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The Golf Ball is Only a Target

By Staff

Q and A with Marc Solomon, Director of The Hampton Golf School
in Jacksonville, Fla.


Everywhere I go to play golf, people say to keep your eye on the ball. I read in one of your articles that keeping your eye on the ball is bad. If you don't think I should look at the ball, where should I look?

Cody, Lexington, Ky.

Well, Cody, I know what you are saying. As you set-up to the ball, your eyes are pointing at the ball. As you swing the club back, your eyes continue to point at the ball. At impact your eyes are still pointing at the ball. But, I say you should not try to keep your eyes on the ball. Does that make sense? Too a lot of golfers, it does not.

If you ask a great player what they see when they set-up to the ball, you will not hear the statement "I am looking at the ball". The great player isn't focused on the ball; they are focused on the target. The ball is the least important part of golf. Obviously you couldn't play without a ball, but it shouldn't be the most important thought on your mind when you are going to play a shot. If you are staring at the ball, you are too fixated on it.

The most important thoughts in your head (pre-swing and in-swing) should be the target, the golf swing and confidence in your ability. The thought of the golf ball can only give you more tension than you already have before trying to hit a golf shot.

Just think of your practice swings. There isn't a ball you are trying to hit. Therefore the ball isn't in your thoughts. How great does your practice swing usually feel? The comment often heard around the golf course is "I wish my regular swing could feel as fantastic as my practice swing. My practice swings seem so fluid. Then I put the ball there and it all falls apart".

Well, what causes a regular swing to be a lot less effective than a practice swing? The obvious answer is the golf ball. So the obvious answer is to forget the golf ball is there. Easier said than done, but it can be done. We need to take your mind off the ball. We need to get you thinking of the swing. Just like when you take those effortless practice swings. They are so free flowing.

When a player like Jack Nicklaus sets up to the ball, his eyes are pointing at the ball. His mind's eye sees the target. It remembers what the target looked like. It pictures the golf ball landing next to the target. But the mind never thinks of hitting the ball. It may picture the ball in flight, but it doesn't see the club hit the ball. If you ever get the chance to speak with some of the top players in the world, that is what you will hear.

The best drill I can give you to conquer the habit of keeping your eyes on the ball is to practice hitting tees with your eyes closed. The next time you go to practice (after you have stretched) start your practice session by sticking a tee into the ground. Push the tee in enough so that the top is the same height as the middle of a golf ball. Do this with 5 tees that are about 6 inches apart.

Now start at the first tee and make a golf swing trying to clip the tee out of the ground. Without stopping the motion of the swing take a step forward to clip out the next tee. Continue this until all the tees are out of the ground. The key to this drill is not to stop between swings. Keep the motion going back and forth.

By continuing the motion you are taking your mind off the tees and focusing on the movements of the swing. What you will learn is you didn't need to keep your "eyes fixated on the tee". You were able to hit them out of the ground and up in the air without staring at them. So why if it is easily accomplished with tees can't you do it with a golf ball. Think about that for a few seconds before continuing reading. Read this paragraph again if you need too before continuing.

Try this drill a few more times. Then when your confidence is bursting through, try it again with your eyes closed. It probably will feel very different at first. It might even take two or three attempts to successfully accomplish the task. When your eyes are closed you are developing the sense of "feel" for your golf swing. You are feeling your golf swing. Hopefully you are learning how to see your golf swing in your minds eye. If that is happening you are successfully taking your mind off that "dang" ball.

The real test now comes when you tee up a golf ball and close your eyes. Take a swing at it. What do you have to lose? You might even hit it pretty good. I guarantee that by your 6th attempt you will hit the ball perfectly on the sweet spot. I suggest trying this using a 7 iron.

The golf tips that are passed down from generation to generation are like the game we played in grade school called Telephone. Telephone was when every kid in the class stood in a single file line. The teacher told the first kid a message and he/she told the next kid in line that same message. This kept going till the end of the line and the last kid would tell everybody what the message was. The message was never close to the original.

Well, that is what has happened with "keeping your eyes on the ball". What started as a well-intentioned tip has been converted to "a golf swing killing epidemic." That saying (and many others like it) are over taught and misinterpreted. That is one of the main focuses of this column and my golf school. We debunk the myths and give you solutions.

"Do you have the desire to improve your golf game?"

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • The next time you are out playing or practicing, try and flip this the other way around.

    Don Wrightley wrote on: Sep 24, 2018

    Your intention is to get the ball to the hole or what you have decided to be your target, so therefore, spend the majority of your time locked into the target rather than being fixated on the ball. Great read! :)


  • Great read

    Isaac R. wrote on: May 2, 2018

    Some great points here related to keeping your eye on the ball. I think that starting out, it's good to keep your eye on the ball - as you get more experienced, though, developing a feel for your swing without focusing so intensely on the ball can be beneficial. I'm actually coming off the guide on Golfstead (https://golfstead.com/how-to-swing-a-golf-club), which seems meant for beginners beginners but has some nice little tips related to the golf swing in general. I told them about my problems and they recommended I check out the content on your site. Thanks for the great read.


  • Golf

    ju wrote on: Dec 19, 2017

    Hey Marc,
    I really enjoyed reading your article. I am currently using the mind eye for my swing. Only problem is , sometimes when I swing, I can't hit it flush? Not too sure if its due to my set up . Because if i'm relying on the mind eye, i'm pretty much swinging without even looking at the ball. Its a good feeling though because theres no tension by trusting my swing. So I'm contemplating if I should try to look at the ball 50% and mind yet 50% too. Hope its not too complicated! Thank you for your time . Ju


  • Visual vs Mental Focus

    Gregory Hendricks wrote on: Dec 14, 2017

    There’s a big difference between visual and mental focus. In my opinion you should always look at the ball and even try to see the blur of your club hit the ball before looking up—visual focus. For all shots—from driver to putter. Teaching otherwise is not helpful and could hurt new players. Mental focus should be on the target.


  • Backswing focus with no left eye

    John harrington wrote on: Aug 19, 2015

    Marc,I'm 68 yrs.old,former P.G.A instructor lost my left eye in '94 ,always been swing conscious,can still turn shoulders at least 90 degrees but when I do I lose the sight of the ball and only see the right side of my nose! What should my focus be on the backswing,and do I set up differently to better swing toward the target!! Help!! Thanks,John


      • RE: Backswing focus with no left eye

        John Harrington wrote on: Jun 8, 2016

        Please reply with help!


          • RE: RE: Backswing focus with no left eye

            John Harrington wrote on: Jun 8, 2016

            Please reply with help!


  • ps

    steve beswick wrote on: Jun 23, 2015

    Try it and see the results!


  • Calm golf

    steve beswick wrote on: Jun 23, 2015

    Ok agree with this in theory but it does negate the fun - which 'should' be the reason we play this game! My pt is where is the fun if we're not seeing ourselves strike the ball? Hmmm - appreciate the eye on the ball comment as being a 'tenser' and agree with that as its too hard to do at speed completely and that intensifies pressure as its too difficult to do. I do a lot of psychology with my soccer players re a moving ball which is somewhat different due to motion, but same principle re being calm. Therefore, this is about removing tension due to pressure ref pt re practice swing. Hence my point is -- yes we CAN look at the ball but also need to view its path forwards as that helps us to follow through and stick at the 'process' of a ball strike regardless of whether a moving or static game BUT my pt is very similar view to the Clampett strategy re picking a point to hit through in front of the ball - when we strike any ball - its all about going through it which is similar to what Marc says - however, the fun is 'also' included as we can feel the strike and also see the 'process' of the ball leaving the club - though a whirr at speed - we see its path when we look at that 6-12 inch journey through that forward pt - we dont want to ignore it but see the fun happen! Steve


  • originality

    AJ Brown wrote on: Mar 29, 2015

    Take everthing with a grain of salt. One man's trash is another man's treasure. Originality and creativity are the key ingredients to any art form. Take 3 or more of your favorite pros and spend a little time watching thier swings. If you can't see that each of them does it their own way and that it is truly an art then you might be missing the bigger picture in much more than just your golf game. The motto of enlightenment is, Sapere Aude, Fiat Lux. Loosely translated from Latin into the modern day slang that we like to call english it means...
    Have the courage to use your own reasoning, let there be light !


  • don't try to hit the ball

    Ron wrote on: Mar 4, 2014

    My swing coach in an attempt to quit sweeping the ball and take a divot asked me what I was looking at. I thought this was a trick question and responded "the ball". He responded back to me with "no, don't try to hit the ball ...... the ball just happens to be in the way of your swing"! Now I look at a spot in front of the ball and am taking a divot with longer and straighter ball flights. In fact if I see my club hit the ball it will be a bad shot. This only applies to my irons and hybrids. When driving and chipping, I am looking at the back of the ball.


  • I agree

    Bret wrote on: Jun 6, 2013

    Ok I took this to the pratice range in regards to not looking at the golf ball before you hit.
    Taking this articles advice I started to hit the first couple balls and it took a couple to finally understand how awsome it was.
    After I was done getting groved in, I was truly amazed on the distance and feel I was getting and the effortless ability to hit the ball.
    I hit my 5 iron on ave 195 yards, at a pin located 198 yards out as my target couple of my hits cleared the flag and rolled out to maybe 220.
    To anyone looking at this article Im here to tell you that the most beneficial part to what I got was the ability to stop thinking about so much and for the first time had enough room in my head to fully focus on where I wanted to ball to go and not hitting a golf ball.
    It does work to not look at the golf ball by leaps and bounds.


  • Target

    Daniel Chalmers wrote on: Sep 3, 2012

    Hi, I completely agree with the target focus but don't you also need to add that the target is actually up I the air, it's actually at the apex of the swing, not the flag down at ground level.
    So when you swing to target you should scoop the ball up and have a high finish to your swing?


      • RE: Target

        Louie wrote on: Feb 20, 2015

        No....you do not scoop the ball off the ground....You hit down on it at slightly descending blow....You are basically cutting a thin dollar bill sized divot out of the grass and letting the ball get in the way....
        You "sweep" it off the tee with the driver.


          • RE: RE: Target

            Louie wrote on: Feb 20, 2015

            The club loft makes it go up when you swing through it in a circular motion around your body.....it's not a "scoop" with your hands....the wrists are passive and the hands are leading as the club does it's job.....


  • Dead on

    skulleditgolf.com wrote on: Jan 12, 2012

    This is a great article. People need to remember that you aren't swinging at the ball, you're swinging at the flag while swing through the ball.


  • eyes on ball

    Ken wrote on: Aug 19, 2011

    This is all against what Tom Watson says. He looks at one dimple on the ball .


      • RE: eyes on ball

        Lou wrote on: Feb 20, 2015

        This is probably a relaxation technique for him. To settle nerves.
        If you are constantly trying to scoop and life the ball, then you should listen the above advice.
        Most people on this article will never play golf like Tom Watson EVER.


  • Release

    BD wrote on: Jun 6, 2011

    Totally agree with the article, you want to think "swing" the club at the target not "hit" the ball. I look in front of the ball too, really helps release the club for those who hold it open through impact.


      • Great Article

        Randy wrote on: Dec 14, 2011

        It's all about transferring that energy as efficiently as possible.Relaxing for me was the hard part. Its not hard to over think hitting your golf ball. Now this is something to think about as well.


  • Staying down

    Josh wrote on: May 27, 2011

    This drill prevents topping the ball and definitely chunking the ball. Practice this drill at the range, but also use this when you're on the course. Place a tee on its side 4-8 inches in front of the golf ball and point the tee at your target. Try your best to forget the golf ball is even there. Now hit the tee! It's easier said then done but you will see awesome results. Try it!


  • striking a PRO V1

    Hugh wrote on: May 12, 2010

    Hi Mark, a PRO V1 has a line along the dimples all the way round it. Is this a join? When you strike a PRO V1 should you strike it along the line or should you strike the logo? Is there even a difference?


      • RE: striking a PRO V1

        georgina durr wrote on: Jul 4, 2010

        Looking forward to trying out your tip. I focus for about a minute before I hit the ball and could not understand why I kept topping it


  • -

    Golfball Nerd wrote on: Nov 6, 2009

    thank you for your input i guess alot of us has been taught to keep our eye on the ball. which your right if im busy keepin my eye on the ball im not focsed on where it needs to go so im gona focus on the target i will post back next week and let you know if it has improved my game!


  • Looking at the golf ball

    Reg wrote on: May 31, 2009

    I look at a blade of grass immediately in front of the ball, and try to brush that with the club (all shots except driver). This brings my club descending into the back of the ball, and has eliminated the fat shot I used to have.


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