Golf Is A Game Of Inches








Wilson Golf Reed On The Greens
Golf: The Space Between Your Ears
by Jeffrey Reed, Editor,

Since the days of Old Tom Morris, the game of golf has produced more than its share of famous meltdowns. Think of how Jean van de Velde of France imploded on the 18th hole at Carnoustie in the 1999 Open Championship, and it’s easy to recognize that golf is a mental game.

Arnold Palmer once quipped, “Golf is a game of inches. The most important are the six inches between your ears.” In fact, the great Bobby Jones once said, “Competitive golf is mainly played on a five-and-a-half inch course – the space between your ears.”

Without a doubt, the easiest way to ruin a good score on the links is to let those mere inches get in the way. Fitness experts will tell you that when the body gets weak, then the mind will play tricks on you, thus the importance of keeping fit. Yet even the game’s greatest stars blunder on the course, thanks to poor decision making. Remember American Jordan Spieth’s meltdown at the 12th hole at the 2016 Masters Tournament?

In the early-2000s, Western University associate professor, author, lecturer and sports psychologist Alan Edmunds couldn’t wrap his head around why a golfer could post an outstanding score one day, then play poorly the next. He did not comprehend exactly why someone would lose focus within a round, or even from shot to shot.

“It really bothered me,” said Edmunds, as passionate about his studies as he is about the game of golf. “I was puzzled as to why golfers did not play well consistently from one day to the next, and to a finer point, why some play so well during a string of holes, then seem to lose it. The researcher in me said, let’s find out what’s going on here.”

Edmunds was born in London, England, and grew up in Schefferville, Quebec. He played varsity soccer and basketball at Acadia University before making London, Ontario his home. In 2002, he assisted his daughter, Lindsey Edmunds, in establishing the Western Mustangs women’s golf program, and quickly turned it into one of the most successful university programs in Canada. Lindsey is the 2018 winner of the Heart Award.

Alan, who was named 2005 OUA women’s golf coach of the year, decided to assist golfers of all abilities with his 2015-published book, Golf On Auto Focus: Training Your Brain to Better Your Game (Amazon, $19.30).

Golf is a difficult game that can bring you to tears stemming from both victory and defeat. Said Edmunds, “My research began by interviewing dozens of golfers, observing hundreds more, and reading every book on the ‘mental game’ that I could get my hands on. Finally, I identified what appeared to be a gap in the typical pre-shot routine that allowed technical thoughts, doubt, and distractions to derail a shot – and sometimes an entire round.”

In fact, while Edmunds’ Golf On Auto Focus offers a simple, five-step routine to add to your own pre-shot routine (there’s an Auto Focus for putting, and another for the full swing, chipping, pitching and bunker shot), his book also offers tips on becoming mentally tough. The two are inseparable, according to Edmunds.

In simple terms, Golf On Auto Focus teaches the reader how to focus on the right things at the right time, while learning to stop thinking and instead simply become intensely focused – automatically. There are numerous techniques described to improve focus, confidence and control over emotions while under pressure.

Auto Focus Put To The Test

In 2008, Edmunds conducted a study at London’s Sunningdale Golf and Country Club which included 24 male golfers with a handicap index between 8.0 and 12.0. They filled out a survey which measured their golf confidence, then played six rounds without Edmunds’ Auto Focus teachings within their pre-shot routine. Thirteen golfers were chosen to continue with the study, since their scores formed the tightest group.

Edmunds then divided the 13 men into three groups for further analysis in order to put Auto Focus to the test. The results didn’t lie: each of those golfers improved his scoring average with the use of Auto Focus.

On the full swing, for example, here’s the Auto Focus strategy:

Look – Turn your head and take a last look at your precise target.
Back – As your head turns back to the ball, envision the line between your target and the ball.
Focus – Mentally and visually fixate your gaze on the back edge of the ball.
Tick – Start your back swing.
Tock – Swing through the golf ball; Tock happens at contact.

The Tick-Tock steps are common to golf instruction which teaches proper rhythm. And like Tick-Tock, Auto Focus is a strategy which can benefit every golfer, according to Edmunds. He said, “What I’m advocating with, Golf On Auto Focus, is a method which you can tack onto your pre-shot routine. It’s not the entire pre-shot routine.”

Charles Fitzsimmons. Photo: Golf Ontario.

Toronto-born sports psychologist Charles Fitzsimmons, head doc to the Golf Association of Ontario’s Team Ontario, and to athletes at Fanshawe College and Western University (where he plays with the Mustangs men’s golf squad), knows a thing or two about the mental game. The defending Early Bird Tournament champion at St. Thomas Golf and Country Club said it’s not easy for the amateur golfer to finish a round as strongly as they started.

“The first question is, how many beers have they had?” joked Fitzsimmons. “Seriously, some golf for fun and don’t worry about their scores. But others go out just to have a great time, and yet they play intensely and score well. That’s the wonderful thing about this game.

“Taking care of yourself physically is the first step,” Fitzsimmons said. “Your mind has no chance if you don’t provide it with the right nutrition and hydration. From a mental perspective, try not to concentrate for a full round of golf. Give yourself a little vacation in between shots to let your mind relax and wander, and enjoy the surroundings and your company.”

Fitzsimmons said during tournament golf, he actually hears a little song in his head, and sings in between shots. “It keeps me in a happy mindset,” he said.

A pre-shot routine – whether it involves Mike Weir’s waggle or Jason Day’s closed eyes, wide smile and happy thoughts – is as unique to a golfer as his or her fingerprint.

But golfers will be golfers. As two-time Masters Tournament champion Ben Crenshaw once said, “I’m about five inches from being an outstanding golfer. That’s the distance my left ear is from my right.”


About Wilson Golf

For a century, Wilson Golf has designed, manufactured and distributed premium and recreational golf equipment throughout the world. Since 1914, Wilson Staff irons have won 61 major championships, more than any other iron manufacturer in history. That winning tradition continues today by delivering the highest quality golf equipment to all golfers to enhance performance on the course and overall enjoyment of the game. Wilson Golf is a division of Chicago-based Wilson Sporting Goods Co., one of the world’s leading manufacturers of sports equipment by Amer Sports. Consumers can log onto or call (800) 622-0444 for more information.

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About jeffreyreed

A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office established 1989.

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