Does Looking at Your Target Actually Hurt Your Accuracy?

Kris McEwen Golf Instruction Leave a Comment

Luke Kerr-Dineen over at Golf.com posted the results of an interesting study comparing the results of a golf shot when a golfer looks at their actual target down the fairway versus those that look at a target closer to them.

Here’s a snipped from that article:

GOLF Top 100 Teacher Eric Alpenfels and Dr. Bob Christina, Emeritus Professor of Kinesiology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, conducted a recent study where they took 29 golfers of varying skill levels and instructed them to hit six shots each aiming three different ways:

1. Looking only at a distant target.

2. Looking only at an intermediary target.

3. Then the traditional method of looking at both the distant and intermediary target.

They measured the results, and found across-the-board improvement among all golfers when they forgot about their distant target, and looked only at the intermediary target.

Note that they found across-the-board improvement among all golfers when they ignored their distance target.

Why?  Luke tends to believe it’s the result of your mind fighting with your body.

“When a golfer looks at where they want to hit their ball, they don’t just see the green. They see the water, the bunkers, the trees — all the places they don’t want to hit their ball. That subconscious fear forces your mind into making last-minute overcompensations, the study found, which hurts golfers’ distance and accuracy.”

There certainly is a mental aspect to this. When playing I try to always keep my thoughts positive. I think “keep it right” rather than the negative thought of “don’t go left”.

That being said, I think there is another reason why golfers are better when they aren’t focusing on the distant target. Because we’re trying to hit it that far.

In other words, we’re either rushing our swing or just swinging too hard because our eyes are focused on a target so far away. The brain then reacts and tells the body, “you better get after it”, and whoosh, we swing as hard as we can, resulting in all sorts of problems.

Instead, focusing on a shorter target, not only helps us align to where we want the ball to go, which I’m sure is part of the improvement in accuracy, but it also doesn’t affect the brain the same way. Your eyes see a shorter distance, thus allowing your brain to tell the body to relax and “just swing”.

Either way, it seems picking a spot in front of your ball and focusing there, rather than at the distance of the actual target, along with all the potential danger surrounding it, does have its benefits.

What do you currently do? If you’re picking a spot down the fairway, will you give the shorter spot focus a try?


Cover Image via Golf.com

About Kris McEwen

Kris became obsessed with the game of golf after deciding to finally hang up his baseball cleats about four years ago. Still learning the game, he’s leaned on much of the on-line golf community for help and loves to return the favor whenever possible.

A contributor to several golf sites in the past, Kris writes from the perspective of your average golfer. One who has a passion for the game, but also has the typical restrictions of life and budget.

He can be reached on Twitter at @krismcewen.

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