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Inside Golf in the Zone

Inside Golf in the Zone

By: Jim Fannin

Have you ever made two birdie putts in a row? Three in a row? Have you solidly struck your driver and the result was a lengthy laser in the middle of the fairway? Remember getting up and down for a big win? Do you remember your best round of golf?

If you answered yes to any of the above, you’re probably experienced the phenomenon called the Zone.

It has been described by my clients as a “purposeful calm.” When you are in the Zone everything is possible. Your intuition reads your putts. It over-rides logic and selects your next club. You have more length off the tee and the center of the cup has your name on it. If fact, the cup may appear larger. Nicknames abound like clickin’, hot putter, in the flow, on all cylinders, dial-a-wedge, on fire, etc.

For thirty years, I’ve assisted clients in reaching the peak performance state of mind called the Zone. Using my S.C.O.R.E.® Success System, over 2000 professional athletes and executives have reached the top in 10 professional sports and 50 industries.

At the cornerstone of my program are five ingredients that, when balanced at a high state, the zone mindset will arrive. They are: Self Discipline, Concentration, Optimism, Relaxation and Enjoyment. They form the acronym S.C.O.R.E.®

Here are just a few tools to help you manage your S.C.O.R.E.® and be the best golfer you can be.


  • Break your round into three, six-holes segments. Holes 1-6 open the round. Holes 7-12 are obviously in the middle and holes 13-18 are where you close the round. Set goals for each segment. The PGA players I coach seek 4 birdie opportunities (25 feet or less) per segment.
  • Before your round, play the last three holes and the first three holes on the range. Complete your pre-shot routines and take ample time between shots. Mentally engage yourself in the moment. No judging, coaching or instructing.
  • Make any adjustments in your middle segment. Use a swing key or just simply change your behavior. Pick up the tempo or slow it down.
  • Close the last six holes like a champion. Two players of mine shot 71. One was happy and one was upset. The happy one opened the round poorly but birdied the last three holes. The upset golfer opened four under but closed bogie, double, bogie. They had the same 71. Closing strong is crucial to winning an event. It helps you go to bed happy and wake up the same. This is how you thread good rounds together.


To insure great concentration, be mindful of the 5-second Ruleä. You are only as great as the five seconds AFTER each shot. This must be prepared. After every shot you have three and only three options. They are:

  1. Act like the shot never happened.
  2. Briefly shut your eyes and mentally see the shot exactly like you wanted.
  3. Think…where’s my next target. Send your mental energy there.

If you roll your eyes, grimace, mutter under your breath, toss your club or become a judge, you have violated the 5-second Ruleä. Prepare for this rule. It’s easy to get ambushed by an errant tee shot or poorly rolled putt.


  • Use the Light Switchä Keep your chin up! That’s right… at no time during the round will the champion drop his or her head. Try this: Place a bad thought in your mind with your eyes shut and your head down on your chest or sternum. Keeping your eyes shut with the negative thought now raise your head above parallel. Repeat this several times. After three decades, over 75% of my seminar attendees reported when the head was down the negative thought was robust and clear. But with the head up the negative thought went away or was difficult to see. Try it! Mom was right. Keep your head up at all times.
  • Use positive “I” statements (thought or said during adversity) is the mark of a champion. “I drain.” “I hit solid.” “I close.” “I’m accurate.” Keep a few of these power statements in your golf bag. Use as needed.


  • Breathe on impact. Exhale just as you make contact with the ball. This allows you to release the shot and strike the ball smoothly. Holding your breath causes increased grip pressure at the moment of impact and in turn the club face will slightly move.
  • Unhinged your jaw. Relax your jaw, face and tongue. Keep these body parts relaxed during the round. Be aware of their tension. The Zone will not arrive with the molars grinding and the jaw tensed. That’s why Michael Jordan stuck his tongue out when he went for a dunk.


  • Play your heart song. Many of my clients played their best tournaments when they played their favorite song in their mind as they walked the course. Make the song rhythmically and upbeat. It is your personal soundtrack for the day.
  • Love the challenge. The course is designed to give all of us problems. However, eliminate the “p” word. Champions have challenges that inspire, motivate and elevate. Believe you’re a great challenge solver. The players that believe this have the greatest chance of succeeding.
  • Skip. You heard me… skip. One quick skip down the fairway and you will smile and/or laugh. PGA pro David Frost has skipped down the fairway. Result: three birdies in a row. This one isn’t for the meek. The bottom line is- flood your body with dopamine. When we are being too self-disciplined or focused, sometimes we just need to skip.

Five major keys to unlocking your potential on the golf course. These five ingredients form a domino-like chain called S.C.O.R.E.® You are only as strong as the weakest link. You are responsible for all repairs. Keep your S.C.O.R.E.® balanced.

Be in the Zone! tm

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