HOW to play golf one shot at a time

How many times have you been out on the course and experienced frustration at not being able to play the kind of game you know you know how?  I’ve got an answer here today for you.

Mike is a fanatical weekend golfer.  He plays year round and whenever he can get enough time for 9 holes or just an hour to hit a few balls on his way home from work mid-week.  He loves reading golf magazines and email newsletter tips and really enjoys following the professional tours.

When the weekend comes around and he gets to play with his buddies in a friendly match with some money on it, he is so excited driving to the course that he just can’t stop smiling and his body has this light tingling feeling of anticipation. He loves the camaraderie and the competition.

He pulls into the lot visualizing his best shots and talking himself up that he’s a great putter.  After checking in and getting a small bucket, he proceeds to work his way from pitching wedge to driver on the range…and he’s feeling good!

He moves over to the practice putting green and calmly sinks 4-5 foot putts one after the other.  He takes a few lag putts and is satisfied with how he is reading the greens in leaving the ball within 2 feet.

He’s ready..and he feels it! His confidence is sky high.

After a few light verbal jabs shared with his buddy, his group is called to the tee and his first shot is a good one which increases his excitement to be out on the course this very fine day!

His approach shot is a bit short so he pulls out the lob wedge to float it over the bunker for a soft landing.  It’s a tricky shot but he’s done it successfully many times.

Unfortunately, he blades it a bit and the ball runs past the hole and he ends up 2 putting for a bogey.

Still beating himself up over the chip shot, he goes to the next tee and hits a wild duck hook.   Bewildered where that came from, he still manages to pull out another bogey on the hole.

Mike starts figuring out what he has to do for the next few holes in order to “get those 2 shots back” in order to wipe the memory of them from his mind. In some twisted way, he’s connected future birdies in his mind with past mistakes much like an amateur gambler does when thinking “I need to get even” after being down and then starts doubling the bets from this faulty thinking.

Mike starts pressing for a birdie to make up for those bogeys.  He’s now lost the great feelings he had when he showed up to the course. His mind is making all sorts of “calculations” about the rest of the round.  He’s forgotten about having a great time with his buddies.  He’s forgotten why he plays golf in the first place. He’s totally centered his entire experience on his score….

…and that’s why he’s not scoring well.

And now he’s added frustration to anger and disappointment. Not the best state to be in to have a great round.

It is often repeated by sports psychologists to play one shot at a time. This is where Mike went wrong.  But how do you do that?  How do you play one shot at a time when your mind isn’t cooperating?

My problem with a lot of golf mental game advice is that you hear such simplistic terms without the tool to make it happen.   Here’s my tool to play one shot at a time:

During the round, your goal is to be in the present moment. You do this by putting your focus on what your 5 senses are taking in.  You get out of your head and into your senses by noticing what you see, hear, feel and touch and yes, even your sense of smell and taste.  That’s what will put you in the present moment.

You see, all of Mike’s problems came from thinking about the past or the future.  When you think about what your senses are experiencing right now, you are directing your mind in a very easy, natural way that works wonders for your golf score.

The funny thing is, you probably do this on the practice range and green. The really great thing about this, is that you can practice being in the present away from golf.
You can do it anywhere.

See how long you can put all your focus, awareness and attention on what your senses are doing before going into some kind of analytical thinking.  The more you do this off the course, the better you will do it on the course…and your best game will show up without even trying.

Greens and fairways,


p.s. I’d love to see your comments below

  • zachie rovz says:

    such an amazing post. i really love how you put up the ideas together. you made your content easy to understand and it is really helpful. thanks a lot there!

    • Craig says:

      Thanks for commenting Zachie,
      Greens and fairways,

  • […] Now, because I would love you to improve your skills, I have linked in this post an article on HOW to play golf one shot at a time. Here are some interesting facts on the story: How many times have you been out on the course and […]

  • […] cut grass and hearing the sounds of balls pinging off drivers on the range – Remember the last blog post where I discussed FOCUSING on what you’re senses are taking […]

  • Dan says:

    Learned to focus 100% on the present while racing motorcycles and cars. The alternative will get you seriously hurt. Never learned to turn it on and off frequently, or apply it to golf. I will try this. I’m finished with overflowing frustration when I know I can do much better. I am certain I have the physical ability to achieve single-digit indexes. I do not yet possess the emotional skills.

    • Craig says:

      Hi Dan,
      I’ve got quite a bit of training and sessions in the membership on emotional mastery. I write a lot about emotional control and will keep going on that….

      G & F,

  • FrankU says:

    What I tell myself and my partners is “stop thinking”…sometimes it works.

    • Craig says:

      Hi Frank, you can get better and better at controlling the mind if you have that intention to do so….

  • AD says:

    That is a very nice tip. Something which I can practice off the course and driving range.

    • Craig says:

      Thanks AD!

  • raja says:

    well,ur artical so close to reality has certainely exposed me to myself.i think iwill do better in next round thanks.

    • Craig says:

      Hi Raja,
      Glad to hear that. Awareness is the first step to fixing any problem.

  • John says:


    That is exactly what has been happening to me for a few months now! I know I need to be in the moment, but it is so difficult not to start thinking about that pesky score when suddenly throw a shot away. We’ve all done it.

    I’m playing tomorrow; I will try keep thinking that and make it work, but I know it will be difficult!

    • Craig says:

      Very good John. Get rid of the word “try” in your sentence and you will be much more successful at making it work.


  • I really like this article. I am going to remember and try it during my next round.

    • Craig says:

      Hi Mike,
      Glad you liked it.

  • George says:

    It works if you work at it.

    • Craig says:

      Thanks George for that vote!

  • Raj says:

    You’re on the money, Craig!!! When I am not in sync with my mind and body and pull a bad shot, I get to the basic – take few deep breath, look around and feel the surrounding AND try to keep my mind in present. Lots of time my playing buddies heard me talking to myself. I will consciously talk to my sub-conscious and tell myself to TRUST my sub-conscious and miracle happens.

    • Craig says:

      That is beautiful!

  • Ruan Daffue says:

    Hypothetical Mike is an unbelievable accurate description of myself. It was a rude awakening to realise that I keep putting myself in the wrong mindset before each stroke. I will tap into my senses and report back on my progress.

    • Craig says:

      Way to go Ruan, let me know how it goes and stay tuned for more…


  • John says:


    this is a great segue into “what really screws up your game…and your life”.


    • Craig says:

      Thanks John!

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