There will always be something we can blame our bad shots and bad rounds on. You can’t block out distractions once you have noticed them. Instead you must learn how to not let them enter your mind. You are not focused if you are distracted.

I recently gave a lecture on the mental side of the game and asked the participants to list some distractions they let bother them on the golf course. Here are some of their answers:

What you see:

  • Players moving while you are hitting
  • Shadows cast by a player in your group
  • Someone standing behind you in your peripheral vision
  • Bad course conditions
  • Grounds maintenance staff
  • People who don’t rake bunkers or sand divots and don’t respect the course

What you hear:

  • Players talking while you are hitting
  • Highway noise, cars honking
  • Negative people
  • Someone coughing just as you take your swing

What you feel:

  • First tee jitters
  • Playing through a slow group
  • Playing with slow players
  • Being rushed by the group behind you
  • Being paired with people you don’t know

Once you assess what bothers you on the golf course, you need to come up with a game plan on how to reframe you mindset and realize that you can only control yourself and not others. Direct your attention and focus on your goal. Don’t focus on things you cannot control.

Jack Nicklaus had the best focus of any player in history. “I never hit a shot without having a very sharp picture in my mind,” he said. “First I see where I want the ball to finish. Then I see how it gets there: its path, trajectory and shape. Finally I see me making the kind of swing that turns the previous images into reality.”

During a four-hour round of golf, you spend only about two to three minutes actually hitting the ball. Therefore, you must be focused for a short amount of time. In your downtime between shots, imagine yourself at the beach, your favorite song, great shots that you have hit in the past. Recall the best moments of your life.

If you do get distracted, you need to learn how to back off a shot until you are mentally ready. Go through your pre-shot routine again. Make sure you visualize the shot you want to hit. Picture it in your mind, and then swing away.

Dr. Jean Harris is an LPGA Master Professional and teaches at Brown Golf Management courses. jean.golfdoctor.harris;