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Why intelligent golfers can under perform

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The following is an excerpt of an email I received from a frustrated golfer!

“…I do have an athletic (baseball) background and have gotten my handicap as low as 8 on athletic ability alone. That coupled with enough intelligence to join Mensa, I thought I should be able to ‘figure out’ the golf swing…”

Intelligent? For sure — and yet — he did not “figure it out” and does not play up to his abilities and potential. What about you? You’re smart, right? You consider yourself intelligent, right? Then why aren’t you playing up to your potential more often? Good question!

Intelligence is Not Enough

Here’s the rub; good golf has little to do with intelligence. Sure, you need to use your mind to think, analyze and choose. However, there are a lot of very smart people who under-perform on the golf course.  Do you know anyone who “knows” what to do yet still does not do it? How many golfers know they shouldn’t get angry, overreact, use the driver instead of the 3-wood, should practice proper breathing, work on their mental game, trust their swing more, make better choices on shot selection and so on? How many golfers do you know who have decent talent and a lot of knowledge about the golf swing who STILL under-perform?

Truth is, you don’t hit the golf ball with your intelligence. The mind is a powerful tool but when overused it can become a detriment to your game. Many golfers have told me they get frustrated when they can’t “figure out” what is holding them back! Interesting. The thing holding them back is actually IN their mind and yet they are trying to use their mind to find it!

Here’s how the intelligent mind can get in your way on the course:

  • The need to over analyze: The mind’s job is to think so that’s what it does. It will analyze and over analyze relentlessly. This uses a lot of the vital energy you need to play your best golf! You cannot be loose and let go while the mind is working. The body needs to be left alone so it can do what you’ve trained it to do.
  • The need to evaluate/judge: The overactive intelligent mind also loves to judge. ”That was no good.” “I’m no good.” “What a horrible swing” and on and on it goes. Once again, a gross misuse of your energy. The more energy you use in your mind the LESS ENERGY you have for your physical body and emotions to use! You are now an out of balance golfer and out of synch, which affects rhythm, timing and consistency.
  • The need to make lists: The intelligent mind loves to make lists and is checking it off just like a pilot does before take-off. Was my preparation good? Is my set-up proper? Do I have the right club? Once again, all of this is fine — when you’re not hitting the ball — but is nothing but an interference to a smooth, rhythmical and powerful golf swing.
  • Lack of Trust: The mind likes to be in control and when it is, there may be a lack of trust in the golf swing and in yourself to be the best you can on the course. How can you let go and be fearless when the mind is running on with its doubts, fears, checklists and concerns for perfection? You can’t.

All great performances in any walk of life are a result of BOTH using the mind for preparation and then NOT USING THE MIND when it’s time to execute. Golf is best performed when the mind is still, quiet and not interfering with your body. Your body WANTS to perform. Let it! It doesn’t need your mind to do this.

What Do You Do?

Here are three steps you can take to quiet the intellect on every shot:

  1. Compartmentalize: Break your pre-shot routine into 2 phases. Phase 1 is preparation. Use your mind all you need to calculate, evaluate and choose.
  2. Phase 2 is next: Just before stepping out of phase 1 and into address position, repeat “All my thinking is done. I don’t need to do it now because I trust I’ve prepared properly and will let go.”
  3.  Step into address: Exhale fully and swing within 15-to-20 seconds.

Use the power of your mind at the right time and your game can change for the better!

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David Breslow is a National Speaker, Author and Performance Coach. His online program, “Wired to Win,” is golf's leading performance program and called “A breath of fresh air.” No psychology. No theories. A simple and reliable path to play your best—consistently. For more info. please visit: http://www.mentalgolfcoaching.com

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. snookybusby

    Feb 17, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    My mental game is the worst! I know for a fact on my first drive that I will shank it. Top it, hook it, slice it, doesn’t matter. And it is really frustrating because my average drive is 280-300 so I step up to these back tees and look like an idiot. Rest of the round this doesn’t happen. And I have really just accepted it, but I wish I could fix that!

    • snookybusby

      Feb 17, 2014 at 10:03 pm

      Oh, and I have tried hitting a 2 iron or 3 wood…same thing. Purely mental, not a club choice. Maybe I will play the first hole from the ladies tees and then the rest from the tips…lol

  2. WarrenPeace

    Feb 17, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    15 – 20 seconds?? – I say miss em quick and keep up- that will keep you from over thinking. You’ll score better as a result of feeling the shot rather than thinking the shot.

  3. GolferX

    Feb 17, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    it’s not the thinking that’s a problem, it’s the drinking…

  4. Dennis Corley

    Feb 17, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    He HAD to mean 1.5 to 2.0 seconds… Agreed that 15 seconds over the ball doing anything has got to be bad.

    Good points otherwise.

  5. NoSpin

    Feb 17, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    I would think that anyone who described himself as a good athlete has to understand that so often the best performances come with no conscious thinking at all, i.e., “in the zone”.

    I would also think that a “good athlete” (unless that is weight lifting or tumbling etc) would grasp the concept and importance of “feel”. I know a ton of guys who played linebacker in high school, call themselves good athletes but have the touch and feel of a blacksmith.

  6. Jim Benjamin

    Feb 17, 2014 at 11:44 am

    At an IQ of 126 I’m not a Mensa candidate but I do think too much. I’m one of those “I know the swing but can’t perform” types. I take simple concepts and make them more complicated because that’s my nature, understand the details. To me an action can be done many ways and which is correct? After I “got” Homer Kelly’s concepts I felt I knew it all. (LOL) I have resorted to visualization and that has helped as I have lowered my handicap by 8 strokes.

  7. Dadude

    Feb 15, 2014 at 2:46 am

    Yes, you are right about over thinking IF you don’t have the data. Thinkers can play excellent golf if they have the proper instruction and the right material to study.

  8. Double Mocha Man

    Feb 14, 2014 at 10:06 am

    Sheesh! 15 – 20 seconds should be enough for your club selection, tossing some grass in the air, a sip of beer, pre-shot routine, addressing the ball and hitting it, cursing and throwing the club. Whatever happened to speeding up the pace of play?

    • yo!

      Feb 14, 2014 at 2:08 pm

      when I want to go over 100 of my swing thoughts, I take about 14 seconds at address.

    • jim

      Feb 14, 2014 at 2:34 pm

      haha, man you’re right about that. 20 seconds x 90 strokes / 60 seconds x 3 playing partners is an hour and a half hour per round of me waiting for dudes to hit the damn ball. there are some good points in the article; specifically, over-thinking and lack of trust.

  9. Dan

    Feb 13, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    I hope you can hit the ball after addressing it quicker than 15-20 seconds. That’s a long time to stand over the ball with no breath in your lungs. 1-3 seconds is probably more appropriate…

  10. R

    Feb 13, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    Yup, my life

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