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Dr. Gupta: On Becoming A Golfing God

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You have had those days before. You speak of them still.

It matters not your age. Or your level of skill. You know exactly the days that I am speaking of. The days where you could do no wrong. The days in which golf felt effortless. The days in which the ball seemed to gravitate toward the hole. The days in which you marveled at your own possibilities.

Those rare and treasured days in which you tasted The Zone.

It is at once mythical, mystical and mysterious. It is the subject of legend and lore. But you have lived the legend. And you have craved it ever since.

How could you have it one day and lose it the next? Is it not possible to bottle it? Or to tease it out of hiding?

Like all things, the first step is to understand it. And in this journey to understand what it is, we must first understand what it is not.

Much of what you are about to read will surprise you. For it will likely be the antithesis of what you have heard.

The zone has more to do with the mind than it does with the brain. The fascination with electrodes and brain signals and imaging reflecting glucose uptake is simply an example of scientists playing with their toys. Its real world application takes place only in the pages of reference-laden journals, rather than in the day-to-day experience of the human being that is the golfer.

What do I mean?

When a golfer is in the zone, do you think he cares which of his brain hemispheres was more active or what his heart rate was or which parts of his brains lit up on the scan?

And can the scientists who disseminate all of this impressive jargon take a golfer and put him into the zone using all of their fancy toys?

Forget the electrodes and the scans and the myelination and the motor patterns. Let’s talk about the reality that YOU the golfer knows. And what YOU the golfer experiences on any given day.

Let us move on to the mind.

Perhaps the most ubiquitous phrase in the lexicon of sport psychology is Mental Toughness. Sport psychologists love this phrase. Let me ask you a question. When you are not playing well is it because your mind is your friend or your enemy? And if it is your enemy, why would you want your enemy to be tough? If it is your mind that gets in the way of your performance, would you rather it be a tough adversary or a weak one?

The zone has nothing to do with mental toughness.

What about all the talk about positive self-talk? You have surely tried to tell yourself that you CAN DO IT and that YOU WILL PREVAIL. And when you did, did the mind not whisper back? Which voice had the greater effect? Your self-talk? Or the mind’s response?

What about thinking positive thoughts? You have likely tried this as well. When you had a positive thought it made you feel better, right? But how many seconds did it take for the negative thoughts to return?

You have perhaps even tried breathing, yoga, meditation, positive imagery, visualization, aphorisms, exercise and diet modification. Did any of these do the trick?

If you agree to suspend all of this ill logic. If you can abandon for a few minutes this bag of colorful potions, perhaps we can have a serious conversation.

Are you ready?

The side effects of the zone may be detected in the brain, but the zone itself is not found there. The zone has nothing to do with mental toughness. The zone is not about calming the mindcontrolling the mindappeasing the mind, or taming the mind.

In case you have not noticed, the mind cannot be tamed. It was never meant to be tamed. The mind is a tempest. A wild beast. Frenzy is its very nature. And if you stand in the way of this storm, you will be devoured.

The zone is not a state of a strong mind, a quiet mind, or a calm mind.

The zone is a state of No Mind.

When you experienced those tranquil, effortless days in which you accessed the zenith of your skill, it was because you had transcended the mind. Purely by accident. You did not have positive thoughts or happy thoughts. You had NO THOUGHTS. When there is no mind there is no thought. And when there is no thought, you have access to the full sum of your skill.

Can we get into the zone at will? Certainly. But it will cost you something that you may not be willing to pay: Your intelligence. The deep-seated belief which says that YOU KNOW.

Understanding the state of no mind will be more about unlearning rather than learning. It will require you to abandon all that you have been told. It will require you to admit a certain degree of ignorance. In accepting ignorance, you will begin to clear your mind of the cobwebs of thoughts. And you will begin the road toward clarity.

Can you do it? Can you make yourself available to existence? Can you let go of the knowledge of which you are so proud? Can you allow yourself Just To Be? Can you allow yourself to regress into childhood? Wholly new and innocent?

If you are willing, you will have started the journey. The journey toward No Mind. The journey toward clarity.

The journey toward becoming A Golfing God.

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Dr. Gupta is the founder of Siddha Performance, a company that teaches human beings to transcend their own mind in order to access the source of superhuman performance. Dr. Gupta has devoted close to 30 years of his life developing understandings and techniques that allow human beings to transcend the mind. Through his analysis and experimentation he has discovered that ultimate freedom and ultimate performance arise NOT from within the mind, but beyond it. Dr. Gupta can be contacted directly at DrGupta@Siddhaperformance.com His work and his writings can be found at http://www.siddhaperformance.com/ He also appears weekly on PGA Tour's "On the Mark" radio show with Mark Immelman.

39 Comments

39 Comments

  1. Michael Holmstrom

    Jan 6, 2015 at 10:00 pm

    Great Article. Basically similar to other things i’ve read from Bob Rotella, etc. I was excited to go out today and play, doing my best to eliminate conscious swing thoughts I normally use during setup and swing, i.e. kick left hip out, Flare the left foot, lower right shoulder, blah blah. Instead I just tried to “feel” the setup in my body and adjust setup based on tee. Old thoughts still creep in on the tee, or on the putting green, but i’d say i was successful about 80% of the shots. I play to a 9.5 index and shot a 74 today with 4 birdies. My second best round of my life. This stuff works….just saying!!

  2. other paul

    Jan 4, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    Golf is thinking followed by focused thoughts directing an action. Not thinking and then no thinking.

  3. other paul

    Jan 4, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    I was playing Virtual golf (36 holes in one hour) one night and found the zone for 1 shot. What I felt was a overwhelming focus and confidence (not an empty mind) in the task at hand. I knew exactly what I was going to do and how to do it. I then stepped up to the ball and thought “right at the pin” and hit it. Landed 10′ past from 194yards and almost hit the stick. I disagree with empty mind, an empty mind is not a focused mind. I also have found the zone in martial arts as well a single time while fighting. It was a amazing, felt like Jet Li for 30 seconds.

    • Philip

      Jan 4, 2015 at 9:39 pm

      Depends on the individual and how one defines an empty mind. For myself, my mind is constantly full of thoughts. My best golf is when I focus on my objective, visualize the result, step up to the ball and execute. To me that is an empty mind – not thinking about and being distracted by the wind, that golfer who won’t shut up, the traffic, the office, what am I having for supper, and the pain in my left leg, etc.

      For myself, being in the zone is a form of walking meditation. So for me, I agree with the concept of an empty mind where I hardly notice the golfers I am playing with when I approach my ball. What I still find difficult is switching this state of mind off and on so that I can still enjoy the company of those I play a round of golf with. It is easy to switch off, not so easy to get back to it.

  4. Mike Belkin

    Jan 4, 2015 at 10:18 am

    Great piece, and totally agree on the “unlearning” component in that we have to remove our preconceived notions and “let go” to help get in the zone.

  5. Craig T Nelson

    Jan 3, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    More WRX. Scam material

  6. Beacher50

    Jan 2, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    What did Chevy Chase say in Caddyshack…NA NA NA…NU NU NU…NH NH NH

  7. Toby Smith

    Jan 2, 2015 at 8:42 am

    Really interesting article, but leaves out the key info….how do you achieve it! I struggle to keep my mind quiet, would love more info about how to achieve this.

    • Barry S.

      Jan 2, 2015 at 11:48 pm

      Visualize the shot with your third eye and you’re pretty much there.

    • David

      Jan 3, 2015 at 9:28 am

      Didn’t you read? You must unlearn what you have learned. Go watch Star Wars – The Empire Strikes Back. If you are still asking this question, you have completely missed the point of the Force and need to watch again.

    • Anon

      Jan 10, 2015 at 1:35 am

      For the low price of 399.95 he be willing to show you the secrets of the no-mind!

  8. ???

    Jan 2, 2015 at 4:56 am

    Great piece,

    Pleasure to see a golf related subject not covered in launch monitor data, or every golf psychology terminology under the sun. Golf was played well, by more skilful players than the modern day tour pro long before these two over subscribed genres ever came into prominence, so all aspiring players please take note. Play the game as it should be, which is ‘a game’, with the best results often found when simply mucking around or experimenting, it’s all in the dirt so to speak, and having lots of lessons will not give you the answer. Only you can find the answer from within, by trying a variety of styles/techniques that suit your own individual awareness and feel proprioception. Mimicking others will not help, as that is there journey and you need to follow your own, Furyk/Watson/Kuchar don’t stand on the range wishing they looked like some text book swing, when they are laughing their way to majors and top ten finishes. If they had been told they must follow the norm be that technical or mental they would never have made it to the top!

    • Kapil Gupta, MD

      Jan 2, 2015 at 11:32 am

      Amen, friend. Your wisdom shines through.

    • Armisen

      Jan 3, 2015 at 12:40 pm

      Sorry, I don’t buy it.

      MANY people ‘muck around’, without help, and get stuck in an endless pattern of experimentation and a constantly changing swing that never allows them to progress as a player (this coming from a creative-type, avid golf experimenter).

      Surely there is a middle ground where one can learn the game with the help of someone who encourages experimentation within some guidelines.

      And players of old were more skillful than their modern-day counterparts? I’d like to know how you measure that. Smacks of bias to me.

      • Philip

        Jan 3, 2015 at 5:45 pm

        I guess it depends on how they “muck” around. If they just try different things then I totally agree as I did exactly that a few years ago and did nothing but go in circles. However, if they are starting to listen to their body (i.e. instincts) while experimenting (paying attention to cause and effect) then they can open up a large door to improvement if they try to simplify what they are doing.

        Can people accelerate in their game with outside help – for sure (videos, books, golfing partners, etc.) I personally have found it difficult to find a golf coach who was on my page or was able to get me to their page – tricky for sure, but I will be trying again with another course pro this spring. I learn so much from other golfers each time I play (both better and worse than myself) so why not from a teacher of golf. Every little bit helps.

        I agree with your third point – players of long ago are not more skillful than yesterday, today, or tomorrow. Each independent era had the most skillful players of that time based on the then current course conditions, equipment and knowledge available. If you took anyone from two era’s at their prime and they competed together they would both get better as a result of learning from each other.

  9. Fred

    Jan 2, 2015 at 12:30 am

    I wonder if the author even golfs….

  10. Bla bla

    Jan 1, 2015 at 9:25 pm

    Booooring! To long didn’t even start reading it!

  11. Brad Ingarfield

    Jan 1, 2015 at 8:58 pm

    Very interesting. I’ll give it a shot. – Brad Ingarfield

  12. KK

    Jan 1, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    Is this really an article on GolfWRX about how to be a god or gain superhuman abilities by using something that is beyond my mind?

  13. J

    Jan 1, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    Irreverent and offensive title for an article and a statement.

    Equating to some ability to focus on a task to Godliness however unintentional or not intended is despicable.

    Choose better words next time.

    • Philip

      Jan 1, 2015 at 10:42 pm

      Very relevant and non-offensive. Definitely not despicable as many individuals often blame their success on some “God” and not themselves. Not religious in any shape or form as “Gods” have existed in human affairs for thousands of years and numerous “Gods” still do to this day.

      • J

        Jan 2, 2015 at 7:12 pm

        Irreverent… Not irrelevant.

        • Philip

          Jan 2, 2015 at 11:08 pm

          Gotcha, missed that. However, I do not think there is any disrespect here. Beside, I personally would not want to be a golfing god, how boring – takes all the fun out of golf. That being said, there is no disrespect in accepting that our bodies and senses, as designed, know more how to play golf than our intellectual minds. If anything, it is a sign of respect that we know so little within our minds.

          As was said a long time ago, our hands know more on how to play golf than our minds will ever know.

    • Scooter McGavin

      Jan 2, 2015 at 10:34 pm

      Which of the hundreds of gods is he being offensive to? Take your sermons elsewhere, please.

    • Splatgirl

      Jan 3, 2015 at 11:57 am

      Get over yourself.

      • Splatgirl

        Jan 3, 2015 at 11:59 am

        This was in reply to J, not you, Scooter.

  14. Philip

    Jan 1, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    That has been my journey over the last two years with my swing, setup and execution on the course. No thoughts – just let my body determine what is required based on what my eyes see, my senses feel, and the visualization of the ball flight in my mind.

    The more i try to control with my thoughts what has to happen and how, the more I mess up. The more I allow my thoughts to evaporate and trust my senses the more amazing the results.

    I accepted this through an experiment 2 years ago at a driving range. My 7i was 150 yards at the time and I setup to three targets. 150 yard target at centre, 130 yard target 30 yards to the right, and 170 yrs target 30 yards to the left. I always faced the 150 yard target and then would visualize which target I wanted the ball to go to and allow my body to determine my grip and setup while always facing the target in front of me.

    I then proceeded to watch myself take the one 7i and hit it straight to 150, cut it to 130, and turn it to 170 yards repeatedly while landing less than 10 yards of each target. I had no idea on how to make those shots with precision, but my body did based on what I visualized in my mind. Thus began my journey to simplify everything about golf, including my thoughts which where an unnecessary burden.

    Every year since has been an improvement – this one looking to be the best yet.

    • Kapil Gupta MD

      Jan 1, 2015 at 6:07 pm

      Truly fantastic, Philip. You are indeed on the right track, my friend.

      Best,

    • Armisen

      Jan 3, 2015 at 12:42 pm

      This is all fine and dandy, but in no way are you ‘letting your body determine what is required’ when you swing. It’s all in your brain, man.

      • Philip

        Jan 3, 2015 at 5:31 pm

        Yes and no – I guess a better way is to say I was letting my unconscious mind control my body. In regards to this experiment, I set-up to the ball without looking at my hands or my stance. I walked up to the ball and focused on the target with my eyes, seeing the ball flight and once my hands and body felt comfortable I made the swing.

        I didn’t walk up the ball and start thinking – okay, I need to open the club face a bit, open my stance and come over the top just a bit to cut the ball and take off yardage. I would be lucky to hit the ball.

        Yes, my brain is being used but at the instinct level, not intellectual level. No different than if someone tosses you a baseball. You’re not calculating the speed of the ball, the angle of flight, where your feet are located, are you in balance and how far you have to outstretch your arm to catch the ball. You just move in front of the ball path, stick out your arm and catch the ball without conscious thought (or as little as possible for you).

        My goal is to make my game of golf as close as possible to catching a baseball, or running though the woods at dusk – instinct.

        • Bill

          Jan 6, 2015 at 3:30 pm

          curious to know your handicap Philip… the amount of body control and unconscious mind connection you have achieved, does not just happen. I would venture to guess you are near scratch, and you have done extensive *conscious* work on grooving a fundamentally sound setup from your consistent pre-shot routine for your body type/ability level, before you were able to let your unconscious take over and actually produce the shots you visualized. You want to swing instinctively as we do in other sports, but Golf is not like other sports where we reacti to a moving object. The ball just sits there, which makes it very difficult to use the same unconscious reaction instincts of high-motion activities. You haven’t just tapped in to the same instincts you had in baseball, you have put a lot of hard work and effort in to developing your golf-specific skills. Well done!

          • Bill

            Jan 6, 2015 at 3:41 pm

            *caveat – I do agree that if the conscious mind gives a ball flight visualization to the unconscious mind to ‘react’ to, the unconscious mind will produce the shot, BUT the set-up has to be good, too. which is material for a whoooole nuther post.

  15. AJ Jensen

    Jan 1, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    Great article. You’ve pinned down what I’ve struggled to explain to myself, about how to recapture the often-elusive Zone and the way I feel whenever a window opens and I find myself in it. This season maybe I will focus myself on a ‘just play’ kind of approach, abandon the active thought thing and let my hands and body do what they already know how to do with a golf club.

  16. Gloover

    Jan 1, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    Eh, I’m going to trust Daniel Dennett: “all varieties of perception—indeed all varieties of thought or mental activity—are accomplished in the brain by parallel, multitrack processes of interpretation and elaboration of sensory inputs. Information entering the nervous system is under continuous ‘editorial revision.'” “These yield, over the course of time, something rather like a narrative stream or sequence, which can be thought of as subject to continual editing by many processes distributed around the brain, …”

  17. Nick

    Jan 1, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    Great article. Really makes me realize how much I overthink the game at times. I just need to sometimes let it go…

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Davies: Training the trail elbow in the golf swing

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Alistair Davies shares with you how to get the correct trail arm and elbow action in the downswing. He shares some great drills that can be done at the range or at home to help lower your scores.Get the correct training for the trail arm here today!

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The important lessons you can learn from Peter Senior’s golf swing

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He may not be a household name in the United States, but Australia’s Peter Senior has a swing for the ages. At 60 years old, Senior has 34 worldwide professional wins including the 2015 Australian Masters beating a competitive field with several top-ranked players in the world. Turning professional in 1978, his career has spanned over 40 years.

Senior’s game and swing have stood the test of time, and the longevity of his career should be recognized. Senior formerly worked with Australian instructor Gary Edwin, and the structure to this swing taught to Senior paved the way for a future of consistent, high-quality professional golf.

Having a great golf swing isn’t the only key to becoming a great golfer, one must learn to play the game. However, you can learn a lot from Senior’s swing.

The origin to Senior’s swing lies in his set-up. Senior sets up in what I call his “hitting angles” or a position that mirrors impact.

From this position, Senior is able to simply keep these angles he established at address throughout the swing. This is why the set-up is so critical. The further he deviates from these “hitting angles”, the more he will have to find that impact position with his body in the backswing and downswing. In other words, more movement. The goal of his backswing will be to maintain these original starting angles.

From the picture, Senior has maintained his original body shape that he established at address. From this position, it will be much easier and repeatable to return the club to impact.

Note how his impact position now mirrors his original address position. All his original angles were maintained with a slight bump of the body towards the target. From impact, he can simply fold up his arms as his right side of his body rotates around his left side, keeping the clubface square to the body.

This standing tall finish position with the head following the torso is much easier on the back. His body has come forward and around beautifully, covering the ball for a proper strike.

The beauty of Senior’s swing lies in its simplicity. The changes Senior made to his swing can apply to anyone. Let’s look at two simple drills to make your swing more efficient and powerful.

“To a large extent, my backswing is a product of my set-up position” – Tiger Woods, Golf Digest 2020

To get into these impact angles simply practice pushing into an impact bag with the head and shaft of the club. Make sure your trail arm is tucked, lowering the trail shoulder as you pressure the bag.

To get the feeling of the proper coil from this set-up position, grab an impact bag and hold the bag in front of you.

From here, swing the bag around you with your arms keeping the top of the bag level. You will feel the trail side of your body move back and the lead side move out, coiling around your spine angle.

The trail glute will also move back and around with this drill, a key move the great Ben Hogan used to pivot his body. To develop an efficient swing and a long, injury-free career, take note of Peter Senior’s key moves.

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Fix early extension: 3 exercises to get your a** in gear

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It’s pretty common knowledge that “early extension” is a problem for golfers everywhere, but how does it affect your body and your game? And what can you do to fix it?

First, let’s look at early extension in its most simple form as a physical issue rather than a technical issue.

During the swing, we are asking our body to not only create force, but also resist a number of different forces created by the aggressive rotational pattern we call a golf swing. The problem comes down to each player’s unique dysfunction which will likely include bad posture, weak glutes or a locked out thoracic spine for example.

So when we then ask the body to rotate, maintain spine angle, get the left arm higher, pressure the ground, turn our hips to the target (to name a few) a lot of mobility, strength and efficiency are required to do all of this well.

And not everyone, well actually very few of us, has the full capability to do all of this optimally during the swing. The modern lifestyle has a lot to do with it, but so does physiology and it has been shown that tour players as well as everyday golfers suffer from varying levels of dysfunction but can ultimately get by relative to learned patterns and skill development.

But for the majority of players early extension leads to one or more of the following swing faults:

  • Loss of spine angle/posture. During the swing, a player will ‘stand up’ coming out of their original and desired spine angle, this alters the path and the plane of the club.
  • “Humping” the ball. Johnny Wunder’s preferred term for the forward and undesirable movement of the lower body closer to the ball.

Lack of rotation during the swing occurs due to the shift in the center of gravity caused by the loss of posture as your body does its best to just stay upright at all.

Ultimately, early extension leaves us “stuck” with the club too far behind us and nowhere to go—cue massive high push fade or slice going two fairways over (we’ve all been there) or a flippy hook as your body backs up and your hands do whatever they can to square it up.

Not only is this not a good thing if you want to hit a fairway, it’s also a really bad way to treat your body in general.

As a general rule, your body works as a system to create stability and mobility simultaneously allowing us to move, create force, etc. When we can’t maintain a stable core and spinal position or force is being transferred to an area that shouldn’t be dealing with it, we get issues. Likely, this starts with discomfort, possibly leading to prolonged pain, and eventually injury.

The body has a whole lot to deal with when you play golf, so it’s a good idea to start putting in the work to help it out. Not only will you reduce your risk of injury, but you’ll also likely play better too!

So we have three simple exercises for you here that you can do at home, or anywhere else, that will help you with the following elements

  • Posture
  • Core strength
  • Glute function
  • Thoracic mobility
  • Asymmetrical balance
  • Ground force development

#1: Forward lunge with rotation

  1. Standing tall, core engaged with a club in front of your chest, take a reasonable step forward.
  2. Stabilize your lead knee over your front foot and allow your trail knee to move down towards the ground, trying to keep it just above the surface.
  3. Maintaining your spine angle, rotate OVER your lead leg (chest faces the lead side) with the club at arm’s length in front of your torso keeping your eyes facing straight forwards.
  4. Rotate back to center, again with great control, and then step back to your original standing position.
  5. Repeat on other leg.

#2: Bird dog

  1. Get down on all fours again focusing on a quality, neutral spine position.
  2. Extend your left arm forward and your right leg backward.
  3. Control your breathing and core control throughout as we test balance, stability and core activation.
  4. Hold briefly at the top of each rep and return to start position.
  5. Repeat with right arm and left leg, alternating each rep.
  6. If this is difficult, start by working arms and legs individually, only life 1 arm OR 1 leg at a time but still work around the whole body.

#3: Jumping squat

  1. Start with feet shoulder-width apart, eyes fixed forward.
  2. Engage your squat by sending your knees forwards and out to create pressure and torque, whilst sending your hips down and back.
  3. Squat down as far as possible whilst maintaining a neutral spine, active core and heels on the ground.
  4. As you naturally come out of the squat, push the ground away using your whole foot, creating as much speed and force as possible as you jump in the air.
  5. Land with excellent control and deceleration, reset and repeat.

Got 10 minutes? Sample workout

3 Rounds

  1. 10 Forward Lunge with Rotation (5 each leg)
  2. 10 Bird Dog (5 Each side or 5 each limb if working individually)
  3. 5 Jumping Squats
  4. 1 Minute Rest

If you can take the time to make this a part of your routine, even just two or three times per week, you will start to see benefits all round!

It would also be a perfect pre-game warm-up!

And one thing you can do technically? Flare your lead foot to the target at address. A huge majority of players already do this and with good reason. You don’t have to alter your alignment, rather keep the heel in its fixed position but point your toes more to the target. This will basically give you a free 20 or 30 degrees additional lead hip rotation with no real side-effects. Good deal.

This is a great place to start when trying to get rid of the dreaded early extension, and if you commit to implementing these simple changes you can play way better golf and at least as importantly, feel great doing it.

 

To take your golf performance to new levels with fitness, nutrition, recovery, and technical work, check out everything we do on any of the following platforms.

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