By Dr Tom Dorsel

On full golf shots, a tree in the distance is often a good aiming point.  You know you can’t reach the tree, indeed you don’t even want to, since your actual goal is a landing spot in the fairway or on the green — somewhere between you and the tree.  Still the tree is your focal point, a beacon in the distance to guide you to your desired destination.

Curiously, though, a lot of players aim at a tree in the distance with their tee ball, but when they get in range of the green, they shift their focus downward to the putting surface, rather than maintaining that distant vision.  This switch from a distant target in the heights to a close target on the ground— the green — might be confusing to our fragile golf minds, and also unnecessary.  Why not keep the same focus for all full shots — a tree in the distance?

Build into your routine the intent to swing through the green, rather than to the green.  That is, release your clubhead toward that tree, and let the ball just fall softly from the sky once it has reached its apex and has exhausted its energy.

Isn’t It the Same with Life?

We figuratively aim at ambitious trees in the distance regarding our life goals. It would be a minor miracle if we actually reached those goals; but like trees in the distance, they are still good focal points for our unfolding life.

For example, as a young golfer, you might aim for the PGA Tour.  That ambition leads you to be disciplined in your practice, learn and honor rules, be calm in the face of pressure, and deal with successes and failures — all things that could serve you well on the PGA Tour.  But even if you don’t reach that distant tree, those attributes may land you somewhere else very desirable along the fairway of life.

Consider that you might become a salesperson who earns valuable contracts from playing good amateur golf with clients; or find a job in the golf industry with an equipment manufacturer, a country club or a resort that values your amateur golf expertise as an asset in dealing with customers.  You might manage a golf operation, become a club pro or director of instruction.  How about becoming a college golf coach or maybe even a golf psychologist!  Lastly, you might work in something entirely different than golf, while also enjoying being a highly respected and competitive amateur golfer in your community.

The point is that all these desirable positions in life are sitting out there waiting for you to arrive on your way to the PGA Tour; which, incidentally, has served its purpose as that tree in the distance guiding you to other valuable and happy occupations along the way.

Dr. Tom Dorsel is a clinical/sport psychologist on Hilton Head Island.  His best selling book is “GOLF: The Mental Game.” Visit him at or on Facebook at “Sport Psychology of Hilton Head.”