Taking over five hours, with time between shots and holes, golf requires mental focus, perhaps more than any other sport. From three-foot putts to irons over water to drives down tight fairways, you need to stay focused to insure all your relevant body parts are in sync with your brain’s neurons; for anything out of sync in golf spells possible disaster. You can have the sweetest swing but if your mind drifts to say, your late rent payment, that sweet swing could well turn sour.
Phil Mickelson showed us how that is done with his historic win at this year’s PGA, his sixth major in an extraordinary career. At 50, he is the oldest player to ever win a major. And what did Phil show us about mental focus?
- Keep your pace steady and relatively slow throughout the round, which includes the way you walk from shot to shot. It helps keep that heart beat even, avoiding those spikes in adrenalin that can so knock your swing out of sync.
- Do some meditation before you take your stance. Phil noticeably took a couple of deep breaths. He closed his eyes as he visualized each shot. He made contact with the adoring crowd, but only up to a certain point. He avoided conversation with his opponent, especially as he approached the next shot.
- After a wayward shot, he quickly put it behind him, and proceeded to figure out his next strategy. His brother and caddy was a great help here, reminding him to stay focused and, that overall, he was doing well. Phil represented the epitome of patience.
- Because of proper physical conditioning and medical treatment (remember, he still suffers from a painful form of arthritis!), Phil trusted his ability to succeed. He thought he could win, but never focused on that outcome. His focus remained on the shot at hand, and, all of us, can particularly benefit from that advise. We are all ultimately in charge of our own minds and thoughts.
A mindful golfer (and I declare Phil The Mindful Golfer of the Year!) trains his or her mind to stay present, emotionally unburdened by the immediate past (Koepka was burdened by his mistakes, which affected his putting, in particular). A mindful golfer knows that each shot in golf is, at its core, mutually exclusive of the next shot. If you’re in the woods, take your medicine, get back in play, and proceed shot by shot, as required. No tears . No tangles. This hole may be a double; but the next could be an ace (as happened to me once!). Or, like Phil, you land in a bunker, like on the 5th, and hole the bunker shot! (which was a game changer).
So what sort of golfer are you? I hope a mindful one. Congrats, Phil; and next month, at Torrey Pines, a course you know well, I hope you finally nail down that U.S Open, a title that has eluded you as it has other greats of the past. You share a birthday with Old Tom Morris, so let his spirit guide you every inch, every shot, every step of the way.
And I can’t resist saying, Old Guys Rule!
I love that with the encouragement of his wife, Phil has a daily meditation practice!
And it’s nice seeing you swing well again, too!
Stephen Altschuler says
That’s very cool. I didn’t know that about Phil’s daily meditation practice. No wonder he seemed so chill amid all that pressure.
And yes, I feel like this pro has restored my faith in my swing. I hit the range yesterday, and was making excellent contact with irons and woods…for the most part. A couple more range sessions, then I’m hoping to play and test it out on the course.
Thanks for commenting, Richard.
Jim Stewart says
Today, the worst round of the year for me (scoring). But it’s been a beautiful day and I was grateful to be able to play. Tomorrow is another day. In a tournament on Saturday. Will play again on Friday. Looking forward to it. Golf is an odd game, to be sure.
It was a blast watching Phil keep it together. Lessons learned, but wasn’t able to parlay them into good golf today. Oh, well…
Stephen Altschuler says
Odd, and daunting, for sure, Jim. But after Phil hit his tee shot in the water, he was able to make an immediate correction and striped his next drive down the middle, I think about 340. He figured out from his ball flight what he needed to do. That’s what I’ve been doing, along with some good instruction, and it’s working. So do an assessment as to why your scoring was off, and then work on how to fix it. Trial and error, which you can do on your own, but if that fails check out this teacher I saw. Good luck at the tournament.
Yep, Phil really did keep it together under a lot of pressure. It was truly a performance of a lifetime.
Take care, and hope the scoring improves.
I was in town for the excitement. The joy Phil expressed after his win was so genuine and really remarkable. Cheers to all the mindful golfers out there
Stephen Altschuler says
It really was exciting, Elisa, for sure. Am glad to got to see some of it. His win was historic, and, yes, he did it partly due to mindful golf practices. Maybe he read my book!! (Don’t I wish…)
Thanks for commenting and good, safe travels ahead.