The impact of internal and external focus on your golf

Whilst doing a bit of research recently I came across an interesting blog post by Adam Young. It revolved around the idea of internal and external focus (in darts) and I thought it was very comparable to golf and relevant for those who are or have had lessons. Here is the extract:

“a darts study showed that an external focus (where the dart is going) produced more consistent outcomes…However the crazy part was, the movements became LESS consistent”

In other words the darts players became better at throwing consistently but used more variable movement patterns.

Conversely, the same study showed that focussing on arm movement (internal focus) made the arm movement more consistent but produced less consistent outcomes (they missed more)”

” Neutral Focus – There have also been studies which show, that for skilled performers, having a neutral focus (such as your breathing) can increase consistency. This is because there is less conscious interference”

There are some really interesting points in here. Most of all, when the darts players focused purely on arm movement they initially got worse and that when they just focused on the task they played better, but with less consistent movements. The final point about neutral focus I think is a great one because it explains why golfers can struggle to take their lesson/ range work onto the course when they try to think about everything.

There is a time for thinking about your swing, and that’s on the range. On the the range you can improve the movements but you may not see the perfect results straight away and you shouldn’t expect to see that. The hope is that you can make the improvements more automatic and then once you hit the course you must just ‘play’ and eventually the movements you have worked on will begin to filter in. This will then start to bring your scores down.

A few questions for you to think about:

Do you struggle to take your shots from the range to the course?

When you play what do you think about – Lots of technique or more target based?

When you are on the range do you judge your success and improvement on how well you hit the ball that day or do you think differently?

When you played your best ever round what do you think you thought about?

When you are practising on the range have you ever just done drills or slower training movements for the entire session?

Take a moment to self-evaluate. I would say personally that I’ve never played well when I take my swing thoughts onto the course with me. My best golf happens when I’m relaxed and just keep picking different targets to hit at. Really that simple!

It doesn’t always happen because I can’t just switch my brain off but there are things that can be done to help. Maybe this will help you to understand a couple of things about your game and why perhaps you’ve not yet seen the results for your labour on the range.

Lee Wilson, November 2021