BY JAMES VINCENT
Keep your eye firmly on the ball for every shot and watch your handicap drop like a stone.
Mystery writers know they must grab the reader’s attention right off and hold it until the very end. You must do the same with the ball – keep your attention focused on it through the entire shot, until the natural movement of body and shoulders pulls your head away.
You think you already do, right? Try this little exercise:
Drop six balls in the rough very close to the edge of a bunker, within one shot of the green. Chip the ball over the bunker and on to the green without watching the flight or run of the ball. Look at the ball, make your shot and do not lift your head to watch it. The first few shots will be easy, the next few almost impossible.
It’s actually quite funny how difficult it is for a golfer to keep their eye on the ball.
Your attention comes in two flavors – spontaneous and voluntary. Spontaneous attention is the kind of attention given without thought, very effortlessly. For example, when boarding a bus or subway you will pay attention long enough to put coins or card in the slot. You do this without thinking, probably even talking at the same time.
The second type is voluntary attention. You willfully focus on something and give it all of your mental concentration. This is hard to do for more than a few seconds. But it is this kind of concentration you must give to the ball during your shot.
The way to do this is to first decide what kind of shot you are going to make – distance, wind, club type and so on. But once decided move directly to the ball, give it your full attention – that is, eyes on the ball – and make your shot. Do not take your eyes, and hence your concentration, off the ball until the movement of your body naturally pulls your head away.
Don’t believe it? Try this little experiment. The next time you’re at a vending machine take a quarter out of your pocket. Stand right in front of the machine, quarter in hand, ready to put it in the coin slot. Close your eyes. Now put the quarter in the slot directly, on the first try, the same as you would do with your eyes open. You can’t do it. You come close, sure. But you hit to the side of the slot, or just above it, but not exactly dead center right into the slot.
Your mind controls your actions based on what is directly in your field of vision.
Now try it again. This time leave your eyes open until the coin is about two inches away from the slot — almost in. Close them at the last second. You still can’t do it.
Apply this to the golf ball. What happens if you take your eyes off the ball just a fraction of a second early? The club is still a few inches away. How much of a difference in your shot will a quarter of an inch make when the club hits the ball? A huge difference. Very huge difference. But you know you can’t control your hands and arms precisely without looking directly at what you are doing. So keep looking.
It takes practice, for sure, but now that you know you should keep your eye on the ball, and exactly how to do that, practicing it becomes much easier.
Combine this simple tip of keeping your eye on the ball with a halfway decent swing and your handicap will fall to scratch in no time.
James Vincent runs the Online Golf School. Visit the site to improve your game, get great golf tips, golf lessons and complete lessons on the science of every golf shot, the psychology of the game and your opponent and match play from world champions.