Archive for October, 2009

How much is the accuracy of your golf shot influenced by club alignment at address and how much is down to your instinctive or unconscious golf ability? Now I’m not talking here about the complexity of aligning the various parts of your body when you address the ball. That’s a subject for your golf pro, not your golf psychologist. All I’m interested in here is the alignment of your club face at address.

I’ve been writing a lot recently about the importance, in golf psychology terms, of a quick transition from the conscious processes of planning your golf shot and selecting the right club and the unconscious process of taking your stance and hitting the ball. What concerns me most is that while the best golfers seem to take as little as 11 seconds to complete this transition the average golfer seems to take that long just to align their stance and the clubface.

Now, I don’t want you to go straight out and time how long you take …
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Golf instructors often talk about the transition in the golf swing as that pause between completing the backswing and starting the downswing. They often suggest that slowing down the transition is one of the most important keys to hitting a good shot.

Well, I’m not qualified to comment on the technicalities of the golf swing. However, I am qualified to comment on what for me is an even more important transition in golf psychology. It’s the transition from the conscious analytical planning phase of your pre-shot routine to the unconscious instinctive phase of actually hitting the ball. Unlike the pause at the top of the backswing, the faster you can comfortably make this transition, the better and more consistently you’ll find yourself striking the ball or rolling the putt.

If you watch the top players in the world, like Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, you’ll notice that they take very little time between taking their chosen club out of the bag and hitting the ball …
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As a golf psychologist, I am especially interested in the importance of separating the conscious and unconscious elements of the pre-shot routine and the actual striking of the ball. In an ideal world, we should use our conscious rational mind, sometimes referred to as our Left Brain, for planning our shots and our unconscious instinctive mind, or Right Brain to manage the execution of each shot. Yes, I know that there’s lots of controversy in psychology circles about where these functions actually exist in the brain, but, however it’s actually organised, the conscious and unconscious processes of the brain do seem to work separately to our advantage.

When we learn to do anything new, we employ our amazing analytical power of our conscious mind to work out how to do it. We keep trying new ways and deciding on which is the best for us in a particular situation. The process is very effective in the long term, but very slow and frustrating. This is what’s going on when we learn to ride a bike, drive a car or have a golf lesson. It often seems frustrating or even down right impossible to achieve.

After much trial, error and frustration, we eventually learn the new skill …
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Practicing golf in your mind, mental golf if you like, is just as effective as playing golf and physical practice on the range, if you want to play better golf. As I’ve written many times before, it also works a lot better when accompanied by golf hypnosis and other golf psychology techniques.

But there’s a problem. How do you imagine hitting shots from difficult lies if you’re playing an imaginary round? Surely you’d have to hit bad imaginary shots in order to get into the difficult positions. Wouldn’t that be bad golf psychology?

When you play golf for real, you’ll probably hit the odd bad shot now and then. Hopefully, you’re already using a good post-shot routine, so you’ll be able to learn from the bad shot and release it to the past. It can’t hurt you there. Maybe you could use the "Reset Button" technique Nick Faldo spoke of when commentating on Tiger Woods the other week …
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The ability to learn from your bad shots and release them from your mind is one of the keys to winning golf. You only have to look at the world’s greatest ever golfers to see this. I don’t ever recall seeing the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo dwelling for any length of time over a bad shot or allow one to affect a subsequent shot they had to play. They certainly got over it before they played their next shot and just went back to their regular routine.

One of the key techniques in the application of golf hypnosis is the use of metaphor to communicate a concept that may be rejected or over analysed by the conscious mind. As an example, if I wanted someone to swing their golf club naturally and unconsciously, I might talk to them about the way they throw a ball of paper into a wastepaper basket or skim a stone across a pond – without any conscious thought.

So I’m always on the lookout for a good metaphor …
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Here’s a brief video with some interesting thoughts on golf psychology of self talk and how it can affect your golf by Dave Stockton. I found it last week when I was looking to find out more about Dave and the putting tip he gave Phil Mickelson the week before his amazing win the Tour Championship at East Lake

I particularly like the concept of sitting in your office or at home rehearsing all the unpleasant things you’re going to say to yourself when you’re out on the golf course. If that sounds utterly ridiculous, then why do so many of us talk to ourselves so badly when we hit a bad shot? If one of our playing partners said the same thing, we’d probable decide then and there not to ever play with them again.

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So praise yourself for every good shot you hit and learn from and release any bad shot before you start getting abusive. You’ll enjoy your golf more and play better.

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Now you know I almost always write about the conscious and unconscious golf mind in my articles and rarely, if ever, say anything about the technical aspects of the golf swing or putting stroke in my blog.

Well today is different, as the man who can give such an effective putting tip that it helps Phil Mickelson to win the Tour Championship just has to be seen and heard. So here’s a brief video of Dave Stockton describing his approach to putting.

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Don’t worry, as I’ll be back on track with Golf Psychology and Golf Hypnosis in my next article.

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