The golf psychology of thinking less and playing better unconscious golf


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.

I also believe that once you have that clear visualisation of the shot you are about to make and the confidence of the short-term recent memory of your rehearsal or practice swing, then the sooner you hit the ball with that thought in your mind, the better. If your rehearsal swing was adequate, then there’s nothing more to do than to take your stance, briefly check your alignment, take one last look at your target and start your swing – before you forget how you rehearsed it. If you needed any specific swing thoughts, then you must really have incorporated them in your rehearsal swing.

That’s what I mean when I keep harping on about unconscious golf. Your unconscious mind knows all about the shot you’re visualising and it also knows about the rehearsal swing you just made. Now’s the time to get your conscious mind out of the way and let your unconscious mind do its job and hit the ball the way you visualised and rehearsed. It’s that simple.

How I wished I’d understood this back in my youth when I played off 2-handicap. I even had regular demonstrations of it when I played with my father’s friend. If you haven’t already read the article that comes with my free "Your Own Virtual Caddy" golf hypnosis programme, then let me explain. He was a fanatical newcomer to golf – yes we’ve all been one – and whenever I played with him he would try to get to my ball before I did so that he could ask me how I planned to play the shot. What I didn’t realise at the time was that by describing my thoughts in detail, I had to visualise the shot to describe it.

By the time I’d finished explaining it all, I was rushing to hit the ball and didn’t have any time for any swing thoughts. I just quickly took a practice swing and hit the ball without further conscious thought. If only I’d realised how much better my shots went and how well I scored playing with him. I didn’t realise until I started developing my own approach to golf psychology and understood the power of trusting my unconscious.

Now I’ve written here before about the perils of Analysis Paralysis , the benefits of Visualisation and the need to Speed up your shot routines, but I’m not alone. In researching this article I found an interesting question asked by Karl Morris,

"Whenever you have played your very best golf, is it usually down to MORE or LESS thinking?"

I’ll leave you to answer that one for yourself.


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