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Dr. Sport: Focus for putting

by Bob Phillips, Ph.D.

Focus has to do with paying attention to not only what is important, but also paying attention in the correct order. Focus itself has three primary dimensions. The first is broad verses narrow. The broad in this meaning has to do with scope or how much is taken in or paid attention to. The more broad, then the more you take in. The more narrow, the less you pay attention to or take in. A narrow focus might be as limited as one factor or thing. A broad focus may take in literally thousands of factors or things. A starry sky might include thousands of stars and would be a broad focus. Looking at one star with your attention focused on that one star would be a very narrow focus.

Another dimension is that of internal verses external thinking or focus. If I look at you, and you are near me, I am looking externally. If I recall what you look like, but I am not looking at you, I am looking at an internal picture. Therefore, I am internally looking at you. In this case my focus is internal.

The third dimension of focus is in time. I can be thinking or paying attention to the present, the past or the future. Of course all external focus is in the present time. Internal focus can be in any of the three time frames.

Now how can we use all of this fine talk to putt better? Think about how you get ready for a putt. You walk around the green getting a good look at the green and your line of putt. This is external, broad and present. Next, you decide if you have been in a similar situation and what you did. This is internal, broad and past. Then you select a specific memory, yourself or of a professional golfer, and you take that for your choice as to how to manage this putt. That is more narrow, still internal and still past. You would also, if you have a strong mental game, recall the feel of the putt. The feel would be internal, narrow and past. You line up your putt. External, narrow and present. Then you imagine the ball following the line and dropping in. Internal, narrow and future. You settle over the ball, complete your pre-putt routine, take two deep breaths and hit the ball. External, narrow and present.

Focus is staying on track and not going where you do not need to go. What benefit would it be to recall a poorly played putt? It would make no sense to go into the future and feel how good, or bad, you will feel if you make, or miss, the putt. Unless the past or future can directly increase the chances of making this next putt, do not go there. Focus is understanding and using the four quadrants and the time factor. You donít lose focus, you leave it behind when you go off and engage in thinking that is not goal directed.

When you are ready to make the putt, always be in the present and with narrow focus on the target (internally) and seeing the ball (external).

Bob Phillips, Ph.D.
Clinical and Golf Psychologist
Personal Coach
The Sport Psychology Training Center

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