Jul
31

Play unconscious golf in the zone or in a trance-like cocoon of concentration

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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.

Before starting on a long car journey, most drivers spend a little time planning their journey. They consider the merits of different routes, taking into consideration factors like road works, whether they prefer to drive on main roads, the impact of rush-hour traffic and many other factors including the weather. Once they start driving, most of these people drive safely while settling down to conscious pursuits like talking to their passengers, working out the personal and business problems in their mind or just daydreaming. Their unconscious mind keeps them safe and follows all the techniques and processes they learned years ago. How often have you drivers been on a long familiar journey and suddenly just seemed to "wake up" thinking, "How did I get here?" It can be quite worrying the first time it happens, but your unconscious mind has protected you along the way.

If a top golfer described a similar experience, we’d be inclined to think they were "in the zone" or, as Tony Jacklin famously referred to it after his major wins in the early 70s, in a "cocoon of concentration." Years later, Nick Faldo talked about getting into a trance-like state, he called it a "cocoon", during the week of a major. He went on to describe it as "a state of oblivion where I shut out all the people on and off the course."

So, like the driver I described earlier consciously plans the journey in advance, the golfer consciously plans his shot taking into account all the information available, including his lie, how he’s playing today, the weather and wind conditions, the distance, the landing area and his chosen target. He completes his conscious preparation and then transitions to his unconscious mind by recalling a similar shot and vividly imagining the experience of hitting by stepping into his stance and trusting his unconscious mind to hit the ball. Put differently, the golfer is “in the zone” or in a “cocoon of concentration”, a trance-like state of oblivion. That sounds good to me!

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