News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 10, 2010

On and Off the Course: Successful golfers know ... focus is the key

Dennis Clark
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — I have a good friend who coached his daughter’s basketball team for a number of years, and told me that his theme with the girls was always “focus”, until it was ingrained in their brains. Now when they play high school ball, if they hear “focus” yelled from the stands, they know the source.

The point was to keep their minds in the game so they wouldn’t get lazy and could play to their potential. We’ve also discussed how “focus” can be applied to golf. It seems like such an easy concept, and in golf, there is so much time between shots that you’d think focusing on each shot wouldn’t be a problem, but it is. Your mind can wander, you can get distracted, you can totally lose your focus in a game of golf, especially if the conditions are not ideal, or the round is particularly long.

I have another friend, Tom Sappington, who coaches high school football players, and gives speeches to football camps and clinics. He teaches “focus” as one of the 14 principles to make you a better player and a better person. He has it at No. 3 on his list, right behind passion and initiative. He also adds that “focus” (and all of his 14 principles) take no talent or athletic ability to do. If the principles are applied, anyone can improve, no matter what the sport or challenge is.

At The British Open this summer, previously unheralded Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa won the championship by being focused. He used a technique explained to him by sports psychologist Dr. Carl Morris, in which he placed a red dot on his golf glove and used it as a trigger to help him focus. During the Open Championship, he would look down at that dot and remember what he and Dr. Morris had discussed, how it helped to keep him in the zone.

“It’s a good thing to just think about golf on the golf course,” he said, referring to the way he was able to play in-the-moment all four days, and how the red dot helped him to accomplish that objective. We’ve all heard about playing in “the zone,” that elusive place in our minds and on the course where everything is working.

 PGA Tour consultant, Doctor of Optometry and Sports Vision Specialist, Dr. Larry Lampert, explains the zone as it pertains to our senses in this way: “At any time, one of our senses will be dominant. Auditory dominates when golfers attend to listening to music and olfactory dominates when golfers are concentrating on smelling the coffee in the morning. When in the ‘zone’ in most sports, and with most modern golfers, vision is a dominant sense. One performance key is that with visualization, golfers automatically stop all self talk. It appears that the red dot … is an access trigger to the zone through visualization.” (Source: Pro’s Edge; visual training for golf, Dr. Larry Lampert)

The red dot was not used to block out distractions. Attempting to block out distracting and destructive thoughts, emotions, and actions is ineffective at best and can be destructive. If you tell yourself to NOT think about something, you can’t help but think about it When golfers say to themselves, “whatever you do, DON’T hit it into the water”, they’ve created a negative thought that makes their brains think about the water. Therefore, they either go ahead and hit right at the water, or over-compensate, and pull or push the ball so tremendously the opposite way that they find other ways to get into trouble.

So instead of using negative keys, use these positive ones: learn to refocus on the precise sense of the swing you actually want; visualizing the ball flight; learning to play in-the-moment and using a trigger to help focusing on that.

Oosthuizen didn’t just draw a red dot on his glove. He was trained in the technique of using the red dot as a trigger. He explained, “… I’d always wander off badly and struggle to get back into the moment. [The red dot] helped me quite a lot, just looking down at it and just remembering what we sat down and what we’re saying and things like that. Just getting me to focus. You know, I’m very happy the way I did it the last nine holes. Normally when I’ve got that lead, or a lead like that, … I’ll hit it and get it over with. But I took my time, focused on the shot, didn’t try anything funny, and it just helped me quite a bit. I did it beautifully.”

I’ll bet Jean Claude Van De Velde wishes he had used a red dot or some other kind of focusing technique, back at the Open Championship in 1999.

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Quote of the Day: “ Golf is a game played on a five-inch course between the ears.” Bobby Jones

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Upcoming Events:

• The THWGA will have their Partner Scramble on Aug. 21 at Hulman Links. Entry fee is $20 per person, plus cart. Tee times begin at 10 a.m. Lunch is provided at the turn. There will be flight prizes and skill prizes. Contact Hulman Links or Kelly Gosnell at to sign up.

Vigo County Golf Leagues

Rea Park Wednesday Evenng Ladies — Standings: Mann-Hyde 34, Swalls-Bocard 32, T.Johnson-Clements 30, Honselman-Albert 29, Durand-Hiatt 25, Meyer-Snow 25, McCord-Atterson 24, Price-Mozley 22, Cannon-Petty 22, Lanke-Harden 22, Newton-Pair 19, Horrall-M.Johnson 19, Padgett-Bedwell 17, Hamilton-Rusk 16. Low gross: Candy McCord 39, Low net: McCord 30, Mary Lou Albert 30. Birdies: McCord (1), Stacy Bocard (4), Sharon Hamilton (4). Chip-ins: Kathleen Atterson, Bocard, Hamilton, Madonna Johnson, Leta Hiatt.

Fort Harrison Ladies 9-hole — Low gross: Darby Gugliemetti. Low net: Mary Ann Tackett. Play of the day: Gugliemetti. Low putts: Gugliemetti, Cathy Pusich. Birdie: Dorothy Dwyer (13).

Paitson’s Roofing Eastend Ladies — Standings: Krock Racing 506, Coaches Corner 505, Dorsett Mitsubishi 497, Natalie’s Consignment Furniture 439, Louise’s Fine Dining and Cafe 477, Advanced Chiropractic 470, Turner Coach 450, Baesler’s Market 442. Low gross: Cathy Wheat 24. Low net: Sally Cuvelier 38. Play of the day: Lou Ann Johnson. Chip-ins: Iva Montgomery (18). Birdies: Cuvelier (12), Wheat (10).

Terre Haute Savings Bank Senior Men — National Division standings: SMC 236, Lough Bros. 224, Local No. 103 219, Complete Kitchen and Bath 215, TH Savings Bank 211, Fore Seasons Golf Complex 210, Paitson Bros. 201. Low gross: Terry Liffick 38. Low net: Dave Laycock 31. American Division standings: Poplar Flower Shop 262, Spring Clean Car Wash 244, VFW No. 972 234, Salt of the Earth 214, Gurman Container 202, Tabco 200, Baesler’s Market 184. Low gross: Skip McVey 36. Low net: Ed Beasley 29.

First Financial Bank Ladies Monday — Standings: VFW 972 No. 2 509, VFW 972 No. 1 459, Shepard’s Gas 409, Baesler’s Market 359. High gross: Myrna Handley. Low gross: Handley 32. Chip-in: Delores Sautell (7). Play of the day: Mary Lou Newman.

Marks’ Par Three Men’s Senior — Standings: Tabco 113, North Siders 105, Dew Drop Inn 98, Old National Trust 93, Watts Farms 91, Dorsett Mitsubishi 90, Larry Helman 80, Mattingly Collision 79, Vigo Bowl 67, Rollie’s Pizza 64.

Women’s Tuesday Rea Park 18-hole — Low gross: Carolyn Hyde 84. Low net: Hyde 65. Birdies: Sandy Lanke (4), Beth Lowe (13). Chip-ins: Lanke (4), Lowe (13). Low putts: Lowe 25.