How to Improve Your Putting through an External Focus
Take a second and throw an object to your friend, or even towards the trashcan; it can be anything, a piece of balled up paper, a pen, or a tennis ball. Whatever it is, try to accomplish this task of getting an object from point A to point B. Where were you looking when you threw that object? I’m going to guess that you were focused on the target, sounds like common sense no?
So why is it that so often we see people focusing on their putting strokes when attempting to hole a putt on the golf course? That’s like looking at your hand while trying to throw a baseball. Good luck hitting your target!
I’m not saying that there isn’t a time and a place to work on ones putting stroke with training tools like the Eyeline Golf Edge Putting Plane Rail (70-degrees), Eyeline Golf Classic Putting Mirror, Large 9.25” x 17.5” – Patented, or the Genuine Eyeline Golf Putting Alignment Mirror. But when it comes time to perform, whether it be a club championship, a friendly match, or even a putting challenge by yourself on the practice green, you’re doing yourself harm and in fact handicapping yourself if your primary focus during the stroke is on the stroke itself. This would be classified as an Internal Focus, and there has been a lot of research primarily by a woman named Joan Vickers, that strongly supports the necessity of having an External Focus when it comes to putting or any targeting task for that matter.
So what is the difference between having an Internal vs External Focus? “An internal focus is one that dwells on the techniques or emotions required in the activity while an external focus is directed toward the outcome of the task or the goal being pursued” (Vickers; Perception, Cognition, and Decision Making).
For those baseball fans out there, let’s think of it this way. A fly ball is hit and caught by the right fielder. He winds up and throws it in to the cutoff man who’s back is turned to 3rd base. As he catches the ball he winds up and throws a line drive to the 3rd baseman. Now, although he was never facing the 3rd baseman directly, how is it he managed to get into the motion of throwing before ever looking at his target?! Simple, he has an image in his mind of where his target was and was extremely connected to it. Now had his focus been on arm motion or the release of the ball, who knows where that ball would have gone!
So what does this mean for golf and how can we use this to improve our putting in competition? Well if the goal of the task is to get the ball into the hole, than quite simply you need to shift your focus to the target! While you make your practice strokes, try this. Pick a specific point where you see the ball entering into the hole and fixate on that point (the smaller the better). As you address the ball, imagine you have laser beams coming out of your eyes like superman as you shift your gaze from the ball to the point you just selected as the entry point. Imagine yourself burning a line in the ground along the path you wish your ball to travel. Now retrace your eyes along that line and once you are back at the ball keep that image of the entry point as if you were staring directly at it in your mind.
This sounds extremely simple doesn’t it? Think back to the beginning of the blog when you were asked to throw an object to your friend. How well did you do? Did you achieve the desired outcome? We often overcomplicate things and yet we have this incredible thing called our brains that receives information from our eyes that tells our body what it needs to do to achieve a desired outcome. So, why not listen to it?
DRILL: Place a dime or a small ball mark in front of the cup where you see the ball entering into the hole, while you make your practice strokes focus on that area. Once you walk into the ball, let that image of the coin or ball mark stick in your head. You’ll start to notice that your body does a pretty good job reacting to the information being provided by your eyes.