Mental focus is different than mental toughness. On the surface, they might seem the same, however, to me they are two completely different states of mind. Although golfers require both, they are not applied equally during any round. And yesterday during my early bird round, it became very clear that my lack of mental focus cost me my first sub-par round of the year!
Before describing my mental error, let me differentiate between mental focus and mental toughness.
Mental focus is the routine of playing golf. It focuses on the ‘how to play golf’. There is very little pressure associated with mental focus, but it encompasses all aspects of my game. My thinking process, the pre-shot routine, club selection, shot selection and so on. You can see, that to accomplish all the different parts of my golf game, I need to be focused on what I am doing and playing in the present.
Mental toughness is a beast of a different nature. It is the shield against stress of a poor shot (s) and involves trust and confidence. After hitting a bad shot, it ensures that you trust your swing and relies on your confidence to make your next shot. It keeps the negative thoughts of “I can’t” out of your mind and ensures you stay grounded and play golf the way you know you can.
Yesterday, I failed mental focus. My mental toughness was excellent because I did not let any bad shot affect my game. I was even par walking off the 16th hole at Osprey Links Golf Course. With an opportunity to shoot under par by birdieing the par 3, 17th hole or short par 4, 18th hole, I was excited to play my next shot.
On my walk to the 17th tee, my mind started to wander. I am not sure exactly where it went, but I my mind was not on the shot at hand. I set my ball up at the right height on the tee; took my normal line to the green; had the right club in my hand; and looking back, I realized I was on automatic. I was going through the motions without any real thought about the important shot I was making. In retrospect, I am very surprised at my lack of mental focus; maybe it is because I routinely par this hole with a few birdies mixed in for fun.
As I took my club away, all seem right. Although I was still on automatic, I never had the sense something was wrong. Well, I hit an inch behind the ball, dug in about 2 inches with my 6-iron and put my ball in the middle of the pond! I was mortified that I had made such a poor shot! Without prolonging my pain, I ended with a double bogey 5! I tell you what, my mental focus was suddenly back, but one shot too late.
I ended up birdieing the last hole for a one over par 72. During the last hole, I did not have any problem with my mental focus or toughness. I was zeroed in on my actions. Alas, I walked off wondering what if…..
Mental focus is very important. One lapse and disaster can happen to your score. Unfortunately, this is a lesson I keep learning (and likely will continue to learn). It is part of amateur golf, however understanding the difference mental focus and mental toughness might save us strokes in the future.
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!