A philosophy that I believe in is one in which the swing is powered by the subconscious mind and reacts to the image that the conscious mind creates. I am not stating that a golfer’s physical technique is not important, because it is. I am simply stating that we should strive to attain a level where the physical technique becomes subconscious.
The target is and always will be the single most important piece of information that a golfer can think of prior to playing a shot. The target can be the hole, a spot on the green, a slope on the fairway, a tree, or any other distinguishable marking of the golf course. The important thing is to select a precise target and remain fully committed to it throughout the duration of the swing. Playing to one’s true potential requires the physical golf swing to be a subconscious reaction to a mental image of the target.
When people learn to type, they begin by visually scanning the keyboard and finger pecking each key. As they begin to remember the placement of the keys, their keystrokes become faster. Eventually, they will develop a mental map of the keyboard so that the physical keystrokes are no longer a function of the conscious mind, but that of the subconscious mind. As their mental map of the keyboard becomes more and more clear, their physical keystrokes become fast and effortless.
Similarly, people learning to play the guitar begin by learning the location of the strings and then the physical placement of the fingers. Eventually they will have memorized the strings, the placement of the fingers and enough notes to play an entire song. At this point, the physical movements are a function of the subconscious mind and do not require additional thought. People learning to play golf rarely take their golf swing to the point where it becomes a function of the subconscious mind. Instead, they consciously work on swing mechanics and remain forever frustrated with the game.
In most sports, athletes look at their target while performing their specific skill. For instance, baseball players look at their teammate while throwing the ball. Basketball players look at the hoop while shooting. Quarterbacks hypothesize and look at a spot where the receiver should be at the time that the football arrives at its destination. Field-goal kickers and soccer players are similar to golfers in that they look at the ball while maintaining a mental image of the target. In all of these scenarios, the physical motion is a subconscious action to the intention of sending the ball to the target.
Driving and full shots
Select a target in the fairway or on the green at which you plan to land your ball. If you are not able to identify with a spot on the ground, select a tree, edge of a bunker or any other identifiable target.
During my pre-shot routine, I determine a landing spot at which I intend to play my shot. Below, I am looking at my landing spot, creating an image that I will use during the swing. Simply looking at the target is enough for our mind and body to calibrate the desired motion of sending the ball there.
During the swing, I maintain the image of the target and in my mind’s eye. This allows my physical swing to be a subconscious reaction to the target.
Either select the hole as your target or spot on the green where you intend to land your ball. If a landing spot has been selected, visualize the desired trajectory of the ball as it lands on the spot for sufficient roll-out to reach the hole. The ability to control trajectory is critical in controlling distance.
Below, I am selecting my desired landing spot by visualizing my intended shot trajectory and roll out so that the ball finished in or around the hole.
Next, I maintain an image of the landing spot and trajectory so that I play the shot with accuracy and confidence.
Putting should be the easiest shot to allow the swing to become a subconscious reaction to the target. Select a precise target inside the hole. On breaking putts, select a target outside of the hole, but equal distance to it. A blade of grass, an old pitch mark, or simply a discoloration are all great targets for putting. Create an image of your target and see if you can stay committed to it for the duration of the stroke. If you can do this successfully, take the same mindset to pitching.
It is one thing to select a target, but to remain fully committed to it for the duration of a golf swing is paramount. Challenge yourself by seeing how committed to the target you can remain during a given swing. Assess you commitment on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is not committed at all and 10 is fully committed. During the golf swing, losing the image of the target represents a mental gap where fear, anxiety and tension can enter and break down even the best golf swings.
Understanding and learning how to keep your conscious mind focused and occupied with where you wish to send your ball, enables your subconscious mind to perform the physical movement, effortlessly and free of distraction. If you are not asking yourself, “What is my target?” before each and every shot, you are not giving yourself the opportunity to play the caliber of golf that you are capable of playing.
What should your hips do in the golf swing?
If you want to become more consistent, a better ball striker and hit longer golf shots then this is the video for you. This video will show you exactly what your hips pelvis should be doing during your backswing, downswing and through impact. Having great control of your pelvis and it’s movement will help you have greater control over your golf swing.
Playing in your mind vs. playing out of your mind
Comparing the recreational beginner to the elite player
As a player, I know there are rounds of golf where I feel like I worked extremely hard to achieve the results and there are also rounds that are effortless and just plain easy. Why do we go through these peaks and valleys in golf?
As an instructor and player, I want to explore a deeper understanding of what it means to be playing out of your mind vs. playing in your mind.
I want to address both beginners and elite players on their quest for better play. All beginners and elite players must understand that, as players, we are all experiencing ups and downs. The bottom line is that some handle them better than others.
Why is this a feeling golfers have: “playing out of your mind”?
Well, it is pure relaxation. It is fluid, seamless, continuous motion. No hang-ups. No hiccups.
The next big question, how do we achieve this regularly?
We get to this without forcing it, by believing in our makeup. It is locked in our subconscious. It is a controllable, uncontrollable. Subconsciously, your nervous system is in the green light. You are just doing. This is peak performance. This is the zone. This is playing autonomously, out of your mind.
I believe that over time, a golfer’s game is compiled in his/her built-up expectations of the player they truly believe they are. Expecting to make a putt vs. just so happening to make it feeds two different minds. When you place an expectation on an action tension is created. Tension creeps into our nervous system and our brains either respond or they don’t. This is called pressure. This is what I call playing in your mind. You are in your head, your thoughts are far too many and there is just a whole lot floating around up there.
The more players play/practice, the more they will expect out of themselves, and in result, create that pressure. (ie. Why progress is difficult to achieve the closer you get to shooting par or better). The best players are better at responding to that pressure. Their systems are auto-immune to pressure. (ie. Think of practice like medicine and think of a pre-shot routine like the Advil to help calm the spiking nerves.)
- Playing in your mind = high tension golf… you might need an Advil.
- Playing out of your mind = low tension golf… you are in a good headspace and are doing all the right things before your round even started.
The key to understanding here is that we can play in both minds and achieve success in either situation. It is all about managing yourself and your re-act game.
Subconscious playing is beyond enjoyable. It is more recreational in style. I believe beginners are playing more subconsciously, more recreationally. I believe elite players can learn from the beginner because they are achieving superior moments and sensations more subconsciously, more often. All players at all levels have off days. It is important to remember we all have this in common.
The goal is always to play your best. When I play my best, there are no preconceived thoughts of action. It’s simply action. Playing out of your mind is an unwritten script, unrehearsed, and unrepeatable on a day to day basis, you’re living it.
Say you have that one round, that out of your mind, crazy good day. The next few days, what do you do? Do you try to mimic everything you did to achieve that low number? As good players, we take these great days and try to piece it together into a script of playing. We know we can get it down to almost damn near perfect. The more a player rehearses the better they get. Edits are made…knowing that things are always shifting. Visualization is key.
No doubt, it’s a huge cycle. Players are in a continuous race to achieve results in numbers. Players looking to reach great success should generate a journal/log and compile a record and playback method and revisit it repeatedly.
There is no secret or magic…it takes mastering the minds to achieve the best results more often. Most important, as players, we must recognize that during our amazing rounds…
- We are relaxed
- We are having fun
- We are just doing
In this game, the deeper we go, the more we propose to be there. It will always bring us back to the basics. One complete full circle, back to the beginner in all of us. So, the next time an experienced player sees a beginner on the first tee…take a moment and appreciate that player!
Remember to enjoy the walk and believe that hard work always works!
Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about the zone and how to become accustomed to playing autonomously.
Equipment improvements are even better for women! Now they are getting over 300 yards!
We had a sweet driver shaft fitting at Club Champion in January. We picked up the shaft in their store in Phoenix and that afternoon, and Savannah hit two benchmark drives at 305 and another at 317 yards! Kinda makes you a bit of a believer, huh!? We are looking forward to seeing the numbers on our GC Quad back home this week to check out the difference. Stay tuned for next week!
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