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March 19, 2014
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Renslow: Focus on one thing

Golf is a microcosm of life. That is to say that in many ways the things we experience in and around the game possess features of our lives.

We can learn a lot about personalities, about ourselves through decisions made on the course. Almost certainly, actions and beliefs on the golf course are representative of conduct off the course.

There are many lessons, ways to improve our game learned from our everyday life and, in turn, an almost endless education from the game on how to better ourselves on daily basis.

Here is an important one: the more feverishly we try to control an outcome, the less control we actually have.

It is amazing. I watch more people (with furrowed brows) attempt to control everything around them. They check on the same thing over and over again. They worry about the behavior of someone else. They’re concerned about the weather … two weeks from now.

Very few things go their way. The hotel does not have their reservation and no rooms are available. The dry cleaner ruined that favorite sweater. Good thing we’re two hours early, the flight has been delayed.

Ironically, when life isn’t perfect, it just seems to work out for those who have a plan, but don’t get caught up in the minutia (sometimes even better than planned).

The hotel does not have the reservation … but, due to the misunderstanding, there is a suite available for the standard room price.

The dry cleaner found a $20 bill in the shirt pocket and was happy to return it. Late for the flight, but the flight was delayed … and now you’re right on time.

Now, I’m not suggesting that no plan is a better plan. It is good to have the basics in place. As a wise person once said, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time”.

However, many of us can get caught up in so many things that we can’t control them all. This typically results in us losing control, whelmed (or even overwhelmed) by all the moving parts and it sucks the joy out of everything.

This has a great application for your golf game. There is no way we can control everything in our golf swing. Players come to me and I hear comments, such as, “How do I turn my hands over at impact?”

“Should my right elbow be at this angle in my backswing?” Or, worse yet, combinations of thoughts.

The elapsed time for the average golf swing is about a second to a second and a half. There simply is not enough time to consider multiple objectives. More often than not, these concerns actually inhibit our ability to perform well and enjoy the game. We call it “paralysis by analysis.”

No, the best thing to do is focus on a single, major outcome and let the small things take care of themselves. Realistically, we can’t keep track all of the variables, let alone control them and trying to be everywhere at once is often counterproductive.

Center on big things, perhaps one big thing. This could be balance or a good body position or simply a mental image of the desired outcome. When we put our energy into the big picture, it is amazing how often the small pieces fall into place.

In golf, just as in life, this simplicity allows us to stay positive, even in the face of adversity. It will put us in the best position to play well and keep smiling when things aren’t going our way.

So, pick a solid, fundamental thought and stick with it. Your outlook and your results are bound to improve.

John Renslow is general manager and director of golf at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at

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The Union Updated Mar 19, 2014 11:50PM Published Mar 19, 2014 11:22PM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.