One of the keys to performing at or near your best in the game of golf, is being able to control both your Visual Focus (Eyes) and your Mental Focus (Mind). The other key is having an understanding of why its important to seperate your Visual Focus from your Mental Focus.
Our eyes play a very big part in controlling our minds attention as well as impacting the level of brain activity we experience during performance. Trying to keep things simple, think of it like this- the more active the eyes=the more active the mind. The quieter we have our mind, the better chance we have of being able to enter a heightened state of focus, or what is commonly known as The Zone.
One big misconception through the years is that The Zone is a state of unconsciousness, but that is far from the truth! The Zone is a state of heightened focus, which is having your mind focused on ONE thing and ONE thing only at a time. In golf, our mind could focus on 1, 2 or some times 3 processes during performance and still experience The Zone, providing your mind is not attached to these at the same time.
With all of the above in mind, lets have a think about a golfer in the lead up to executing a golf shot. Most golfers stand behind the ball and have a few practise swings, their eyes wandering around aimlessly, focusing on a variety of different points including their grip, their stance and sometimes their club as it goes back on the backswing. These processes only trigger an increase in brain activity as well as Control Mode, which is a state of stress and anxiety. A large percentage of the time, the golfer will also use their eyes to visualise & trace the path of their ball flight by running their eyes up and down the path of the intended shot. This process attaches the visualisation of the shot to their eyes performance and not their minds performance. So once their eyes come back to the ball, they lose attachment to the shape and trajectory of the shot, because now their eyes are focused on the ball.
One of the best drills we can practise to help you start separating your Visual Focus from your Mental Focus is a drill I call the "Minds Eye" drill. This drill consists of a 3 ball process, where the first 2 balls are similar to taking your Mind to the gym and the 3rd ball is executing the mental process you want to perform out on course.
The Minds Eye drill consists of the following steps-
This drill is executed with Isolated Focus, not needing a Pre Shot routine at all and just standing over the ball to start the following process.
*Set up over the ball with your eyes focused on the ball.
*Take a look out at your target and hold your Visual Focus on your target for 2-3secs.
*While your eyes are fixed on your target, I want your Mind to begin imagining your ball flight. It often helps to attach a colour to your imagined Pro Tracer ball flight.
*You then bring your eyes back to the ball.
*You then take your Minds Attention back along the imagined Pro Tracer line while your eyes stay fixed on the ball.
*Once your Mind goes all the way back to the target, you pull the trigger.
During the swing, your Minds Attention or Mental Focus will be out at the target. The 3 ball drill will consist of what I call the 3-2-1 process.
*Ball 1= Taking your Mind back along the Pro Tracer to your target 3 times. Always starting back at the ball.
*Ball 2= Taking your Mind back along the Pro Tracer to your target twice.
*Ball 3= Taking your Mind back along the Pro Tracer once.
So Ball 1 & 2 are taking your mind to the gym, strengthening your minds ability to detach from your Visual Focus and connect back to the target and your intended ball flight. Ball 3 is executing the specific Mental Process you want to use when you are out on course and in performance mode.
Once this skill set has been developed, we can then blend in a technical or mechanical feel (If needed) to help you to execute a more technically sound swing while performing under the pressure of a competitive environment. The blending of both your Technical and Mental are crucial for peak performance but we need to be able to learn the art of separating your Visual Focus from your Mental Focus.
If you can begin to practise this process, you should begin to experience a calmer/quieter state, while eliminating the chance of experiencing the 2 most damaging mental game processes golfers experience- impact anxiety and impact control!
If you have any questions, please feel free to email me on firstname.lastname@example.org