrors out on the course just your shadow when the sun is in the right position.
The concerns of others and their perspective are pretty much irrelevant. The golfer needs to reorientate her or his priorities out on the course.
How can we do that? By understanding the true nature of golf. When some wise folks say that golf is like a meditation this is what they mean. Meditation is about getting inside of yourself and watching what is happening inside. Non-judgementally observing the processes taking place. Removing the overt concern with what others might be thinking. Acceptance and surrender. This immediately relaxes you and eliminates a lot of tension from the situation. Golf is a process orientated activity. We all need to let go of worrying about what others might think about the possibility of a negative outcome.
Turning your focus from out there to within will put you on the correct heading. Yes, you are setting up in relation to your target line. Yes, you are swinging along planes which comply with your target. The focus, however, is inside your swing and not outside of yourself. You are the gun pointing at the target. Your body and the club are the moving parts of the overall device that fires the golf ball at the target. Never forget that.
It is particularly important to remember this on the putting green. It is too easy to get distracted from your purpose when putting. There is a lot going on when a four ball is putting on the green. Golfers are marking their balls and evaluating break. Questions about leaving the flag in or not are being bandied about. Slopes are being adjudged and dealt with. In addition there are no cheap second chances when putting, as everything costs a stroke. Putting often demands fine motor skills demonstrating touch and agility. Your awareness can become a vacuous intangible entity floating above the green to the detriment of your putting stroke. Remember that you are the gun. Your body and putter, working together, is the device tasked with executing the stroke necessary to get that ball in the hole. Stay inside yourself.
The best players in the world on the PGA Tour only make 40% of putts from 10 feet and 15% from 20 feet. These elite players practice putting all the time and, yet cannot make the easiest action in professional sport more successfully over relatively modest distances. Why is this so? Well, greens are fast and tricky in the modern era, as all of us golfers well know. Watching them on TV doesn’t tell you the true story because the networks primarily show the putts that go in the hole. The whole outward focus of watching golfing superstars is a trap for the everyday golfer. It is akin to judging yourself against photoshopped images of celebrities – you will never measure up to the fantasy, because these are tricked up profiles and not real. Shift your focus from out there to in here. Camera operators and editors are paid to make these figures look good, otherwise we would not be so inclined to watch them.
We witness visitors to our home course making the same mistakes on their first forays out on our golf course. The media makes celebrities and golfing superstars in the same way with plenty of software tricks up their sleeve. Celebrities sell things and get eyeballs on programming. It is a business and golf is no exception. Equipment manufacturers pay large sponsorships to these elite players to ensure that you and I will pay top dollar for the latest driver or club. They pressure the networks and media to make their sponsored players look fantastic or they will not advertise. The advertising dollar pays for golf tournaments and media networks. Champion players become ambassadors for all sorts of companies and the cycle continues.
Our focus on these celebrity players is a trick involving smoke and mirrors, and the magnifying lens of the media. The reality is never as good as you imagine it to be. Our investment in making these pros into superstars detracts from our own duty to ourselves as golfers and human beings. You know golf is the only sport or game where participants are encouraged to upgrade their equipment every year or six months. It is the only sport that requires 14 different clubs with which to strike a ball. That is a hell of a lot of stuff to buy. Have you ever thought about that? Your focus on Tiger or Rory may well have been costing you a lot of money. If you have regularly upgraded your clubs, driver, putter or irons has it really lowered your scores and increased your enjoyment of the game? Probably not, but we still love this infuriatingly frustrating game.
When you walk out onto that first tee get inside yourself and stay there. Banish concerns with what others think whilst playing the small ball game. Practice sticking inside your own golf swing. Don’t second guess yourself when playing golf.
When we are swinging really well we are at one with our swing, we are inside of it. The knack is staying there throughout the round. Something might go wrong and we jump outside of ourselves. A distraction might pull us out of our inner focus and the magic spell is lost. We lose that focus. Golf can be a test. Forget about wasting energy on golfing heroes. Become your own golfing hero by forging a strong inner focus. Achieve this and I guarantee your golf will improve.
Robert Sudha Hamilton is the author of The Golf Book: Green Cathedral Dreams.