Mental Concentration, Golf, and You

 

All players, when they are concentrating on a stroke, are in some respects mad; for a second they become monomaniac; you are possessed with an idea that is fixed in your mind; your singleness of purpose is absolute if you really are concentrating. And I cannot imagine how anything can disturb them unless they allow it to. If this does happen, then, in my opinion, you cannot be giving your whole mind to the stroke, you aren't concentrating.

When you are out on the course there are many minor distractions that you may encounter, from coughing or sneezing, all the way up to load and obnoxious crowds or players. But once a player gets into the habit of being put off their game by these little worries, you are unlikely to make any progress in the game, and you run the risk of wandering around the course looking for things at which to be annoyed, actually seeking them. Few golfers realize that their game cannot stand still, whether their handicap is scratch, eight, or eighteen; their standard of play must progress or retrogress, improve or deteriorate, according to the amount they play or practice.

In connection with this notion, a friend of mine suggests the obliteration from the mind of a bunker that is directly in the line of play. I might say (but I have not any intention of doing so) that my friend has chosen the wrong word. My argument is this: Was the player who landed in the bunker thinking of the bunker when he played his stroke, or was the golfer imagining that it was quite likely that the ball would land in the bunker?

By a law to which there are no exceptions, the will yields to the imagination. As an illustration of this, any one can walk along a plank a foot in width when it is lying on solid earth; but place that plank across the two trestles of a bridge, twenty feet up in the air, and not one person in twenty will walk calmly across it, because they imagine that they are likely to fall off! Undoubtedly this player in the aforementioned match actually imagined the ball hopping into the bunker, and that was the last conscious act before making the fatal stroke.

Can there be any other meaning to the word concentration, in a mental sense, than a focusing of the attention? And further, can you focus your attention on such a thing as a golf ball? I answer these questions with another question: Doesn't the golfer focus his attention, not on the ball itself, but on some action connected with the ball? I grant you that you can concentrate on a golf ball, on the size of it, on its marking, or on the dents you may have made in it, but no player wishes to do this in the middle of a close match. So that when a golfer is "concentrating on the ball," he or she is in reality concentrating on the stroke they are about to make. The golfer is focusing their attention on the desire to put the ball as near the hole as possible; and can it be doubted that the average golfer starts concentrating on the second shot long before he or she reaches the ball? This appears to me to be a fatal policy. It is well enough for a golfer to plan the method of play for the whole of any particular hole when they are on the tee, and yet I do not think that even this is a good plan. You may hit your tee shot, "as per schedule," only to find that your ball is reposing in an old divot mark and that it is thus quite impossible to use a the proper club for your second shot. So the whole of your concentration is wasted.

The ideal method of playing golf is not to use your mind until you have to. When you reach your ball, concentrate as hard as you can, for upon your powers of concentration your next stroke depends. I have said, in common with every other writer on the game that hesitation is fatal, but it seems to me desirable that I should now amplify that statement. "Those who hesitate are lost," because they aren't concentrating. If you concentrate hard enough you cannot hesitate, provided you are clear about what you are concentrating on.

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