New Karl Morris golf book focuses brilliantly on attention



If you think about it, the objective of golf is to send the ball to the target.

But, largely due to a steady diet of golf instruction, most golfers are focused on moving some part of their body, such as shifting their hips, keeping their left arm straight, turning their shoulders, and on and on.

Karl Morris, the U.K.’s leading golf performance coach, says this internal focus is the reason that most golfers struggle on the course. They are paying attention to perfecting their swing rather than playing the course.

You’ll have far more success, Morris says, if you’re focused externally—say on the flight of the ball to the target or on your club.

This is the major premise of Attention!! The Secret to You Playing Great Golf, a new book by Morris, who has worked with European stars such as Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke and South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel—all major champions. 

Morris is highly respected among teaching professionals in North America, but not well known among golfers. I believe his invaluable advice is more tangible and practical than many of his contemporaries. Morris provides insightful concepts on the mental game, but he also provides drills, games and activities that allow golfers to incorporate his teachings into practice and ultimately take them on the course.

By focusing on the role of awareness in golf, he is mining some of the same ground as American coach Fred Shoemaker, but Morris tends to focus more on strategies and tactics that you can employ to change our underachieving ways.

Morris notes most of us are keenly aware of our foibles and self-sabotaging patterns, but there is a massive difference between knowing something and actually doing it. To help you make those transitions, Morris advises, for example, making your practice simulate the game—make practice difficult, competitive and keep score.

One of Morris’s best practice games is Par 18 in which you play nine holes around a practice green. Each hole is a par two; you chip and then putt to each hole. Record your score for each game of Par 18. Over time, Morris says you’ll have a record that “builds evidence” of improvement that will feed your confidence.

Par 18 also shifts your focus largely from mechanics to shooting lower scores. In other words, by paying attention to scoring during their practice, golfers will improve their scoring on the course.

One of Morris’s strengths is that he identifies the dilemmas experienced by many golfers who seek to improve. To play well, you need solid mechanics, but focusing on mechanics usually leads to paralysis and poor play. To play well, you need to free-flow, but without a defined focus point, a golfer can be aimless.

Morris helps you find the middle ground, particularly in his section on The Three Phases of Golf. He advocates you focus mostly on the Pre-Shot phase to get a clear sense of the shot and provide yourself a moment to “calm the system” so that you can execute the shot to the best of your ability.

Interestingly, Morris doesn’t have loads of advice about hitting shots, but advocates you find one area of focus—such as the target or the club—and do the best you can. It’s a simple method for getting out of your own way. The Post-Shot Phase allows you to evaluate your emotional state so you can respond appropriately to set yourself up for the next shot. Morris provides great advice on avoiding self-sabotage by ruminating between shots.

Morris shares plenty of other insights and strategies on all aspects of the game in this highly readable book that keen golfers will find fascinating, educational and effective—if they put them into practice. And that’s the hard part; change is difficult.

Reading this book won’t transform your game overnight, but just like the drills he recommends, applying the wisdom of Karl Morris over time will move you closer to your objective of playing better golf.

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About Tim O'Connor

Tim O'Connor is a golf coach, an award-winning writer, and speaker. Tim takes a holistic approach, coaching golfers in the physical and mental aspects of golf. He co-hosts the Swing Thoughts podcast with Howard Glassman, and is the author of The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story. He plays bass in CID—a Guelph punk band!