Have you ever wondered what in the wide, wide, world of sports is going on in your head when you hit a golf ball? I surely have sometimes.
Most of my playing career, I was mentally strong and rarely had a thought that was distracted or destructive. My routine was really solid and consistent, and it allowed for me to play well under lots of pressure. Recently at the academy, we have added a new piece of technology called FocusBand. It allows me to see what is going on in your head as you hit a golf shot and make changes to the approach you are taking so that you are more successful on the golf course.
First, let me explain how it works.
FocusBand is a strap that goes around your head with three sensors that process the electrical signals in your brain and create an algorithm that is then audio-visually translated to show your mind’s activity. This is called neurofeedback, the best known method for training the brain. I can see what is going on via the avatar on my smartphone or tablet, and it is also integrated with my FlightScope launch monitor so I have numerous ways to use it at all times.
Research has shown that being able to switch to and execute in the right part of the brain gives you a distinct advantage. The right brain is calm and able to make more appropriate decisions in a shorter period of time. The left side of your brain, or the side that would glow red on the avatar, is the analytical, training side of your mind. It can process 40 instructions per second. It is very slow and detail oriented. This is the side you want to use when checking your math homework, doing your taxes, or listening to your spouse. The right side of your brain would glow green on the avatar and is the creative, play side of your mind. It processes 11 million instructions per second and is where you want to be when playing a golf shot.
So to simplify and relate this to a golf shot, the left side is where you analyze distance, wind, lie of the ball, what kind of shot, target, club selection, and any other meticulous details. You think in mentally audible words, lists, and sentences. Once you have completed that task, you need to flip to the right side and visualize the shot you want to hit and then feel the swing that produces that shot. There are no words or commands — just visuals and feels once you approach the ball and swing.
So I thought it would be cool to do some odd field testing on my students. The first player I drilled in FocusBand was a buddy of mine who was a really good football kicker in college. He plays to a low handicap and competes in several big tournaments a year. When he practices, his game is very sharp. In competition, he gets it going. Then, as he nears a good round, he goes off the rails a little and his score goes up as a result. He has testified to me that it is ALL mental. So the test I wanted to do with him and FocusBand was to first kick some footballs and see how his brain reacted when he did something he had done successfully with thousands of people watching and screaming at him. Then I wanted him to hit some golf shots. We were going to see what the difference was in his brain activity when we compared both actions.
Now, it’s not normal to see someone kicking footballs at a golf academy. People were driving by yelling, “Laces out Dan,” and other assorted Ace Ventura lines as he bombed kicks down the range. On about his fifth kick, he hit one that hooked about 15 yards offline. What happened next was interesting and made him a believer. As he got ready to boot another one, he went from bright green to red for about 3 seconds just before he approached the ball. It was just enough for me to see it, but not long enough for me to stop him and ask what he was suddenly thinking.
The kick was beautiful, end over end and bombed. After it landed I asked him, “What did you think before you kicked it that was a change to how you kicked the ball from the previous one? You told yourself to change something.” He cocked his head and looked at me like I was reading his mind. “Yea, I did think something. I thought to point my toe more so the ball didn’t hook like the previous one! How did you know?”
That was when I told him I saw the screen flash red for a second. So using that a baseline for performance, we then hit some iron shots. As he warmed up, I made a change to his swing that was minor. His transition tempo was just a beat fast, so I told him to slow it and be more calm in the change of direction so that he could casually slot the club and not get a smidge steep and hit baby pulls. He got the move down and managed to pop into green for most of his shots. Only when I reintroduced the piece of instruction did he roll into red (left brain) thoughts. What that allowed me to do was to reinforce the need to control his mind and recognize that he had gone analytical. I didn’t want him to hit shots until he had flipped back into green with a strong feel of that move and not a detailed list of what I wanted him to do.
I was very impressed with his ability to calm his mind and refocus, just like he did as a kicker on Saturdays in stadiums. He played a couple of days after this session and reported to me that he peeled off five birdies in a row and birdied six of the last nine holes he played. The best part was that he was so into the new routine that he didn’t notice it was five in row!
The second test was with one of my juniors who had lots going on in the attic. The squirrels were running loose upstairs for this player! He is a great kid and can stand on the range in our sessions and be so solid and make beautiful swings. On the course, his brain goes a thousand miles a second and he cannot keep it between the foul poles on some holes. So on goes the FocusBand and he lights up bright red. I was not shocked. But now the challenge… could I get him to go green and get the creative side of his brain to engage?
This player is a really good athlete from an athletic family, so I had faith in his instincts if I could get him to recognize when he started to think in lists, sentences, and descriptive words. My instructions were simple and clear. He was to hit every shot in his routine and not approach the ball unless he could see the shot he wanted to hit and then feel the swing that produced that shot. He had to hold that until he hit it or I would call him off when I saw the screen go red.
What happened next was some cool, fun stuff that makes my job so deeply interesting. It took him about five tries to get to the ball without me stopping him for the screen going red. Each time I would ask him, “What sentence, word, or command did you think,” and he would always smirk and say something like “control the clubface at impact” or “don’t let my stance get too wide.” I would calmly remind him to stay with feels and visuals. Finally, he got to the ball staying green. He managed to swing and stay green, and he hit a towering 8-iron with a tiny draw. The smile on his face told the story. He knew he was starting to control his mind and how he was thinking as he played shots.
Now, that one shot did not mean he got it every time. There were about five other times I had to stop him, and each time he would smirk and tell me what thought crept into his mind. But now he had full awareness, whereas before he was just letting his brain run wild. He even got so good at it that twice he stopped himself at the same time I saw the screen go red. It was very cool to see the transformation take place and his heightened awareness of his mental state.
FocusBand and this kind of training is one of the coolest things we do at the academy, and we are just scratching the surface of this technology and how it can help the player. I have seen it dramatically help performance in golf. And if it helps there, it’s also something that people can transfer to life in general. Who wouldn’t want a more calm mind and to live a more peaceful daily life? Exiting technology, this is.
6 ways to improve your self image as a golfer
According to a ranking done by FanSided, The Ohio State Buckeyes are the current kings of Fandom! This ranking is not limited to sports; it also includes entertainment, celebrities and even different brands.
Growing up in Michigan, I certainly take exception to seeing The Buckeyes at No. 1, but that is certainly not the point here. I went to college with a few folks from Ohio, one who was an absolute diehard Ohio State fan. He grew up rooting for the collegiate program through both the ups and the downs. We often joked about how Ohio State could not beat Michigan when we were younger, and now the Wolverines can’t seem beat the Buckeyes. But outside of our differences, when he described every trip he made to “The Horseshoe,” you could feel his fandom. As he described the people, the food, the neighborhood and the history, you could feel the aura of “The Horseshoe.” This was a special place to him, as it is to many. Every time he left, win or lose, he could not wait to return. He was and still is a raving fan.
Unfortunately, on the lesson tee, I usually hear a different story. I rarely hear golfers describe their own game in good favor. Instead, I hear them talk poorly of every aspect of their game. I rarely hear anyone who is truly a raving fan of his or her own game. I am by no means giving anyone the green light to be arrogant, but to display confidence and develop a positive self-image. I hear plenty about how good other golfers are: Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy, even some of their buddies or co-workers who shoot no better scores than they do! The best players at any level are raving fans of their own games. So how do we change our own self-image and fall in love with our own game?
The key is understanding our mental self-image. Many people want to change their strategy. “I need new clubs. I need a better swing. I need everything!” What I want you to do is change your story. I want you to realize that inside, if you can change your mental approach from “I’m a 100’s shooter” to “I’m a bogey golfer,” you can start achieving that goal. If someone asks me what I shoot, I’ll tell them between 69 and 76. Someone who shoots 110 will tell you he shoots between 105 and 110. How can someone be that consistent with that high of a score? It’s simple; that is the game that golfer plays. It’s his self-image.
So again, how do we change it? Here are six ways to get started.
1. Visualize Your Game
Every day, I want you to write out a scorecard. I don’t care what you use: a piece of paper, on a scorecard, on an iPhone note. What I want you to do is visualize your round. Simply think of where you normally hit your drive and where you normally hit it on the green. Play each hole normally as you would on the course. What you’ll find is that you’re not going to make any double or triple bogeys, because you’re simply playing the holes the way you have before. That will add up to a score that is 5, 10, or maybe even 15 shots lower. It will also start to give you the understanding that to shoot those scores it isn’t about perfect shots, but solid rounds of golf. If you haven’t visualized it, how can you possibly achieve it?
2. Keep Your Commitments to Yourself
Make a game plan and stick to it, case closed. Be it instruction, fitness, diet, playing more… don’t cheat yourself, just do it. Keep a journal, as journaling helps you see growth and makes it easier to stay committed.
3. Educate Yourself
We live in an information age, so choose wisely. The internet can be hard to navigate, but follow trusted sources, read books, or pick up the phone and call someone who can answer your questions. As you learn more about your game, the information will become easier to apply and you’ll see growth.
4. Be Consistent
Commit to good habits and then consistently follow through. You will start to impress yourself when it becomes routine, and when it is routine is when you see results.
5. Acknowledge and Fix Problems
I’m not saying that you should be trying to fix every problem with your golf swing. If you are giving your golf game a true assessment, however, and you’re doing what you can to address issues, you will know that you are truly doing your best.
6. Deliver on Your Game Plan +1 Percent
Ask yourself what you could do to give it the +1 percent. You don’t need to be 50 percent better. Just 1 percent can take you from satisfied to a raving fan. Commit to what you want, follow through with the commitment, add the extra 1 percent and you will be well on your way to becoming a raving fan of your own game.
Shallowing the Club: Two Moves to Avoid (Part 1)
It’s the move we all want in the downswing… and rightfully so. Shallowing the club is a great way to put your swing on plane and really start to narrow you misses. All shallowing moves are not equal, however; in fact, there are a couple that you’ll definitely want to try to avoid because they can actually have the opposite effect!
We’ve broken this series into two parts to make it more digestible. This is Part 1. Thank you for watching!
Shallowing the Club: Two Moves to Avoid (Part 2) is coming soon!
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