The game of golf is all about accuracy. If you can hit the ball close to your target more often than not, then you’re well on the way to becoming a very good player.
While many amateurs spend hours and hours searching for the secret to the perfect swing, a lot of their problems can actually be traced back to deficiencies in how they align themselves – and what they focus on when they take their swing.
Your subconscious brain is a remarkable thing and will make automatic corrections to the way you swing the club – such as how active your hands and wrists are, or how you deliver the clubface – without you even knowing that will affect your ability to hit your intended target.
If your stance is too open to your target, you’ll encourage a fade or slice; if your stance is too closed, you’ll encourage a draw or hook – even if the mechanics of your swing are sound.
I’ve already written an in-depth article on how to align yourself to your target, so this guide will instead delve into the process of how to focus correctly on your target (and what you should visualise when you pull the trigger).
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How Do You Focus On Your Target In Golf?
The most important step to correctly focus on your target in golf is to trace your eyes along your target line, without lifting your head out of your posture. Keep an image of that target line in your mind as your make your swing, without getting too bogged down on the mechanics.
When it comes to focusing on your target, the biggest mistake amateur golfers make is trying to look down the fairway with both of their eyes front-on, and level with the horizon.
They do this is because it’s the most natural way; most of us are born with two eyes, so it makes sense we use each of them when viewing things, such as a fairway or flag.
The reason this doesn’t work in golf, however, is because in order to look at your target with both eyes, you have to lift your head and stand up and out of your address position – twisting your body in the process – which can throw your alignment off without you knowing.
Instead, the correct way to focus on your target is to trace your feet line by tilting your head, rather than lifting it.
Below, I’ll explain this key step in more detail, along with some other important techniques you can use to better focus on your target.
How To Trace Your Target Line With Your Eyes In Golf
The key to focusing correctly on your target in golf is by learning to trace your eyes along your target line in the proper manner.
The best visualisation I’ve found online that shows how to do this is in the below video created by Michael Powers from Northbound Golf, in which he gives examples of some of the best players to have ever played the game – including Jack Niklaus, Bernhard Langer and Brooks Koepka – using the technique on-course.
As Powers explains:
Players that struggle with the game tend to look up into the air when they target.
They look at the ball from one angle, and then when they look out from the ball to acquire the target, they look up in the air at a completely different angle.
It’s not surprising that they do this – it’s natural, because that’s how you see everything else in life, with your eyes more parallel to the horizon.
Great players don’t target like this – winning golf involves accurate targeting, and accurate targeting involves targeting along the ground.
When you look out from the ball, you should look along the ground, Powers says, as this will give you a great side-on view of the target and is the best way to accurately perceive where your target is.
Best Drill For Practicing Correct Targeting In Golf
One of the most common ways people practice checking their alignment while they’re on the range is by laying an alignment stick in front of their feet.
While this may work inside a square driving bay that is easy to align yourself in – and with an expansive, wide fairway to hit towards – it doesn’t teach you to visualise your target line correctly when out on the course.
Instead, what you should do when practicing is place the alignment stick around a foot in front of your golf ball, pointed in the direction of your target line.
This will represent the direction that you want the ball to go and is a great way to train your eye to trace your target correctly – instead of setting your feet first, you’ll be able to follow your eyes out beyond the stick and then align your feet and body accordingly.
As Powers explains:
Accurate targeting involves making an association between two things that aren’t moving; the ball that isn’t moving, and the direction of the start line of your shot.
Since those two things aren’t moving, you shouldn’t have the angle at which you look at those two things from move either.
You should look at them from the same angle; that’s a great way to target.
If you’re someone who loves using additional training aids to help groove a swing thought or technique (to complement your alignment stick) then the Eyeline Golf Speed Trap, pictured below, is the perfect device.
Not only will it teach you how to hit shots dead straight, it will also help drill the correct swing and alignment feels needed to hit fades and draws on command.
So, now that you know how to target correctly, it’s time to delve a little into the visualisation side of targeting, which can also help you fire at more flags.
How To Visualise Your Target In Golf
Instead of focusing on the golf ball, it’s better to visualise your target when making a swing. Get into the routine of taking practice swings looking solely down the fairway, rather than fixating on the ball. This will create a more fluent swing and encourage you to swing out to your target.
Many amateurs get paralysed with anxiety while addressing the ball and tend to hit at it, instead of through it when making a swing – leading to inconsistent strikes ranging from fats to thins.
As PGA teaching professional Dan Martin sums up in a short, but very educational video:
One of the most interesting myths I hear in golf is that you have to hit down on the golf ball.
I’ve found players who try to hit down on the golf ball, especially newer players and amateurs, tend to lead themselves into all sorts of bad habits – the biggest one being moving the arms out of sequence to the body, down towards the ground which leads to chunking, over the top movements, casting and all sorts of lifting motions at impact.
Instead of, when you approach a golf shot, making the ball your main focus, start to make the target your focus.
Take practice swings not looking at the golf ball, but actually looking at the target.
When your swing is looking at the target, your body sequence will be more natural and create energy that way.
Then, take that same feel to the golf ball and give it a go.
Visualising your target in this manner will actually get your club on a better plane naturally, without you having to think about it.
As amateur players, we all know what it feels like to feel tense over a shot – we focus so hard on the golf ball that when it comes time to actually start your swing, it feels anything but loose and fluent.
By tracing your target line correctly by tilting your head, rather than lifting it, and focusing on your target instead of the ball it won’t be long until those unnatural kinks in your swing will begin to iron themselves out.
Before long, you’ll be stuffing your approach shots closer than ever – maybe even spinning them back towards the hole like the pros – leading to more birdie opportunities and lower scores.