Archive for Golf in the Playing Zone

So what makes so many of the world’s top golfers look so nonchalant, especially during the last nine on Sunday, when they are really trying to win? Well, it obviously includes technical golfing skill, course management and an understanding of the physics of golf. However, when I first work on the course with some of my new clients, I see golfers who have all those things and more. The problem is that they’re not yet winning or coming in the top 10 very often.

What makes the difference …
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As a golf psychologist using hypnosis and NLP, I am often asked about the merits of taking swing thoughts or keys out onto the golf course when they play. I’m thinking here about some of the classic ones like “keep your head down”, “keep your eye on the ball”, “swing back in one piece”, “left shoulder under the chin”, etc.

Now, my major concern about swing thoughts and keys is not so much about their content, but rather about when you think of them. Some would argue that there’s no place for them at all during a round of golf and they should be confined to the practice ground. While I broadly agree with this, I feel it’s more important to eliminate conscious thoughts about the swing once you step in to address the ball.

There are parts of a golfer’s routine that require conscious though and there are parts where it’s better to trust your unconscious …
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Practice Rounds

Why do golfers talk themselves into playing the shots they don’t want to hit? I’m talking here about saying or thinking to yourself something like, “Now, don’t hit it into the water”. If it wasn’t the water, it could have been the bunker, the trees or the wrong side of the green that they were trying to avoid. If it wasn’t one of those, it could have been about not slicing, hooking, topping, shanking or yipping, for all I know. …
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I’m delighted to announce the completion and launch of the sixth of my new golf hypnosis programmes, “Golf in the Playing Zone”. It’s been a dream of mine to help people to get into the zone when they play golf, especially around their in the Playing Zone, and now, here it is. I’ve subtitled the new MP3 program, Anchor Hypnosis Unconsciously for Golf in the Playing Zone and Silence your Inner Critic, and it’s available to purchase now from the Golf Hypnotist Store.

Golf in the Playing Zone This new “Golf in the Playing Zone” programme is available in MP3 format for download, with the three long and powerful golf hypnosis sessions, each running for around 22-32 minutes. I developed the individual sessions on similar lines to the “Your Own Virtual Caddy” programme, so you’re getting more than three times the hypnosis from each programme. I have outlined the purpose of each track later in this email.

I will also be publishing a further 4 more new Golf Hypnosis MP3 audio programmes over the next month or so. As with the other new programmes, I will be including at least 3 new golf hypnosis sessions in each programme.

Although the programme names may change a little before release, here is the full list, for now:

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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 …
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Do you talk to yourself when you’re playing golf? Well, if you don’t, you may have a serious problem. It’s called brain death! Self-talk, otherwise known as internal dialogue or intrapersonal communication, is one of the main functions of our conscious mind. It allows us to make sense of our conflicting thoughts and to express our ideas and feelings to ourselves. Most of the time we talk to ourselves internally and sometimes, particularly after a bad shot, we share our self-talk with everyone in earshot. That can be a large distance with some of the golfer’s I’ve played with!

Self talk really comes into its own when we are internally analysing and evaluating complex choices in our lives. A good example is when you are starting your pre-shot routine and deciding on the type of shot you’re going to play. Have you ever had one voice in your head proposing an ambitious shot with a driver and another one encouraging you to make a more conservative shot with an iron? Don’t worry about it. It’s perfectly normal and unlikely to be a symptom of schizophrenia!

Now, I’ve often written about the concept that whatever we consciously think about our unconscious mind does it’s best to deliver. And self-talk is the most powerful and influential mechanism for conscious thought …
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I’ve been thinking about the application of golf psychology to the issue of the swing thought. In other words, what do you and should you be thinking about when you actually swing the club. It seems that every time I watch someone play they seem to be taking an inordinate amount of time fidgeting with their grip, their stance or their play. The more time they take to get round to swinging the club, the more likely they are to hit a bad shot. One golfer I met recently admitted to almost running between shots so that he has adequate time available to fidget over the ball.

The average golfer is often preoccupied with his current set of – sometimes conflicting – technical swing thoughts, from coaches, books, websites and golf magazines and TV programmes. And even if he isn’t, someone may have given him a set of the tee pegs I saw recently that had different swing thoughts printed on each one!

Now to be absolutely clear, I do believe that you should take adequate time to consciously plan your shots before stepping up to the ball and taking your stance. And this should include time to fully visualise and rehearse the shot or putt that you are about to make. I’ve written before about Jack Nicklaus describing how he’s never hit a shot without first seeing himself playing it …
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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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