Colorado Golf News
Attention for Better Golf
Luke Brosterhous, M.S., PGA
Divot Magazine Contributing Writer
I frequently get the question: What’s the best kind of swing thought you can have? Is there one thing that is better than another? Recent research has shed light on this question, and has relevance for playing at our peak; it all has to do with what we put our “attentional focus” on. In other-words, it’s all about what are we focused on when we swing, and in my opinion, how clearly we stay committed to that throughout the swing.
Essentially, we can boil down where we put our attention into three categories, Internal (how are body is moving when we swing), External nearby, (i.e., the club face at impact), and External far away (i.e., the flight of the ball). According to the latest study in this area of research, referred to as action effect hypothesis, James Bell and James Hardy, scholars at Bangor University, in Wales, UK, decided to explore these areas of attention, with an historically understudied population of golfers with an average handicap of 5. In the past, most research on this subject has been conducted on novice golfers (they are easier to find and study). Bell and Hardy had three groups of golfers, all with an average handicap of 5.5, hit chip shots to a target about 22 yards away. The first group, had an internal focus: wrist hinge. The second group had an external nearby focus: square club face. The third group had an external far away focus: straight flight. The results were unequivocal. Performance from the third group was significantly more accurate using the far away external focus in comparison to both the external nearby and internal focus groups. Furthermore, when the researchers introduced anxiety heightened conditions (offering $$$$ for accuracy), the results duplicated themselves.
So what does all this mean? When you are practicing a new movement pattern, it’s OK to focus internally on what our bodies are doing, as we are trying to construct new motor pathways in the brain. However, when performing. Pick an external focus (i.e., ideal ball flight, where you want the ball to land, or even the sound of a compressed ball at impact) and commit to it for the duration of the swing when you are looking to perform your best. This leads the brain into responding with automaticity, and gives you the best chance at performing well. When we go internal with our attention, we interfere with the automaticity of the process. So, pick a focus, commit to it, and stay with it.
Luke Brosterhous, M.S., PGA is the Director of Instruction at the Haymaker Golf Academy in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. He holds a Masters Degree in Exercise and Sport Science, where he studied Sport Psychology. Luke was the 2010 & 2011 Colorado Section PGA West Chapter Teacher of the Year. For more information visit www.lukebrosterhous.com or www.haymakergolf.com.