Column: Shifting your focus on the course

In today's golf column, Jennifer Greggain talks about a mental switch that could result in lower scores.

  • Jun. 28, 2014 11:00 a.m.

In today’s column, Chilliwack Golf Academy instructor Jennifer Greggain talks about the importance of proper focus.

 

Over the last few years, there has been a lot of research done on ‘peak performance’ and the ideal mental state when performing a skill in all sports. This research has stated that players, when playing their best, are focusing externally rather than internally.

This means that to achieve peak performance on the golf course, players should shift their focus to things such as their target and intended shot shape, and away from technical thoughts such as their swing plane and body movements.

To describe this focus shift to students, I explain that when on the golf course, you need to spend more time thinking about ‘what’ you’re going to do, and less on ‘how’ you’re going to do it.

There is a time and place to focus on swing technique and making swing changes. But on the golf course is not the time to do it.

I learned this the hard way myself.

I was not on the LPGA Tour at the time, but qualified for the 2004 US Women’s Open. Immediately after the qualifier I started playing poorly. I had three weeks to prepare for The Open, but the more I tried, the worse I played.

So I did what most players do when they play poorly, I turned to desperation.

I spent hours on the range trying to find a swing that I could trust.

I tried every swing thought I had ever used but couldn’t find anything that produced good shots.  Although I was excited to play in the Open, I was terrified about playing badly. It got so bad that during the practice round at the US Open site, I shanked a ball into the grand stand.

I was mortified to say the least.

I will never forget what happened next. The night before the first round I decided to clear my head of everything, and focus simply on my target for every shot. I gave up trying to control my swing.

I had never truly done this before in a tournament. It was a huge risk. I already felt like my swing was out of my control as I was playing badly, but to then give up control and trust my swing?

Needless to say, it was a very difficult thing to do.

I went on to play one of the best tournaments I had every played up to that point in my career. I made my first cut in an LPGA event as a qualifier, then did the same the following week at the Canadian Women’s Open.

Then for the first time in my career I made it through Q-school to earn my first year of LPGA status.

Out of everything I have every learned about golf, that night before the US Women’s Open was one of the most clarifying moments in my career. I had experienced the shift away from focusing internally on technical thoughts, and shifted my focus externally to my target and trusting my swing.

Does this mean you should never work on improving your swing? Absolutely not.

But when I playing a round on the course, no matter what you are currently trying to change in your swing, put it in your back pocket for those 18 holes and trust your swing.

 

Jennifer teaches golf to adults and juniors at the Chilliwack Golf Academy. She played professionally on tour for over 10 years, including 2 years on the LPGA. She was also named the 2010 CN Canadian Women’s Tour Low Teaching Pro of the Year, and is now the lead instructor of the Sardis Golf Academy.  She can be contacted at 604-798-9805, chilliwackgolfacademy.com, or at Jennifer@chilliwackgolf.com

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