Beware the sick golfer playing better golf in his unconscious golf mind


Have you ever had one of those days when you played better golf than normal, despite having your mind clearly focussed somewhere other than golf. Maybe it’s when there’s something exciting or absorbing going on in your life that has nothing to do with golf. At the other extreme, it could be a time when you’re feeling ill or worried about yourself. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “beware the sick golfer” and that’s what was said about Y E Yang when he shot a 7-under par 65 on the Friday of the Chevron World Challenge. Afterwards, he related the experience to what happened at qualifying school in 2008 when “I had a huge headache because I was under a lot of mental stress.” This time, he went on, “I still have a headache, but it’s more because of illness, not because of any pressure or stress.” Another good example was Tiger Woods winning the 2008 US Open despite the obvious pain from his knee.

So what’s happening here? Well, if your mind is focussed elsewhere, it’s your conscious mind that’s doing the focussing, whether it’s worrying about your health, doubting whether you should be out here on the golf course or just thinking about what you’ll be doing after the game. The only part of you that’s free to think about golf is your unconscious golf mind and trusting your unconscious is one of the most important and effective of my secrets of hypnotic golf.

Now, you probably know that I’m a qualified clinical hypnotherapist and one of the keys to successful hypnosis and hypnotherapy is to pre-occupy or confuse the client’s conscious mind, or simply send it off somewhere nice, while I communicate directly with her unconscious mind, the storehouse off all her knowledge, experience, skill and resources. Coming full circle, that’s just what we’re looking for when we’re on the golf course looking to trust our unconscious golf mind.

That reminds me of a story about the advice that Bob Rotella was giving Mike Weir early in the year before an important tournament. Any advice from Bob is usually good advice and what he told Mike Weir was to “Try to go unconscious on the course.” I looked that up on the internet and found Bob saying pretty much the same thing about avoiding choking under pressure by turning off your conscious mind and switching to your unconscious one. He also tells his clients to, “practice their swing technique all they want on the driving range, but on the course, let instinct take over.”

I agree with Bob that given an absolute choice between playing golf in the conscious or unconscious minds, I’d have to go for the unconscious for better golf. However, I think that the best golf is played using the conscious and unconscious golf minds selectively and independently for different tasks. There’s an important separation in the mind between planning a shot, a conscious process, and executing it, an unconscious process. Have you noticed how when you hit a really good shot, you tend to think,” Wow, what happened there? What did I just do right?” The odd thing is that it usually happens when you didn’t have a thought, at least a conscious one, in your head.

Now isn’t that more or less the same thing that happens when a golfer’s conscious mind is “clogged up” with a cold or flu?

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