By now you’ve probably heard that on Sunday at the PGA Championship 50-year-old Phil Mickelson became the oldest player to win a major.
You’ve might have also heard Mickelson reveal that he’s been having issues focusing on the course of late.
Following the first round of the Valspar, Mickelson spoke with candor about his problem:
“I have a hard time keeping focused for a period of time. It’s a physiological thing. I’ve actually been meeting with a lot of people and trying to figure this out. I go through spells of three or four holes, like I did Thursday, Friday at Augusta, where I’ll throw five or six shots away in a four-hole stretch. I just kind of go mind-numb. My ability to regain focus has been the biggest challenge as I’ve gotten older. And I just, I don’t have a great solution right now. But I’m working on it.”
Part of “working on it” for Mickelson involved meditation, or practicing a set of techniques that encourage a heightened state of awareness and focused attention.
Following his second round of the PGA Championship at Kiawah’s Ocean Course, he explained exactly how he’s been improving his attention span:
“I’m making more and more progress just by trying to elongate my focus. I might try to play 36, 45 holes in a day and try to focus on each shot so that when I go out and play 18, it doesn’t feel like it’s that much. I might try to elongate the time that I end up meditating, but I’m trying to use my mind like a muscle and just expand it.”
You may not have the luxury of playing 45 holes, but you can take the same principle to the range. When you hit a bucket of, say, 50 balls, make every swing count. No exceptions. When you get to the course, you’ll find hitting 90, or 100 or 120 shots to be less of a mental grind.
You can imagine how frustrating it must be for an elite golfer like Mickelson to be unable to hit shots simply because he can’t focus. It’s equally as frustrating for everyday golfers, and in both cases can hurt your scoring.
If you’re thinking you (or your golf game) could benefit from trying out meditation, you’re in luck, because it’s easy to do almost anywhere. All you need is a quiet space and about three to 30 minutes, depending on your preferred style of meditation.
There are two main types of meditation.
Focused meditation concentrates your attention on a specific object, thought sound or visualization and emphasizes eliminating distractions from your mind. On the golf course, that could mean standing behind your tee ball before your address and blocking out all thoughts but one: your ball soaring down the middle of the fairway.
Open-monitoring meditation helps you broaden your awareness of your environment, thoughts and sense of self.
You’ll enjoy the benefits of both meditation types far beyond just the golf course, including:
1. Reducing stress and anxiety
2. Lengthening your attention span
3. Reducing age-related memory loss
4. Improving sleep
Figuring out which type of meditation works best for you is the first step to improving your focus on the course like Phil. If you’re unsure of where to start, there are a ton of free resources, including apps like HeadSpace, Calm, and 10% Happier.
The UCLA Mindulness Research Center also has many free resources and guided meditations, as well as a free app.
Whether you’re looking to improve your focus on the course like Mickelson, de-stress or are just curious about what meditation can do for you, give it a try. Lower scores might just follow — at any age.