What Golfers Can Learn from Other Sports

Dr. Tom Dorsel

I would like to make the bold statement that the following action is universal for success in sports involving a ball: The player must intently see the ball make contact with the implement.
For example, in baseball, follow the pitched ball all the way to the bat. Old slow-motion films of Stan Musial will reveal that after the ball had been struck, Stan the Man was still looking where the ball WAS when the ball and the bat made contact. Same for tennis: Watch for contact between the ball and the strings of the racquet before turning to prepare for the next shot.
Baseball fielders have to see the ball all the way into their glove, or they risk bobbling it. Football players must see the pass into their hands before trying to run with it
You will notice in football that field goal kickers are still looking at the ground, while their kicking foot has already moved to chest high and the ball is sailing toward the goal posts. They intently focus on seeing their foot strike the ball before looking for the result.

Now, this ought to tell you something about golf: The football kicker’s leg is much like the shaft of the club in golf, and his foot is much like the club head. Golfers must watch intently for the clubface to make contact with the ball. To accomplish this, don’t look to see the result until you can say to yourself, “Ball is gone,” or simply, “Ball” or “Gone” or “Contact.” If you can say some useful word, any word you want, before you look to see the result, then you will have done your job of watching for the contact between the ball and the implement.

You could also imitate the football kicker and make sure you are seeing the ground where the ball WAS, before you look to see where the ball went. One other trick might be to exhale like a boxer or tennis player at the point of contact, exhale all over the ball as you hit it. By the time you have finished your intense exhale on the ball, the ball will be gone and you will have been focused there for the contact.

Now a disclaimer: In all of these examples a self-deception occurs, that being that you can’t really see the contact, because it happens so fast. It actually takes a very high-speed movie camera to even catch in one frame the instantaneous contact between the club, bat, racquet or foot and the ball. But as long as you do your best to see that contact, you will have done your job, and physics will take care of the rest.

Dr. Tom Dorsel, Ph.D., is the founder and director of “Sport Psychology of Hilton Head” (see on Facebook).  He has been featured on ESPN 10 times, written over 100 columns for GOLF Magazine, Golf Illustrated, Golf Digest and GOLFWEEK, and has written 3 books on golf psychology, the latest of which is “GOLF: The Mental Game.”  Recent activities of Dr. Tom include an appearance on The Golf Channel during the Presidents Cup in Australia, an interview on WHHI-TV and a presentation to the JPGA in Hilton Head.  He can be reached for talks and consultation through his website,