Archive for July, 2009

So what is this golf mind and unconscious golf stuff that I’m always writing and talking about? And how does it actually work? These are questions I occasionally get asked by more sceptical golfers. Thankfully the vast majority of people I talk to either accept my explanations or trust me based on the results they’ve seen other people achieve.

Hypnosis tends to be experienced in many different ways with different [people and what works in one session with a client may not work as well, if at all, the following week. That means that golf psychologists and hypnotherapists have to be flexible in their approach to every client session. It also means that it’s difficult if not impossible to analyse and document hypnosis and hypnotic technique scientifically. For some people that means that hypnosis doesn’t exist and that it’s dangerous because it can’t be explained.

Now I’ve often explained the unconscious mind as the source of our autonomous or instinctive actions. I illustrate this with stories about how difficult it was to consciously learn to drive, tie your shoelaces or a bow or ride a bike and how at some point it just becomes an automatic process that we don’t have to think about …
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I’m always encouraging people to use their golf hypnosis to do more of their golf practice in the mind for better golf without practice. It’s often so much more effective than physical practice out on the range. Limiting the scope of your golf mind practice can cramp your golfing style. Though not as much as this golfer’s physical practice limitations.

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So who made it to Sunningdale to watch the Senior Open Championship last weekend? I know that one of the latest subscribers to my newsletter did and he tells me that he and his wife really enjoyed it? For me it was well worth the visit, especially as it’s only 10 miles down the road from me the Old Course at Sunningdale is one of my favourite courses in the world – not that the New Course isn’t just as good.

There’s absolutely no doubt that this weekend and so many times before in majors Greg Norman has struck the ball brilliantly and enjoyed a great short game, it just seems that he’s missed out on the mental side of the game, especially in the closing holes. As far as I can recall, Greg has never worked with a golf psychologist and sadly it shows at times like these. If he had Tiger’s training and could use golf psychology and self hypnosis at these critical times, just imagine how many majors he would have won by now …
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In parts one and two, I talked about the golf psychology lessons from the performance of veteran Tom Watson and young Ross Fisher at this year’s Open Championship at Turnberry. As a 59 year old myself, I was overwhelmed by Tom’s amazing performance and mental strength around one of the toughest links courses. It almost seems unnecessary to mention his age and recent hip replacement operation. As a golf psychologist helping clients to play the best golf they possibly can, whatever happens, I couldn’t fail to be impressed with Ross’s calm ability to shrug off the disappointment of that quadruple bogey and play on like the consummate professional he has become.

So what’s left to comment on and learn from this year’s Open Championship at Turnberry? Well, I started to talk about Tiger Woods in part 2, but put that on hold so that I wouldn’t detract from the praise I wanted to lavish on Ross Fisher. I also feel that there’s a lot to learn from Lee Westwood’s sad failure over the last few holes, as he was playing as well as we all know he can and probably better than the other leading contender …
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In part one, I talked about the golf psychology lessons from Tom Watson’s amazing performance both on and off the course at this year’s Open Championship at Turnberry. So what other golf psychology lessons can we learn from some of the other contenders?

Now I know the valiant and expectant Ross Fisher’s challenge effectively died in the thick rough at the 5th hole on Sunday. But he went on to succeed magnificently in a way that world number one, Tiger Woods, miserably failed to do two day’s earlier, despite a signature charge that so nearly got him into the weekend. Ross kept his cool and Tiger lost his rag!

I think that Ross Fisher is such a wonderful young golfer, so polite, considerate and British, so I was in seventh heaven when he left the 4th green on Sunday leading the Open by two shots. It was even better that one of my all time favourites Tom Watson was only 2 behind and Lee Westwood, another favourite of mine was in the mix and playing at the top of his game as well. This was going to be a real treat. I was also aware that one of my old clubmates, Luke Donald, was posting a clubhouse leading score with a final round 67 …
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So what golf psychology lessons can we learn from this year’s Open Championship at Turnberry? I’m sure that many of you watching the last day unfold on the course shared my excitement at the ever changing scoreboard, the phenomenal shot making from all the players and the breathtaking and emotional finish to the 72 holes. Let’s not spoil things by thinking about the play-off!

We also saw what makes golf in general and links golf in particular so special. I’m talking here about the basic unfairness of the game – the “rub of the green.” As an example, think about Tom Watson’s perfectly hit 8-iron into the 72nd hole that somehow managed to trickle off the back of the green and nestle against the edge of the rough. Contrast that with Stewart Cink’s frankly ropey shot into the same hole that against all odds managed to stop in the ideal spot and gave him the opportunity to hole a fantastic putt to set the winning target.

This is what links golf is all about and one of the reasons that Tom Watson has always been such a good links player is that he accepts both bad luck and good fortune with the same “happy go lucky” attitude. Just listen to what he said afterwards about that shot into the 72nd hole …
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I’ve been writing a lot lately about the negative and positive golf psychology of fear on the golf course. While I’ve been thinking all about golf fear consciously, it seems that my unconscious mind has been quietly working away on the question of how we actual do this "fear" thing in our golf minds. Using a post-shot routine was the answer – to the problem, not the question.

Now in NLP and golf hypnosis, we have many ways of managing a person’s fears. If it’s a full blown phobia, we can deal with that easily. If it’s a habit or belief that’s blown out of all proportion, we can help there too using techniques like the NLP Swish Pattern. If we need a skill that someone else has we can use modelling and Richard Bandler’s "Stealing a Skill" technique. If the fear is doubt related and, as we might say colloquially, there’s a part of me that wants to play a risky shot and another part that’s saying it’s too dangerous, then we’ve got the NLP Visual Squash parts integration technique. And there are many more NLP tools we can use before we even start looking at golf hypnosis.

So why not use one of these techniques to manage or eliminate fear? Well, you can use these techniques and if they are really deep-seated fears, you may need them. But what about nipping the fears in the bud …
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There’s a danger we treat fear completely as a bad thing in golf psychology. Now I know this goes against a lot of what I’ve been saying, but I’m talking hear about the thin end of fear – nervousness. For many people, nervousness is the buzz of competition, whether we’re competing with other people, ourselves or the golf course we happen to be playing.

For many people the buzz is part of the enjoyment. Perhaps that’s what Mark Twain was referring to when he wrote that "Golf is a good walk spoiled" and HRH Princess Anne meant when she said “Golf seems to be an arduous way to go for a walk. I prefer to take the dogs out."

Personally, I feel that if I’m not nervously shaking when I get near the end of a seriously good scoring round or close game of match play then I might as well give up golf and go and do something else that excites and inspires me. Jack Nicklaus knew that if you didn’t feel nervous at the end of a tournament you’re trying to win then there’s something wrong with you – he thrived on it …
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How can golf psychology help you in overcoming the fear you have about hitting a bad shot on the golf course? Many people interpret this as classic fear of someone suffering from the putting yips who’s about to putt or the person suffering form the shanks and about to hit a short iron. But you can get the same type of fear when faced with a shot that you "always" hit badly or a hole that you always play badly. Perhaps your ball seems inexorably drawn to those trees on the right or that bunker on the left. Maybe it’s a water hazard that you just "never" seem to be able to carry.

Now one of the first things I learned in golf psychology was that "What the Thinker thinks, the Prover proves" to quote Robert Anton Wilson in his famous book about how the mind works, Prometheus Rising. In hypnosis terms this means that whatever we consciously think about we unconsciously make happen. In simple terms, if we consciously think about an ice-cream we unconsciously decide we want one and instinctively begin to taste one. If you’re driving on a motorway and someone draws your conscious attention to something way off to the right, you may suddenly notice yourself unconsciously steering in that direction.

Have you ever noticed how if you tell someone to not do something accidentally, that they automatically seem to do it anyway …
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