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Golf and Concentration


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Do you believe that good golf and concentration need to go hand in hand? Think again: Nothing makes a simple physical action so difficult as does "concentration."

In whatever class of golf you play you will agree that the quality which enables the fellow just above you to give you strokes is not so much his ability to make shots which you cannot, as his knack of keeping his average shot nearer his best than you can. And this prime virtue of consistency is commonly credited to concentration.

And concentration is taken to mean such a pulling of oneself together, such a fixing of the mind on the task in hand, such a tight-lipped determination to do one's best, that golf becomes a trial of nervous strength rather than a game.

Now my own observation of many thousands of golfers from beginners to tigers is that this form of concentration does not assist the production of your best game. In fact I think the whole "golf and concentration" doctrine is a perversion of the truth, almost a reversal of it. I reckon a golfer can only produce his/her true quality when he/she can play without concentrating (in this sense), when he/she can make his shots without clenching his teeth.

Consider this odd fact about walking: We pay less attention to walking down a street than to walking over a plank across a stream — and because we pay less attention to it we walk at least as straight and with much better balance, greater firmness, and greater ease.

Simply because the penalties of deviating from the straight are so much greater when crossing the plank, we feel we have to concentrate our attention on the job. And it is this attitude of over-tense attention that makes the simple and familiar act of walking straight so suddenly and curiously difficult.

Now we can translate that directly into a common golfing experience. Put the average good golfer on a tee with a fairway fifty yards wide before him, and time after time he will drive slap down the middle of it. Yet reduce the width of that fairway to fifteen yards and he will become so conscious of its narrowness—so concentrated on the importance of keeping dead straight—that time after time he will put himself well out in the rough.

That is why a course with wide fair¬ways is commonly more popular than a narrow one; the average golfer feels more comfortable about it and because he feels more comfortable, plays better.

Hitting a golf ball is not difficult, nor is walking straight, so long as the penalties of failure are not great. But introduce the plank bridge or the narrow fairway and the difficulties follow.

The desire to guide the ball dead straight increases with the need for a dead straight drive and the greater the desire the greater the difficulty!

So when we stand on a tee with a narrow fairway before us, we must use our will power to inhibit the desire to guide the ball and simply perform the swing which our golfing sense tells us will send the ball straight. In fact we must forget that the plank is a bridge and simply walk across it!

This is true about the longest shot in golf, the drive; it is equally true and even more obvious about the shortest, the putt. What a simple operation is the five-foot putt on a good green when there is nothing hanging to it — and how exasperatingly difficult when it will decide the hole, the match and the half-crown!

So I repeat that if concentration means focusing all our mental attention and capacity on the problems and penalties of the shot in hand, then concentration is destructive of good golf.

Good golf, consistent golf, depends upon being able to shut out our mental machinery (with its knowledge of the difficulties of the shot, the state of the game, etc.) from those parts of us which play golf shots.

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