Tom’s Tip: Staying Focused under pressure

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

golf-focus      The 146th British Open Golf championship is being held this weekend at
Royal Birkdale in Southport, England. The eventual champion, who will
be holding the coveted Claret jug on Sunday, will be one that was able
to overcome and deal with adversity throughout the pressure filled
four rounds. These top professionals know how important it is to stay
with their game plan and maintain the solid routine they’ve practiced,
not allowing outside forces to get in the way. The ability to do this
is what separates good players from great players. Learning to keep
your head while other are losing theirs will go a long way to being successful on the course.
I will give you an example of how to stay focused under pressure
and how to swing to the target from the perspective of a top athlete
from another sport. A friend of mine, Maury Buford (Texas Tech) was
the punter for the 1985 Chicago Bears when they won Super Bowl XX.
Throughout his long NFL career, Buford performed under tremendous
pressure as his opponents attempted to block his punts. Buford’s
ability to block out distractions and focus on the task at hand made
him a valuable asset to the team. It’s his training as a punter that
will help to illustrate the point I want to make about projecting to
your target.
For most golfers one of the biggest mistakes made is not
swinging to the intended target. Usually golfers will tell you they
are swinging to hit the ball when, in reality, their target isn’t the
ball, but the fairway or the green. This is why most golfers practice
swings are actually better than there real swings. The reason this
occurs is because during an actual swing, the ball becomes the target
of their focus. Once the eyes lock on the ball for too long, the mind
can start grinding out too much information, and this can become
detrimental because it can inhibit the golfer from simply reacting
without thinking.
When your mind is transfixed on where the golf ball is sitting,
it can limit your ability to make a proper swing. Too much time spent
over the ball will allow tension to creep in and then you’re really in
trouble. Keeping the eyes fixated on the ball is like looking at a
hypnotist’s pocket watch. Suddenly, instead of making a swing, you’re
now attempting to hit the ball because it’s right in front of you and
it’s not even moving. For the body to swing the club towards the
intended target, you must first see the target.
Golf is different from a lot of other sports because your head
is not in position for the physical eye to see the target. You must
train the mind’s eye to see it. On many occasions, I will have
students set up over the ball and ask them, without looking, to point
in the direction of the intended target, in this case the flagstick.
You would be amazed at how many times people are pointing nowhere near
where they thought the target should be.
Closing your eyes is another drill to help golfers take their
mind off the ball by just going ahead and committing to the swing they
have practiced countless times.
Another drill I like to employ is to have golfers set up over
the ball, then tilt the head slightly so they can actually look at the
target. This is a bit uncomfortable because we are not built to swing
a golf club with our heads looking at the target instead on downward
towards the ground.
In golf, the head stays down…. not to look at the ball, but to
help stay centered and balanced. It’s a tough drill, but with a little
practice, this technique will assist in staying more bent over
throughout the entire swing.
There is a great expression I use in clinics to further this
message: “Throw your heart over the high bar, and your body will
follow.” You must first believe you can make the shot, trust your
instincts and abilities and then just pull the trigger.
To play solid golf, you want to have a quiet mind. A mind
overloaded with too many thoughts will create confusion which, in
turn, will not allow you to freely swing the golf club. Buford said he
didn’t have time to allow on rushing opponents to distract him while
kicking the ball. If he took his mind off his job even for a second,
the football would be blocked. After taking the snap from center he
went through his routine just as practiced thousands of time. His
commitment and focus to kick through the ball, not at it, is what gave
him great leverage and power to kick long, towering punts down
field… helping his team out of a jam and putting the opposition into
poor field position. Just as Buford did in his days as a punter in the
NFL, you don’t have time to worry about mechanics or other random
thoughts when you are about to swing the golf club. Trust your swing
and do like Maury Buford did with his kicks…swing through the ball-
not- at the ball.
Remember: The ball is not your target. The target is the fairway
or green you wish to hit. Learning to use the mind’s eye (seeing the
ball traveling to the intended target), instead of your physical eye
(seeing where the ball sits) will allow you to swing into a better
golf game. Buford told me a funny line he always liked to use in tough
situations. He said, “When in trouble, always punt!”
Golfers don’t have that option on the course, but staying with a
solid setup routine will go a long way in accomplishing your goals on
the links.
Tom Ward can be contacted at


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