When you’re playing golf, it’s important to stay in the moment and take your game one shot at a time. You probably know that. You also know that “one shot at a time” isn’t always what happens. It’s easy to get ahead of yourself and think about the next hole while you’re still working on taking a shot. Getting ahead of yourself on the course is a normal occurrence, but there are ways to deal with that.

Here are a few strategies to help you stay in the moment on the course.


Know when it’s okay to think about the next shot

There are times when it’s okay to think about the upcoming shots: before the round, at the conclusion of the hole, or thinking about the next day’s outing. All of those times are fine because they don’t get in the way of the present moment’s shot; the challenge comes when you’re thinking about the shot after the one you’re about to take, or the one you’ll have to hit next as you’re about to swing. You can adopt Annika Sorenstam’s idea of the Think Box and the Play Box (or Swing Box). Decide that before you step up to the hole, that’s the time you can think: plan your shot, consider, and even plan ahead. But then, when you step up to the play box, you’re in the moment, and it’s time to play.

Focus on process, not outcome

When we get ahead of ourselves, we’re usually focusing on the outcome we hope for (or what we want to avoid). The outcome is where the ball will land, the score, or how we want to do compared to others. When we focus on outcome, we miss the opportunity to pay attention to the process that helps us achieve those outcomes. So, instead of focusing on what you want to achieve (or avoid), focus on your shot, your mechanics, etc . . . The pieces that help you achieve your desired outcome. These are the sorts of things you want to be thinking about in the Play Box discussed above.

Create a focusing reminder

The first two tips might sound good, but you may be unsure about how to remember to do that, or how to get yourself to focus on the present moment, or the process. Come up with a reminder for how to get back in the moment, such as “here,” “now,” or “ball.” When you’re getting ahead of yourself and thinking about the next shot, verbally tell yourself this reminder to help get you refocused. Keep in mind you’ll need to use this focusing reminder regularly. Expect that your focus will wander and bring it back every time; you’re working on strengthening your refocusing muscle.

Prepare ahead of time

You might be thinking too far ahead in a round because you’re concerned about “what to do if you shank the ball or if it hits the bunker . . . etc. So, take the time, before your outing, to do imagery of the course and the holes that cause you to think too far ahead. Play out the scenarios in your head so that you know what you’d do if a certain shot happens. That way you’re more likely to be able to focus on each shot as it comes and not worry about what to do at the conclusion of the shot. You may find even with planning ahead that your mind wanders when you’re on the course, so pair this with your focusing reminder.

Thinking ahead is going to happen and if it happens at the right time, that’s okay. But like many golfers, you’ll get ahead of yourself at less-than-ideal times, so use these strategies to help you stay in the moment. With improved focus on the present, you can play your round one shot at a time.