It is probably the easiest thing in the world to let your mind wander and get ahead of itself. The art of staying in the present can be hugely affected by a player and his or her mind. What we feel at any one time has a massive impact on the shot, score for a hole and the round total.
I have personally often thought to myself "what if" and "If I par this hole then I have achieved X or Y" To intervene with this poor train of thought I have employed and personally used the some of the following methods: Staying in the present must start at the very beginning. The RITUAL. A state of neutral is best described as a feeling inside your body of total calmness. This feeling is easy to achieve if things are going well, but obviously harder when you are not playing your best.
Asking many top golfers around the world the question : What do you think about when playing at the top of your game? The answer is usually "Nothing" or "I just felt right" This mindset can be described as calmness, or the neutral state. If I am playing well then I find it a lot easier to "smell the roses," quite literally and enjoy the surroundings. If things have not been going to plan, even the birds seem quiet. To remain in this state we can focus on several ideas and hopefully find the ideal solution. Some people like the idea of a song in their head. It can relax the mind and allow your subconscious to start playing instead of the conscious element of your mind being in charge. 95% of what we do is subconscious or right brained. The remaining 1-5% is the conscious mind will always try to take over.
Our concentration levels are not capable of sustaining a four or five hour round of golf. Using an hour glass method of switching on and off with our concentration we can think clearer and sustain performance for longer. Tiger Woods is known to have BS time with his caddy. This BS time is when they talk about anything, except the upcoming shot. (Bulls**t time). When he gets a certain pre-determined distance from his ball, it is game on! The sporting adage "Play one game at a time" can be adapted for golf and is just like playing in the "present." I believe continuous routine and or ritual will help a player stay in the present. You mustn't get in your own way. Follow basic principles that are modified to your own expectations.
My recent ritual was very effective and very simple. I sustained for the 72 hole tournament and only on the back nine of the final round when I was in contention did I "feel" different. My neutral state involved;
i) Seeing the shot
ii) Setting my left wrist in practice takeaway (just for me on this occasion)
iii) Accepting the result
Each individual has their own ritual to follow. The better he or she understands it, the more you can stay focused on the present and remain neutral to play your best golf.