Regaining concentration levels

Sports psychologist Russell Murphy, the man behind, helps us to regain our concentration on the golf course when it matters most

Louis Oosthuizen

How familiar does this scene sound? "So, I'm 150 yards from the middle of the green, a little light breeze blowing gently left to right, greens are holding today, ooh that's an interesting looking pigeon just landed, I wonder what time her parents are coming to lunch later, mustn't forget to get those reports finished tomorrow, and how on earth have I left that short??"

Losing concentration happens to all of us, and if it happens just as we prepare to take our next shot on a few occasions, it can deal a significant blow to the quality of our round. Most people would find it extremely difficult to maintain high levels of concentration for a whole round (for say, four hours), but that's OK; we just need to focus at the right time, i.e. when we're about to play the next shot! Focus on that shot, on that moment, bring all the senses into the sphere of concentration, through the shot, and then relax.

But how? One way is find something that triggers your concentration, something that you can bring into play for every shot, a simple 'reminder' to get your mindset back on the case in hand. A great deal has been written about what is an excellent recent example of this - Louis Oosthuizen's little red dot on his glove during this year's Open. By focusing on the red dot before each shot, Louis was able to completely focus on the task in hand, i.e the next shot. This was his trigger to concentrate, ignore the distractions that had been there just moments before, and prepare totally for the shot.

Of course, it doesn't have to be a red dot on a glove, it could be anything that triggers your mind to refocus all your attention and energy in preparing for and executing the shot. It should be personal to you, and be something that can be 'accessed' quickly and easily, and on a frequent basis. Some people recommend saying a trigger word, such as "Focus", but there is always the danger that you are so distracted you might forget to say it! So I prefer to recommend a visual trigger.

Another good technique relates to redressing the balance of the brain when attention wanders - and it is as simple as blinking your eyes! To help release tension and to refocus:

- try blinking your eyes quickly half a dozen times - then squeeze them shut and open wide, again half a dozen times - take three deep breaths - move your eyes as far left as you can comfortably, and then far right; this helps rebalance both sides of the brain - now, refocus on the shot, commence your pre-shot routine.

This technique is something that can be done at any time out on the course, although it may draw a few odd stares from your playing partners. Just keep in view that concentration is a key weapon out on the golf course, but it is most needed when you're about to take the next shot!

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