Oct
22

The golf psychology of going on a pre-shot routine journey with your Right and Left Brain

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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 and improve our execution, but we still have to concentrate fully to do it. Then one day, we suddenly realise that we are just executing the new skill instinctively. We’ve learned the right way to apply the skill and it now seems just instinctive and so much easier than we ever expected. We suddenly find we can drive the car or ride the bike without really thinking about it and we can do other things at the same time, like talking to people, enjoying the scenery and thinking consciously about other things.

So what does all this have to do with my pre-shot routine, I hear you say. Well, everything in fact. Every shot you play is a new experience, even if the ball is in exactly the same place as a shot you played before and the target is exactly the same. The grass may be a little longer or shorter, the wind may be different, it may be hotter or cooler and the green may be harder or softer. As a result, you need your conscious rational mind to plan the shot and evaluate all the possibilities. For me that’s the objective of the first part of your pre-shot routine – the planning phase. It’s a bit like planning a journey in the car. You think about when and how you want to arrive at your destination, look at the map, check the traffic reports, listen to the weather and consider many other things before you leave the house.

Once you’ve decided on the shot you’re going to play, you should be handing over to your unconscious instinctive mind to hit the shot and just concentrating consciously on the shot result you’re looking for. Continuing the car journey analogy, once you’ve planned your journey, you’d just get into the car and drive, without consciously thinking about how to drive the car. You’d be consciously thinking about the journey and unconsciously driving the car. The same should be happening with your golf swing.

In your golf pre-shot routine, the transition from the conscious planning phase to the unconscious shot-hitting phase is the practice or rehearsal swing. It’s a bit like getting into the car, checking the brake’s on and the gearbox is in neutral and turning the engine on. If you were flying an airplane, you’d use your pre-flight checklist. Once your practice swing feel’s right for the shot, you step into the shot and hit it, without engaging your conscious mind other than to think about your target result as you drive off.

Separating your conscious rational Left Brain thought processes from the unconscious instinctive Right Brain task of hitting the ball is one of the secrets of hypnotic golf.

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