How PGA Golfers Tune-Out Distractions

The difference between winning or placing in golf tournament play can often be just a few strokes. Those strokes aren’t always wild shots or a bad golf swing, but instead maybe just a little short, long, or wide of the target. These are shots you’ve hit thousands of times successfully, so don’t throw your golf swing under the bus. Those bad golf shots happen because of small distractions that create a diversion to your focus.

It doesn’t matter whether the distractions are external or internal, they still cost strokes. To stop making those few costly shots, those distractions must never enter the mind.

If the mind sees no distractions… There is nothing to “block out.”

The greats all had unshakable focus. If you played with Hogan, he barely knew you existed. Ray Floyd would stare you down. Nicklaus never drew a club until he saw the right movie in his mind. Tiger has to ignore huge crowds. Do they really tune it out, or is it something else?

When Nick Faldo was playing well, he would talk with his caddy, Fannie, and hit the shot. But when he wasn’t playing well, both of them seemed to be distracted by the crowd. On the bad days, you knew where Faldo was on the golf course because you always heard Fannie yelling “Quiet please!” What was the difference?

The difference between the good days and the bad days wasn’t how Faldo was playing, it was how well he was focused. I picked him as my example because I’ve seen him play in person and you can listen to his commentary when he announces golf and get a good insight into what made his golf work on the golf course.

Somewhere in the telecast, Nick will usually mention visualization or staying in the present. If you listen closely he’ll talk about linking the feel and the picture. Like Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo went to the movies for every shot too… Well at least on the good days.

I heard Tiger say on TV the other day that he is good at just tuning out all of the distractions. “Tuning out” suggests that the distractions must be filtered somehow, but for the greats, I don’t think they ever hear or see them in the first place. They are so focused, it would take something really startling or unexpected to be a real distraction.

How does it work?

I have to start with the debate over what image to keep in your mind during the shot. If you keep a picture of the shot you want to make in your mind, what is the subconscious thinking while you are swinging the club? The subconscious is trying to make the body swing the club, but it’s internal distraction is the picture (the future shot) you are trying to hold in the conscious mind. The shot picture is a distraction to the subconscious because the subconscious has to have present pictures to guide body movement.

But in case you doubt me, I’d like you to see it for yourself. Go to the range and try to hit golf balls with your eyes closed. After a while take notice of where your mind focuses. Does it create a picture of where you want the ball to go? Or does your mind instead focus on the club striking the ball? I know for a fact, the picture you will see in your mind with your eyes closed is the club striking the ball.

So, if you are trying to stay focused on the shot and where it will land, your brain is holding two pictures and the signals going to the body will probably get crossed causing the swing to malfunction. That is why Nicklaus always converted his shot picture to a picture of his own movement. His movement picture assisted his subconscious mind and aligned both the conscious and the subconscious toward the goal of a great swing.

I have to mention the argument about the act of throwing a ball to a target where the mental gurus will tel you that the target is in the present. In this specific case, they are correct. Her’s why:Your subconscious has two lines of thought, the visual side that creates instruction for movement, and the feedback loop that check to make sure your movement follows that visual instruction.

When you are throwing a ball, the visual thought process is gauging path to the target, while the feedback loop is weighing the ball in your hand to gauge the amount of force to add to the ball to get it to the target.

The reason the target is in the present in this specific case is because the ball is in your hand and the feedback loop can focus on the ball while the visual thought process watches the target.

In golf, the ball is NOT in your hand for the feedback loop to gauge, which leaves only the visual part of the subconscious mind to focus on it., therefore, the target becomes a distraction to the visual focus of striking the ball with the golf club THAT IS in your hands.

You can’t block out distractions once you notice them. Instead, distractions should never enter your mind at all. If you’re distracted on the golf course, you need to notice that your are distracted. It means that you aren’t fully focusing on the task at hand… Making the shot. If your holding two internal pictures, you’re creating your own distraction.

Go to the movies on every shot, but create a movie that will support the task at hand, the golf swing, rather than distract it.

I guess the question at this point is HOW? That’s where Bio-Feedback and the Mind/Body Connection come in…