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Focusing On the Now Will Make You a Better Golfer Later

By Keith Stewart, PGA
Published on

Sam Burns hits an approach shot on the 14th hole during round two of the AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Craig Ranch on May 14, 2021 in McKinney, Texas. Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Did you know a vast majority of PGA Tour players earn 80% or more of their annual tournament winnings within a six-week span? There probably isn’t a better indicator to describe golf’s consistency challenge better than this little PGA Tour fact. Once you know you’re hot, how do these world-class players continue their momentum? Let’s take an example from this weekend’s top finishers. 
Sam Burns is playing great golf right now. He finishes tied fourth at the Zurich Classic, then wins the Valspar Championship, skips the Wells Fargo and returns to a second-place finish at the AT&T Byron Nelson this past weekend. If we asked Sam about his recent success, you know he would love to have it extend one MORE week. After all, the best men and women in the world can only hold on for about 6-8 weeks at a time. 
Sure, there are outliers like Annika Sorenstam and Tiger Woods, but for the rest of the mere mortals how do they do it? Every PGA Coach will tell you; mental preparation is a large part of getting ready to play well. When we are playing our best, we achieve a mental flow state. A period where our physical skills and cognitive calmness work together. One of the best teachers of understanding flow is none other than defending PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa’s coach, Dr. Rick Sessinghaus, PGA. 
Like Collin and Sam, we all strive to find and maintain that flow state of mind. Calmness is a condition triggered by our thoughts. When we enter a performance-driven situation like a round of golf, staying calm and focused can happen if we prepare properly. Your intentions are more powerful than you think. Creating a strong performance mindset is a major part of continuing your great play week after week. 
Knowing you have properly prepared is a big step toward creating powerful intentions to perform your best. Those intentions can then be tested through on-course practice. How skilled are you at staying in the present? 
You approach your ball after hitting a drive. You start thinking about the drive some more. You’re really focused on how you could have hit it better. Guess what, living in the past promotes depression. Let the last shot go. There’s nothing about the previous swing that can influence your present swing unless you let it. Players in a flow state have short memories. 
Let’s say the lie is in the fairway. Now you consider where the next shot will land. Don’t hit it in the greenside bunker, don’t miss to the right, etc. Thinking about the future promotes anxiety. Our goal is to control our intentions. Thinking about the negative results won’t get you there. 
Focus on the shot you have. Be mindful of what you have to do in order to hit the ball your best. Don’t bother with the past or the future. Intend to stay present minded as you approach the ball and strike it. Remember flow can only happen in the present. 
Being mindful and staying focused on the present is something we can all do. You may never hit a 300-yard drive but controlling your intentions on and off the course is a very attainable goal for any golfer. Consider the practice situation above again. Start to be present minded and you’ll replace fear with focus, regret with intention. When you do, you will find yourself getting into flow more often. When that happens, you will start to build your own Sam Burns hot streak.  
Be sure to tune into PGA Coaching Live presented by Cadillac at www.pga.com/pga-coaching-live next week during the 103rd PGA Championship at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island for more great coaching tips from PGA Professionals.