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The Locus of Attention: Master this Missing Piece in Your Golf Swing

Updated: 2 days ago

Hi Friends and Golfers! Coach Erik Schjolberg of EJS Golf Academy here. I Have a great article for you here! Comprehend this one and buckle down if you really want to get better. Remember, going to the range and swinging away at a large bucket with barely moving and raking golf balls is not practice, that is what I have called exercise! I love getting into practice and what it is going to take to make you better. Remember the difference between the amateur and the professional is what you are going to read about. Professionals are able to embrace the uncomfortable as long as they know it is going to make them better! When teaching a PGA Tour Professional I do not hear them say that they are uncomfortable at whatever changes I am having them work on. Most amateurs do whatever they can to not feel uncomfortable.

Man vs. Woman making decision on locus of attention

1. The Role of Locus of Attention in Golf

Key Takeaway: Your golf swing and overall performance on the course can transform radically by understanding and harnessing the power of your locus of attention. I want you to notice that I will not cover garbage in here like the 10k rule that has been misquoted over and over since Malcolm Gladwell spoke those words into existence erroneously from another study done by an actual researcher. If you are still a believer that the rule applies everywhere please grab a calculator and figure out how long it would take to get 10k hours worth of practice and play when each shot takes approximately one second. If you want I will send you research papers debunking it as well. Let's move on to what will make. you the golfer you want to become!

What is Locus of Attention?

Locus of attention refers to where a person’s focus is directed during a task or activity. In golf, it plays a pivotal role, particularly when it comes to your swing.

The Three Types of Locus of Attention in Golf

In the context of golf, there are three main loci of attention:

  1. Internal: This is when your focus is on your swing mechanics, such as hand position or hip rotation.

  2. External: Here, your focus shifts away from yourself and onto the task at hand — hitting the ball and aiming for the hole.

  3. Neutral: Rather than focusing on the game or your technique, neutral thoughts can be anything not related to golf. Think humming songs or deep breathing.

Different types of focus can yield different results in both ball striking and overall game results.

Locus of Attention

The Impact of Different Focuses on Your Game

For instance, excessive internal focus could limit potential, trapping you in over-analysis of every move you make. On the flip side, an external focus allows your body to self-organize around the task, potentially leading to better execution and improved game results.

Neutral thoughts may sound odd in a sport requiring such precision but think about those moments when you are “in the zone”. You’re not actively thinking about your swing or even the game itself — yet you’re playing some of your best rounds. That’s neutral focus at its finest. Understanding these aspects of locus of attention will give you new tools to enhance your performance on the course.

2. Internal vs. External Focus: Finding Your Optimal Approach

Navigating the course successfully requires not just physical prowess, but also mental acuity. An aspect of this mental game is your locus of attention, specifically the balance between internal focus and external focus. How you manage this can significantly influence your golfing performance.

Look for videos of mine on my YouTube Channel to help with any and all things golf! Click on the Youtube link above.

2.1 The Pros and Cons of Internal Focus

Internal focus in golf refers to concentrating on your own body movements during the swing. This may involve aspects like maintaining the correct grip, positioning your feet accurately, or ensuring a proper follow-through. A golfer who is internally focused tends to be highly aware of their body mechanics and technique.

Potential Advantages of Internal Focus
  • Enhanced Body Awareness: Focusing internally helps you understand and control each part of your swing better. It aids in refining specific techniques, such as wrist hinge or hip rotation.

  • Technique Refinement: With an internal focus, you can isolate certain parts of your swing for improvement. For instance, if you struggle with topping the ball, focusing on keeping your head down during impact might help.

Potential Drawbacks of Internal Focus
  • Overthinking: Sometimes, being too focused on individual movements can lead to over-analysis or ‘paralysis by analysis’. Instead of a smooth, fluid swing, you might find yourself trying to control every element excessively.

  • Lack of Fluidity: Golf swings require a coordinated effort from various body parts moving in harmony. Overemphasis on one element might disrupt this harmony and make your swing feel awkward or forced.

Unlocking golf’s secrets can provide valuable insights into motor patterns that influence your performance. EJS Golf Academy offers expert guidance on this fascinating topic.

The key takeaway here? Internal focus has its place in golf — especially when you’re working on specific technical aspects of your swing. However, too much internal focus can lead to overthinking and disrupt the fluidity of your swing.

Let’s now explore the other side of the coin — external focus — and how it might offer a different approach to improving your golf game.

Block vs. Random Practice - Pros vs. Joe's

2.2 Harnessing the Power of External Focus Techniques

While it’s important to be aware of your body and refine your technique (internal focus), there’s another approach that can take your golf game to the next level: external focus.

What is External Focus?

External focus is all about directing your attention to things outside of yourself during a golf swing. Instead of thinking about how your body is moving, you focus on other elements such as:

  • Visualizing your target

  • Paying attention to the ball’s trajectory

  • Sensing the clubhead release through impact

How External Focus Can Improve Your Swing

By using external focus techniques, you can naturally coordinate your body movements for a better swing. Here’s an example: Imagine you’re on the tee box with a driver in hand. Instead of analyzing every little detail of your body’s movement, you simply picture the ball flying high and straight down the fairway. This visualization engages external focus and helps you execute a more effective swing.

When to Apply External Focus Techniques

You can incorporate external focus at different stages of your swing:

  1. Pre-Swing: Visualize the path you want the ball to take or choose a specific target in the distance.

  2. During Swing: Concentrate on how the clubhead is moving or feel the weight shifting from one foot to the other.

  3. Post-Swing: Pay attention to the clubhead’s release through impact and watch the ball fly toward your target.

The Benefits of External Focus

Using external focus techniques not only improves your swing but also makes your overall golfing experience more enjoyable. It allows you to tap into your intuition and flow with the game. Allowing our bodies to self organize by using an external focus will allow you to shoot lower scores.

Finding Your Focus Balance

It’s important to note that what works for one golfer may not work for another. Everyone has their own preferred focus strategy. Here are a few approaches you can try:

  • Primarily using external focus techniques during your swing and occasionally using internal focus for minor adjustments.

  • Experimenting with different combinations of internal and external focus to see what feels most comfortable and effective for you.

Additional Resource: Perfecting Your Takeaway With External Focus

If you want to dive deeper into using external focus to improve your game, check out this article on mastering your takeaway. The takeaway is an essential part of the golf swing, and this resource by Master Golf Coach EriK Schjolberg provides valuable insights on starting your swing correctly.

3. Neutral Focus: A Game-Changer for Experienced Players

In the world of golf, many experienced players have discovered a powerful technique called neutral focus that can significantly improve their performance and give them an edge over their competitors. Let’s explore what neutral focus is all about and how it can revolutionize your game.

3.1 Understanding the Concept of Neutral Focus

As golfers become more skilled, they often reach a state of mind that goes beyond the traditional approaches of focusing either internally or externally. This state is known as neutral focus. Unlike internal and external focus, which involve directing your attention inward or outward, neutral focus is about being relaxed and open-minded.

Imagine playing your best round of golf. You’re fully immersed in the game, but you’re not overly concerned with specific thoughts or distractions. Your mind is clear, allowing you to adapt to each shot without being hindered by excessive analysis or pressure. This balanced mental state, where you’re fully present yet unburdened by unnecessary concerns, is what neutral focus is all about.

In this state of mind, a golfer isn’t actively thinking about swing mechanics (internal focus), nor obsessively visualizing targets (external focus). Instead, the mind adopts a calm awareness that frees up cognitive resources and allows for spontaneous adjustments during play.

You might be wondering how this approach differs from the conventional wisdom of intense concentration during challenging shots. While there are certainly moments in golf that require focused attention, maintaining high levels of concentration for extended periods can lead to mental fatigue and decreased performance. This is where neutral focus shines: it offers a mental break while still keeping you engaged in the game.

To better understand this concept, let’s consider a driving analogy. Think about how you drive on an empty road on a leisurely day. You’re aware of your surroundings and in control of the car, but you’re not consciously thinking about every little action. You’re not constantly reminding yourself to check the mirrors, adjust the steering wheel, or activate the turn signals. Yet, you’re fully capable of reacting quickly and appropriately to any sudden changes on the road. This is similar to what happens during moments of neutral focus in golf.

Neutral focus may initially seem like a mystical state that’s difficult to achieve. However, with practice and intentional effort, it can become a natural part of your golfing skills. It’s important to remember that every golfer’s journey is unique, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to mastering your attention.

In the next sections, we’ll explore practical strategies and exercises that can help you develop this neutral focus. We’ll also discuss how to tailor your focus plan and adjust your focus strategy based on different game situations. By embarking on this journey, you’ll not only become a more adaptable golfer but also find greater joy in the game as you learn to harmonize your mind with your playing.

So let’s dive deeper into the art of neutral focus and discover some tools and techniques that can make it an essential part of your golfing routine.

3.2 Techniques to Cultivate Neutral Focus

Cultivating neutral focus in golf is similar to taking care of a garden — it needs attention, care, and patience. Golfers who want to achieve this relaxed state of mind have various practical strategies and exercises they can try. This section will explore these techniques, providing insights into how you can include moments of neutral focus into your practice sessions and competitive rounds.

Engage in Mindfulness Exercises

Mindfulness exercises are essential in developing neutral focus. These exercises encourage players to be fully present at the moment, shifting away from internal or external cues towards a state of calm receptiveness.

  • Deep Breathing: This simple yet powerful exercise can be done before a round or even during the game itself. Take slow, deep breaths and exhale for longer than you inhale. This technique helps to slow down your heart rate and clear your mind.

  • Walking Meditation: During practice rounds, try practicing mindful walking between shots. Pay attention to each step, feeling the ground beneath your feet and noticing the sounds around you.

Develop Non-Judgmental Awareness

Non-judgmental awareness involves observing your thoughts without labeling them as good or bad. By doing this, you create space for neutral focus to arise.

  • Thought Observation: Notice your thoughts during a round without trying to change them. Just let them flow naturally without any judgment.

  • Sensory Awareness: Focus on your senses on the course. What do you smell? What do you hear? Engaging with your senses brings you back to the present moment, fostering a state of neutral focus.

Use Neutral Swing Thoughts

Neutral swing thoughts are not related to either internal or external cues — they’re neither about body mechanics nor target direction.

  • Humming: A song can serve as a neutral thought that keeps your conscious mind occupied while allowing your body to swing freely.

  • Counting: Count numbers in your head during the swing. This keeps your mind busy, leaving less space for internal or external distractions.

Just like a gardener needs to take care of their plants, golfers also need to nurture their neutral focus. It’s an ongoing process that requires patience, but the rewards can be significant — achieving a state of flow on the course and tapping into your natural abilities.

Golfer Thinking

4. Integrating Different Focus Approaches for Optimal Performance

Achieving the best performance in golf involves a multifaceted approach. One of these crucial facets is integrating focus approaches into your routine. The key lies not in sticking to one form of focus but in balancing internal, external, and neutral focuses as per the situation.

4.1 Personalizing Your Focus Plan

Every golfer is unique. So should be the plan for personal focus. Just as you wouldn’t use another golfer’s set of clubs without adjusting them to your needs, so should your mental approach be individually tailored to suit your game style and mental tendencies. Here’s a guide on how to personalize your focus plan:

Understand Your Natural Tendencies

Some players naturally gravitate towards an internal or external focus while others are more at home with a neutral mindset. Spend some time on the course and pay attention to what comes naturally to you.

Experiment with Different Focus Approaches

Don’t hesitate to change things up during practice sessions. If you’re typically an internal focuser, try shifting your locus externally or vice versa. The goal is not just to discover which approach works best for you, but also when each approach is most effective.

Analyze Your Performance

Keep track of which approach you used during different situations and how it affected your performance. Did shifting to an external focus improve your long drive? Did maintaining a neutral focus help keep your nerves in check during a high-pressure putt? Use this data to refine your personal focusing plan.

Incorporate Feedback

Regularly seek feedback from coaches or fellow players who know your game well. They can offer valuable insight into whether changes in your focus strategy are translating into improved performance.

Stay Open-Minded

Remember that the ideal focus strategy might change over time as you develop new skills or face new challenges on the course. Be ready to adapt and refine your plan as needed.

Practice, Practice, Practice

As with any skill, mastering your focus takes practice. The more you work on shifting your focus intentionally, the better you’ll get at it. By personalizing your focus plan, you can create a mental game strategy that is uniquely suited to your style and needs. It’s not about rigidly adhering to one approach but rather developing the flexibility to switch gears when necessary.

Consider how using an external focus while planning a shot — visualizing the ball’s trajectory or focusing on the target — can set you up for success. But once you’re set up and ready to swing, shifting to a neutral focus may help avoid overthinking and keep your motion fluid.

Integrating different approaches gives you a wider range of tools to draw from during a round of golf. Like learning different shots — from the Tiger Woods Stinger link for safety to a flop shot over hazards — varying your locus of attention equips you with mental versatility.

Remember that integrating different focus approaches into your game is not about achieving perfection but about continual improvement. It’s about finding what works best for you and refining it as you learn and grow in the game of golf.

4.2 Adapting Your Focus Strategy on the Course

Crafting a personalized focus plan involves more than just understanding your preferences. It requires flexibility and adaptability to different situations on the course. Developing the ability to seamlessly shift between internal, external, and neutral focuses depending on the situation is a valuable skill for golfers at all levels.

Let’s dive into some practical tips for effectively adapting your focus strategy:

1. Evaluate Course Conditions:

The lie of the ball, weather conditions, and course terrain can all influence how you need to approach your shot. For instance, if it’s a windy day, you might need to prioritize an external focus on the direction and strength of the wind rather than obsessing over your swing mechanics.

2. Assess Shot Requirements:

Different shots demand different types of focus. A delicate chip near the green might require an internal focus on wrist hinge and club face control, while a long drive may benefit from an external focus on target visualization or feeling the club head release through impact.

3. Respond to Competitive Pressure:

Pressure situations can hijack our attention and lead to performance dips. In these moments, a shift towards neutral focus like humming a tune or focusing on deep breathing can help alleviate stress and keep you in ‘the zone’.

Remember, integrating focus approaches isn’t about rigid adherence to one type of focus. Instead, it’s about being fluid and adaptable in your mental game — just as you would be with your physical game. So next time you’re out on the course, take note of what’s happening around you and within you. Use these insights to personalize your focus plan and adapt your strategy in real-time to navigate the diverse challenges that each round presents.

5. Real-Life Examples: PGA Tour Players and Their Preferred Focusing Styles

Real-life examples are often the best teachers, providing tangible evidence of concepts in action. In golf, no better examples exist than the professionals who grace the greens of the PGA Tour. These players have honed their focus styles to a tee, demonstrating how different approaches can lead to success.

Tiger Woods: Mastering Internal Focus

Consider Tiger Woods, one of golf’s all-time greats. Known for his unparalleled internal focus, Woods has a near-scientific understanding of his swing mechanics. His ability to make minute adjustments mid-round is legendary, a testament to his deep self-awareness and meticulous attention to detail. However, this intense internal focus doesn’t hamper his ability to adapt to changing course conditions or high-pressure situations.

Jack Nicklaus: Harnessing External Focus

Jack Nicklaus, another titan of the sport, leverages an external focus approach. Known as “The Golden Bear,” Nicklaus often spoke about visualizing every shot before executing it. He would picture the path of the ball, its landing spot, and even how it would roll upon impact. This external visualization technique was critical in his routine, helping him secure a record 18 major championships.

Fred Couples: Embracing Neutral Focus

For an example of neutral focus at work, look no further than Fred Couples. The laid-back golfer often hums tunes during rounds to maintain a relaxed state of mind. This neutral thought process allows him to let his muscle memory take over and perform naturally.

Jordan Spieth: Adapting with Mixed Focus

Lastly, consider Jordan Spieth who blends these focus styles depending on the situation at hand. An accomplished putter, Spieth often talks through his putts with his caddy — an external focus technique — while also maintaining an internal awareness of his stroke mechanics.

These PGA Tour players exemplify how varied focusing styles can be harnessed for success on the golf course[¹^]. While each golfer’s approach might differ, they all share one thing in common: a deliberate, disciplined focus strategy tailored to their game.

6. Going Beyond the Mind: The Role of Body Awareness in Focused Golfing

Body awareness is an often overlooked aspect of focused golfing, but it actually plays a crucial role in improving your game. It involves connecting your mind and body, which can lead to better focus and performance on the golf course.

Understanding Body Awareness in Golf

Think of body awareness as more than just knowing where your body parts are. It’s also about understanding how they move and work together when you’re playing golf. For example, when you swing a golf club, every joint and muscle in your body is involved in creating that perfect shot.

The Benefits of Improving Body Awareness

Improving your body awareness can have several benefits for your golf game:

  • It allows you to make adjustments to your swing based on what feels right for your body, rather than relying solely on visual cues or verbal instructions.

  • For example, if you’re aware that your shoulders tend to rotate too much during your swing, you can work on keeping them more stable to improve your accuracy.

  • It helps you develop a better sense of balance and coordination, which are important for maintaining stability throughout your swing.

  • By being more aware of how your body moves in space, you can make subtle changes to improve your overall technique.

  • It can prevent injuries by ensuring that you’re using proper form and not putting unnecessary strain on certain areas of your body.

  • When you’re aware of how each part of your body should be positioned during a swing, you’re less likely to experience pain or discomfort.

How to Improve Your Body Awareness for Golf

Here are some practices that can help you develop better body awareness:

  • Yoga: This ancient practice combines physical postures with breath control and mindfulness. It can help you become more in tune with your body and how it moves.

  • Pilates: Pilates focuses on core strength, flexibility, and overall body alignment. By practicing Pilates, you can improve your posture and muscle balance, which are important for a good golf swing.

  • Martial Arts: Martial arts disciplines like Tai Chi emphasize precise movements and body control. These skills can be transferred to golf, where accuracy and consistency are key.

Incorporating these practices into your regular routine can not only make you a more mindful golfer but also enhance the effectiveness of different focus approaches on the course.

Remember — a well-focused mind needs a well-aware body for optimal performance.

7. Embracing the Journey: Continual Refinement of Your Focus Skills

Success in golf, and particularly in mastering your locus of attention, is not a destination but rather a journey. It’s about continual improvement and getting better at focusing. Just like the perfect swing, it doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it’s carefully crafted step by step, game after game.

Viewing Golf as an Art

Consider golf as an art form where certain qualities are important:

  1. Patience: This helps you deal with the ups and downs that come with the game.

  2. Self-reflection: By looking back on your performance, you can identify patterns in how you focus and use that knowledge to improve.

  3. Having a growth mindset: This means seeing mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow.

Understanding Your Unique Approach

Remember, every golfer’s approach to their locus of attention is as unique as their swing. Be open to trying different ways of focusing and understand that what works best for you may change over time.

Enjoying the Process

Achieving mastery in this skill is a continuous process. It’s not just about the end result but also about enjoying the journey of becoming a more focused golfer. So keep exploring different strategies, keep learning from your experiences, and keep growing.

Every stroke counts towards your progress.

8. Further Resources for Deepening Your Understanding

Delving deeper into the enigma that is the locus of attention can significantly enhance your golfing prowess. Knowledge is power, as they say.

For those eager to continue this journey, several resources can help in deepening understanding of this fascinating topic.

  • “Locus of Attention” by Jon Sherman: A must-read for any golfer looking to improve their game. The book provides a comprehensive exploration of concepts discussed in this article, combined with practical advice and actionable steps.

  • “The Sweet Spot”: Regularly featuring discussions on golfing strategy and player mindset, this podcast is a great way to immerse oneself in the intricacies of golfing focus.

Online Courses:
  • EJS Golf’s “5 New Rules of Golf for 2023”: While not focused solely on locus of attention, this course offers a fresh perspective on how rules changes can affect player strategy and focus.

  • Practical Golf: This website, run by Jon Sherman, offers a wealth of articles and resources on various aspects of the game — including focus strategies. Subscribing to their newsletter also provides valuable updates and a free eBook on course strategy.

With these resources at your fingertips, you’re well equipped to continue your exploration of how the locus of attention impacts golf performance. Remember, everyone’s journey is unique — there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to mastering this aspect of the game. So don’t be afraid to experiment with different strategies and resources until you find what works best for you!.


On this journey through the world of golf and the role of locus of attention, we’ve discovered that where you direct your focus can fundamentally alter the quality of your swing. A simple shift in attention, from internal to external, or even to neutral, can yield remarkable results on the course.

There are no one-size-fits-all solutions in golf; this game is a beautiful study in individuality and personal growth. Embracing a spirit of curiosity and openness can lead to profound improvement and enjoyment.

Actionable Steps:

  1. Begin by recognizing where your focus typically lies during a round of golf.

  2. Experiment with shifting your attention between internal, external, and neutral focuses.

  3. Pay close attention to how each type of focus impacts your performance.

  4. Tailor your focus strategy based on your observations and experiences.

Just as we adjust our stance or grip to improve our swing, we can tweak our mental approach for better results. Our final thoughts center around the immense potential that lies within harnessing the power of attention in golf. Remember, golf is not just about perfecting technical skills but also about nurturing mental agility. The locus of attention is not merely a concept; it’s an actionable tool you can wield to transform your game. So step onto the course with a sense of adventure and experiment with different focus techniques. Who knows? You might just find that missing piece in your golf swing!

Challenge yourself to be fully present in each moment, whether it’s aligning your shot, feeling the rhythm of your swing, or observing the undulating greens. By honing your attentional skills, you can unlock a level of focus and clarity that will elevate your game to new heights. So, next time you step onto the course, remember that the power of attention is yours to harness — embrace it, and watch your golf game soar.

Coach Erik Schjolberg
EJS Golf Academy

Scottsdale Golf Lessons

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