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Stay Focussed: One shot at a time

Golf coach Simon Vittelli reveals how to keep your mind on the job...

Simon Vittelli
Tue, 22 May 2007

Stay Focussed: One shot at a time

Stay focussed
Tiger's single-minded

How often does your game fall apart when you get ahead of yourself? Does this sound familiar: You're playing well, when suddenly you find yourself composing your winner's speech, imagining yourself walking off the 18th green, having just recorded your lowest ever score?

Minuters later, you approach your shot to the 16th green still thinking ahead. Then everything starts to go wrong. We've all been there.

In fact it's one of the most common faults in any golfer's mind, and it can prevent us all from reaching our potential.

It's an old cliche, but 'playing one shot at a time' means that we should be focussed on that one shot - and ONLY that shot.

Nothing else should be important at that time and this is what gives us the best chance of executing the required shot. You should not thinking about that missed putt on the last hole, or even how you have just gone two holes without dropping a shot.

It's impossible to play with a 'one shot at a time' mentality when thinking of anything but that shot, and it is impossible to plan what the next few holes are going to bring.

Tiger Woods is incredibly focussed during his round. He can shut out the last shot - good, bad or indifferent - and commit fully to the next whether it's a two-foot tap in or a long iron that needs to be threaded through a small gap in the trees.

Here's another scenario: You stand over a putt, and think 'if this goes in I've dropped only one shot on each of the last four holes. I could break 100, 90 or even 80.'

None of this means we shouldn't play the course out in our minds before we start, or not plan the hole we are about to play from the tee. However, when approaching our ball we need to clear our mind completely.

When we experience a form of 'day dreaming' (the 'what ifs?') our attention starts to wander.

My advice to my students is to focus on the shot in front of you and commit fully to it. Whatever the result forget about the shot you've just played and walk on confidently to your ball.

Don't think about the previous shot or the next. Chat with your playing partner, instead, sing or whistle (to yourself), or just admire the day. But dismiss the next shot from your mind.

The advantage of the one shot mentality is that we can all adopt it and benefit from it, regardless of our ability. We will all play better by focusing only on the shot at hand.

Your golf game should be seen as a series of individual shots - taken in isolation. Each shot is important but each shot can be recovered if it doesn't go to plan. Train your mind to forget about what's gone before - it's history, you can't change it..

A good tip is to become less aware of your score overall. Chances are you'll surprise yourself when you tot it up at the end.

Sheffield-based Simon Vittelli is qualified sports psychologist, with extensive knowledge of golf performance techniques, hypnosis and neuro linguistic programming. He has helped amateurs and professionals to improve their golf with better thinking on the course. We hope his tips in recent articles have helped you.