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Concentration is the Key to Success

By: Mike Kiely BA (hons) - Updated: 14 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Concentration Is The Key To Success

Valhalla certainly lived up to its name as a home for heroes as the United States recorded an emphatic victory over their European rivals and claimed the 2008 Ryder Cup. While the joy of the match hosts in Kentucky was unconfined, the vanquished were, not surprisingly, less than delighted. Lee Westwood in particular was not impressed by some of the antics of the spectators, bemoaning the insults he suffered on the course, and the appearance of a white-sheeted “ghost” that leapt out at him while walking to the next tee.

Such antics are designed to upset the concentration and rhythm of a player, and have reared their ugly head at a number of headline events in recent years when the stakes are at their highest, and particularly when national pride is on the line.

But you don’t have to have unruly spectators within earshot to lose your focus: it happens to some when they are playing 18 holes on their own. It doesn’t even have to be the result of a poorly executed shot, when the red mist can cloud judgment. Sometimes it simply creeps up out of the blue, affecting everything from grip to attention to detail in terms of stance and swing.

Mental Challenges

Addressing these mental challenges is an aspect of the game that makes golf so challenging: you are not just fighting the course, but also fighting yourself. One effective way to counter these negative thoughts is to compartmentalise your round into single shots. If you’ve recorded a couple of bogies on the preceding two holes, forget about them. Banish them from your mind. Similarly, don’t even think about your strategy on the backward nine, and how that is going to kill off the challenge of your playing partner, or improve your par. No, exist totally in the here and now, in the choice of club and how you are going to make that next shot. Once you have executed the shot is the time to start thinking about what comes next.

A real threat to concentration is anger at yourself or the performance of your partner or partners. If you are having a bad round while, simultaneously, they seem to be hitting the mark every time they swing the club, don’t allow the frustration to eat into your mind. If you do succumb to frustration, your game is only going to get worse. So take time out, shake out the negativity and refocus. Determine that your round begins from now, that there is still plenty you can salvage from the wreckage of a poor start.

When The Pressure Mounts

Professionals often invest in the services of a sports psychologist in order to help improve their concentration, and there is no reason why those of a more modest standard should not do the same, should they feel the financial outlay is justified. But always remember that a psychologist can only take you so far: at the end of the day, it is down to you to put their good work into practice, especially when the pressure mounts.

The ghoulish antics of the individual who shouted “Boo” in the face of Westwood at Valhalla are unlikely to haunt the post-match deliberations of players in the 19th hole every day of the week. It is the thought of the inner demons that all too often visit at crucial times during a round that can get players waking up in a cold sweat in the small hours of the morning. However, working on your concentration to ensure you retain focus should limit the number of times your on-course nightmares become a reality.

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