How ADHD Can Affect Your Golf Game

Top 50 coach Katie Dawkins discovered something about herself recently that made everything make sense. She reveals how ADHD affects golf and life

Focussing over the ball can be hard with ADHD, your mind jumps about. Having a pre-shot routine helps to quieten it and fix your focus on the job in hand
Focussing over the ball can be hard with ADHD, your mind jumps about. Having a pre-shot routine helps to quieten it and fix your focus on the job in hand
(Image credit: Tom Miles)

Women are busy for so many reasons. It’s the way we like to be and we are damn good at managing our lives. But my efficiency in getting a long list of stuff done has often been sketchy with newer tasks and immediate deadlines often taking priority. As a child I struggled with confidence, was a high achiever and the tiniest bit of criticism floored me. My mind was messy and social situations often saw me panic and say something quirky. I was labelled a weirdo and bullied.

Golf was my safe place. I could be me. I loved pressure situations and would always perform well when challenged in the moment. I loved proving people wrong. But if I had to plan for a big competition I’d find myself trying to ignore it, or find a way to pull out. I was a capable player but I often lost focus on what I was doing. I’d be in a fog on the practice ground, wafting from one area of my game to another. The repetition of hitting the same shot over and over didn’t stimulate me. I was happier playing a few holes or doing inventive short game practice. Each individual and different challenge kept my attention and as my short game improved I flourished winning multiple junior events and awards. 

Katie and Justin Rose Hampshire Schools, Faldo Series

Katie was Sir Nick Faldo's captain's pick to go to the USA for training; with Justin Rose, Hampshire Schools, Faldo Series

(Image credit: Katie Dawkins)

As I headed into adulthood and started working, getting busier and busier, then becoming a mum, I found myself getting frustrated, as I felt that I was moving sideways rather than forwards with tasks. I became overwhelmed. I’d have a fuzzy head and unable to focus on one task for long enough to complete it. It was like having 50 TV channels in my mind and someone else had the remote.

It was only recently, when working with business advisor and mentor Beverley Poole, that a massive light bulb was switched on. During a session she asked, “Have you ever been tested for ADHD?” I replied, “Pah, no! ADHD is something little boys have who can’t sit still, right?”

Business advisor and mentor Beverley Poole prompted Katie to get tested

Business advisor and mentor Beverley Poole prompted Katie to get tested

(Image credit: Beverley Poole)

Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) can affect anybody - adults, children, male and female. It’s thought that 5-8% of the global population have ADHD and it presents itself differently in everyone. It doesn’t show up in the same way in girls as in boys. Boys are 5 times more likely to be diagnosed in childhood. (Even in adulthood a diagnosis is far faster if you are a man.) For girls it’s far subtler. Imagine all that frenetic energy associated with boys, then imagine it inside your mind. Girls internalise chaos and, in my case, nobody would have guessed that I was affected by ADHD. It was only in the late 1990s that women and girls even appeared in any research and studies.

So apart from the things I’ve already mentioned, what are some of the common signs of ADHD? Squirming, can’t stand or sit still, impatient, talking fast and interrupting etc.

Bubba Watson discussed his ADHD and anxiety back in 2021. He’s accepting of it now, but people would judge his twitchy nature and outbursts without fully understanding the condition. Boxer and Olympic gold medallist Nicola Adams was diagnosed when she was 15, she uses her ADHD to push her training further and views it as a strength.

Inattentive ADHD is characterised with less hyperactivity and more high inattention/distraction level. This shows up far more in women than in men. Having trouble focusing on detail and sustaining attention on one thing for a long period. Becoming sidetracked from a task easily and leaving multiple tasks unfinished. Struggle to listen to detail in a conversation unless it really stimulates you. You might make rash decisions and forget details easily. On the golf course this can be a problem.

Not eating and drinking during a round can have a huge effect on your ability to stay focused during your round. To help, mark your scorecard, or set a timer on your smart watch that tells you when to have a snack or drink. I do this now on a day-to-day basis, as I can go for a whole day without drinking water.

When I was a higher handicapper, I found scoring difficult. I would have a total blank about the hole I’d just played. When someone asked what I’d scored, sometimes I simply couldn’t remember. I struggle with numbers anyway - another trait of ADHD sufferers. It’s also true that a wandering mind isn’t an ideal tool when you are trying to maintain focus during a round of golf, or even over a shot.

Fast moving sports are recommended for those with ADHD, whereas golf may be deemed less ideal due to the amount of idle time often associated with slow play. I hated slow play and a busy golf course. However, as ADHD affects everyone differently, I believe golf fits because every shot is a new challenge. I’ve had great success coaching children with ADHD in one-to-one lessons where I can focus on the individual. Group lessons are not as successful, but this is where the game needs to be flexible, offering shorter and faster versions. It’s also ok to just play a few holes or work on just one aspect of your game. Bitesized chunks are manageable and often more enjoyable for those with ADHD, as you’re more likely to maintain focus if the task isn’t too grand.

A pre-shot routine is essential for keeping you in the moment, stopping thoughts from leaping into your mind just before you hit. 

Liz Harwood, owner of clothing brand Famara was also diagnosed with ADHD a few years ago

Famara's Liz Harwood was diagnosed with ADHD a few years ago

(Image credit: Katie Dawkins)

Liz Harwood, owner and founder of golf brand Famara discovered she has ADHD a few years ago, but believes golf is a great release. “Golf really helps my ADHD. I can’t focus on a spreadsheet for more than an hour before my brain actually starts aching. It's like a physical frustration inside my skull, because my thoughts are being distracted and I’m forcing them to stay focused. Whereas with golf, something happens that gives me complete peace. Like meditation. Focusing on one ball for 4 hours. Discipline, contemplation, balance, a game against yourself, letting all other distractions slide. It’s like giving my brain a holiday.”

This is the point, if you know you suffer, then perhaps golf could be a great escape if it’s affecting other areas of life. You can’t wander off the golf course and half start another 5 tasks like you can at home or in the office. You are forced to stay in the zone and focus on the game in hand. Nothing else is really doable out there.

The more I learn about ADHD, the more it makes my life make sense. If this resonates, I’d urge anyone to take the test then follow it up with a qualified psychiatrist. I’m not for one second saying everyone has it, because they don’t. Life is busy and this can create so many of the problems and characteristics highlighted in this article.

I’ve already made some changes. Some days I’m putting one thing at a time on my to-do list so I don’t become overwhelmed and even though there is a backlog, I finish a job before starting another. Some days I’m eating more protein and taking probiotics which boost dopamine levels, which tend to be low in those who have ADHD. Some days I’m at peace and now have active tools to help me manage my golf, diary and my mental health. Other days I'm still in a fog and getting nowhere fast. 

It's helped me look at my daughter, seeing myself in her and having the know-how to get her tested, and if my suspicions are correct, help her so she doesn’t internalise everything and can always talk about how she is feeling.

ADHD isn’t a disease, it isn't a weakness. Understanding it can unlock some serious super powers - well that’s what I’m hoping anyway. Life is complicated and so often we just crack on with it. Knowledge can indeed be our friend and I’m grateful for an explanation to my general chaos. 

For more information on ADHD visit:


Katie Dawkins
Advanced PGA Professional and freelance contributor

Katie is an Advanced PGA professional with over 20 years of coaching experience. She helps golfers of every age and ability to be the best versions of themselves. In January 2022 she was named as one of Golf Monthly's Top 50 Coaches.

Katie coaches the individual and uses her vast experience in technique, psychology and golf fitness to fix problems in a logical manner that is effective - she makes golf simple. Katie is now based on the edge of the New Forest. An experienced club coach, she developed GardenGOLF during lockdown and as well as coaching at Hamptworth Golf Club she freelances, operating via pop-up clinics and travelling to clients homes to help them use their space to improve. 

She has coached tour pros on both LET tour and the Challenge Tour as well as introduced many a beginner to the game. 

Katie has been writing instructional content for magazines for 20 years. Her creative approach to writing is fuelled by her sideline as an artist.