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Get your right brain in the game

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You’re sitting at home watching TV, you hear a buzzing noise and see something whiz past your face. You look around to survey the room, then watch a fly land on the wall — what do you do? Chances are, you find the nearest magazine, newspaper (do they still make those?) or TV guide (…kidding), roll it up, creep up on the pesky insect, reach back and take a mighty swing. SPLAT!

What just happened? You swung an object in the direction of a moving object by channeling your RIGHT side brain. You didn’t think about straightening your arm, unwinding your hips before your shoulders or shifting your weight — that would be left-brain thinking, which we use way too often in golf.

The greatest athletes in all sports naturally use the right side of their brain and turn off the left side during their performance. That’s because they are reacting to a object in motion rather than something stationary, like a golf ball. Let’s think of golf like we’re swatting a fly instead of working out a calculus problem as we dive deeper into this line of thinking.

LeftBrainRightBrainGolf

Your brain has two sides — left and right.

The left side controls important types of thinking such as language, logic, critical thinking and reasoning. The right side is much better at creative and expressive tasks, such as reactive movements and motor skills.

In golf, being reactive is not as natural as it is in other sports. That’s because the ball sits still and waits for the player to engage in action. This allows the left brain too much time for analysis. In sports like baseball or hockey, the left side of the brain is active, but not fully engaged. It is the right side that calls the muscles to fire and create the motion we need to contact the ball or puck. Our left side engages with the target and the right responds with the motion to send the ball to that destination. When the left side of the brain tries to cause this motion, it is not doing the job it’s built to do. That is the right side of the brain’s job, and we must become more reactive to play our best possible golf. The trouble here is that we have too much self-chatter due to the time we have to accomplish the task of hitting a golf ball.

How many times do you get over a shot and talk to your inner demons?

  • Don’t hit it in the woods
  • Stay out of the bunker
  • What would happen to my score if I hit it out of bounds?

Or have more mechanical conversations with yourself?

  • Keep your head down
  • Start back inside
  • Stop short of parallel

Many of us do this and the results are rarely favorable. We need to quiet the mind and let the subconscious do its job. That is the right side of the brain. We need to learn how to turn on the right side and turn off the left before we sole the club behind the ball, and the best way to train this is through mental exercises. We can do these exercises right at home and take them to the range once we’re ready. Before long, the exercises will become second-nature, and you’ll be channeling your right brain naturally throughout a round of golf.

So let’s look at the first step toward turning on the right side of our brain and letting go of our conscious thoughts during our swing.

This exercise is much like meditation and needs to be done in a spot where you can get comfortable. Choose your favorite easy chair and settle in. Once you feel cozy, pick a point to focus on — maybe on the wall or floor. I like to place a ball mark on the floor and just focus all my attention on the mark. Inhale deep through your nose and blow the air out through your mouth. Focus on the sound of your breath and allow your eyes to only see the mark. Quiet your mind and if a thought passes through just let it. Don’t dwell on the thought, but concentrate on the mark. Be aware of any outside sounds that may be going on around you. That might be a car going by outside or one of your kids watching television in the next room. Try to focus only on the sound of your breath and let the other outside noise fall into the background This will take practice and this exercise should take about 5 minutes total.

Do this each day for 5 minutes and soon any outside distractions will disappear during the exercise. Five minutes will seem like a very long time at first, but with practice you will get use to it. Once you get good at it, take this same exercise to the range.

Once on the range, the exercise will only be for about 5 to 10 seconds. Do your pre-shot routine as normal — this engages the left side of the brain. Then focus on a point in front of the ball to engage the right side of your brain. If you want to place that same ball mark you used in your exercise at home, go right ahead. Focus on the mark and let your mind go to the place it was when all you heard was the sound of your own breathing. Once you get to this point, let the club swing and hold your finish until the ball lands. Once the ball lands, feel how relaxed your body and mind is. If the result is poor, there’s no need to worry. Let it go and move on to the next shot. This will help keep the mind quiet once it is time to hit the ball again.

In no time, you’ll be treating golf balls like flies, and you might just have a little fun while you’re at it.

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Bernard Sheridan is the owner and founder of Par Breakers Golf Academy and Indoor driving range located in Golf USA Limerick, Pennsylvania. Bernard is a certified in the following golf instruction methods: Golf Channel Swing Fix Instructor and Impact Zone , Putting Zone, Body Balance Fitness, U.S. Kids Golf, Eye Line Golf 4 Elements putting and certified Mizuno Club fitter. Bernard is now in process of acquiring his biomechanics golf certification. Bernard is also the founder of Par Breakers Junior Golf Camps and that was voted Best Golf Camp in the Philadelphia area by Main Line Life magazine in 2008 along with Best Golf teachers Honorable mention by U.S. Kids Golf 2009-10. Find out more at http://www.parbreakers.com

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Pingback: Leaving The Left Side Out - The Golf Shop Online Blog

  2. Adam Kingsbury

    Nov 2, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    While I appreciate both the sentiment, and the effort that anyone puts forth taking the time to write an article such as this, I feel that it is necessary to advocate from an actual scientific perspective. Overall, this article is a gross simplification of complex neuroanatomical/psychological processes, with either no evidence, or pseudo-evidence suggesting that what is being said is actually true.

    The problem with folk-psychology tidbits such as this is that there are tons of misconceptions about how the brain actually works. While one could argue that you don’t need to have an accurate understanding of the inner workings to take benefit from it, I find that it is far more effective to assume that most people are smarter than we give them credit for.

    Statements such as the following are perfect examples of misleading statements, that don’t really even contribute to the overall message of the article (which for the record, I think is good).

    … it is the right side that calls the muscles to fire and create the motion we need to contact the ball or puck …
    … the right side is much better at creative and expressive tasks, such as reactive movements and motor skills …

    Motor control is completely controlled by both of sides of the brain (your left motor cortex controls the right side of your body and vice versa).

    When a person has any swing-related thought during the actual swinging of the golf club, their performance will likely suffer. Thoughts that are ‘analytical’, or ‘creative’ are still just thoughts. Period. No one side of the brain controls cognition.

    The activity described in the final section is called a ‘mindfulness’ exercise, which is really just a catchy way of describing the process of having your attention deliberately focused on the present moment . Distractions don’t necessarily disappear when a person is being mindful. In fact, learning how to pay attention to the present moment theoretically increases the number of distractions that you become aware of.

    Mindfulness is an incredibly useful skill for all of us to cultivate in our daily lives. It is a great tool that helps us become more aware of the things we say to ourselves, how we accurately feel, and what is actually happening around us in our environment. There are great resources all over the internet about practicing mindfulness (I encourage you to look it up if you haven’t been exposed to the ideas themselves).

    When playing golf, having a better understanding of the automatic thoughts we have, how our bodies feels (e.g., how clammy our hands are, how quick our heart is beating, etc.), and what emotions we are experiencing can eventually help a person discover why they are reacting that way. This is a much bigger question that is always unique to the individual. While they are fun to read and think about, “canned” psychological interventions such as this unfortunately most often don’t offer the answer.

    This is not to say that idea expression in this domain isn’t important. I just believe that we need to hold ourselves to higher standards when discussing ideas that outside of our comfort zone.

  3. RumtumTim

    Oct 31, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    I like the concept.

    I’ve found that the best way for me to engage my creative/athletic subconscious is to keep my feet moving. A la Trevino, Snedeker, and K. Bradley. Keep moving and pull the trigger a little before I get set.

  4. Jeremy

    Oct 31, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    The left/right brain part might be a bit extraneous here, but I get the point. And I’ve often found that sometimes I hit my best shots – especially with the driver – when I just step up and swing, rather than hovering over the ball, making sure every little muscle is ready to fire, putting a dozen swing thoughts in my head, etc. Just step up and let natural athleticism take over. And I also feel less stress if the shot doesn’t go exactly where I wanted it to. I’m more relaxed and less concerned with perfection from start to finish.

  5. ca1879

    Oct 31, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    Really, enough with the left brain – right brain myth:

    http://psychology.about.com/od/cognitivepsychology/a/left-brain-right-brain.htm

    That’s right up there with the “10% of our brain” nonsense as an indicator of someone that couldn’t tell psychology from proctology.

    • Josh

      Oct 31, 2014 at 12:44 pm

      Just like people always talking about “muscle memory” which has already been proved a myth on multiple accounts.

      • Dave S

        Oct 31, 2014 at 2:35 pm

        We’ll, the idea that muscles themselves have a memory of movements is false, but I think most people refer to the term “Muscle Memory” in regards to the idea that if you repeat the same motion over and over again, you’ll be able to more accurately re-perform it in the future (because the brain – which causes all the muscles to move – can remember the sequence of neurons, etc. to fire that create the particular movement).

    • Scooter McGavin

      Oct 31, 2014 at 12:56 pm

      Agreed. Can we just stop this nonsense? Why can’t we just have an article about the value of meditation, focus, etc. without the inaccurate junk?

    • Knobbywood

      Nov 1, 2014 at 8:00 am

      Wow really mr Internet professor? The SINGLE source for your article is almost 20 years old… Also did you even read the article you posted? Doesn’t disprove what bernhard is saying AT ALL… Anyways thanks for trying to show everyone how smart you are compared to us jamokes huh?

      • Adam Kingsbury

        Nov 2, 2014 at 9:50 pm

        Sorry Knobbywood, but the article from About.com posted by ca1879 wasn’t 20 years old at all… It actually really nicely summarizes why an article such as the one written here is inaccurate:

        So Why Do People Still Talk About Right-Brain, Left-Brain Theory?

        Researchers have demonstrated that right-brain/left-brain theory is a myth, yet its popularity persists. Why? Unfortunately many people are likely unaware that the theory is outdated. Today, students might continue to learn about the theory as a point of historical interest – to understand how our ideas about how the brain works have evolved and changed over time as researchers have learned more about how the brain operates.

        I don’t think anyone was trying to make themselves look smarter than the rest – just perhaps have more accurate information, that’s all.

        • Knobbywood

          Nov 3, 2014 at 6:05 am

          Oh you mean THAT article… The one written by ca1879 the highly qualified “psychology expert” hahaha ok now your much more credible

          • Adam Kingsbury

            Nov 3, 2014 at 8:29 am

            I’m not following…

          • Jeremy

            Nov 3, 2014 at 3:10 pm

            Dude, what?? ca1879 didn’t write the article, someone named Kendra Cherry did. She cites her sources, which lend it more credibility than the somewhat vague title of “psychology expert,” and go into tedious details of the research behind the conclusion.

            But don’t let a bunch of scientific publications stop you from blindly believing what a golfer has blogged on the subject of neuroscience…

          • Dave S

            Nov 3, 2014 at 5:16 pm

            dis dood be dum ^^^

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Instruction

What to look for in a golf instructor: The difference between transformative and transactional coaching

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Golf instruction comes in all different styles, methods, and formats. With that said, you would think this would be a good thing due to there being so many different types of people in the world. However, it is my opinion that the lack of standardization within the industry makes it confusing for the athlete to determine what kind of golf instruction they should seek out.

Before we can discuss what may or may not be the best type of instruction for yourself, first we need to know what our options are. Whether we are taking a “broad-spectrum approach” to learning or a more personalized approach, it is important to understand that there are differences to each, and some approaches are going to take longer than others to reach goals.

Broad-Spectrum Approach

Welcome to the world of digital golf instruction, where tips from the most famous coaches in the world are a click away. The great thing about the internet and social media for a golfer is there has never been more access to the top minds in the field—and tips and drills are plentiful. With that said, with there being so many choices and differing opinions, it can be very easy to become distracted with the latest tip and can lead to a feeling of being lost.

I would describe “internet coaching”—or YouTube and Instagram surfing—as transactional coaching. You agree to pay, either a monthly fee or provide likes or follows and the professional provides very generalized tips about the golf swing. For athletes that are new to golf or golf instruction, this tends to be the first part of their process.

There are people who prefer a more transactional approach, and there are a ton of people having success working together over the internet with their coach. With that said, for someone who is looking for more of a long-term individualized approach, this may not be the best approach. This broad-spectrum approach also tends to be the slowest in terms of development due to there being a lot of trial and error due to the generalized approach and people having different body types.

Individual Transactional Coaching

Most people who are new to golf instruction will normally seek out their local pro for help. Depending on where you live in the country, what your local pro provides will vary greatly. However, due to it being local and convenient, most golfers will accept this to be the standard golf lesson.

What makes this type of instruction transactional is that there tends to be less long-term planning and it is more of a sick patient-doctor relationship. Lessons are taken when needed and there isn’t any benchmarking or periodization being done. There also tends to be less of a relationship between the coach and player in this type of coaching and it is more of a take it or leave it style to the coaching.

For most recreational or club-level players, this type of coaching works well and is widely available. Assuming that the method or philosophies of the coach align with your body type and goals athletes can have great success with this approach. However, due to less of a relationship, this form of coaching can still take quite some time to reach its goals.

Individual Transformative Coaching

Some people are very lucky, and they live close to a transformative coach, and others, less lucky, have had to search and travel to find a coach that could help them reach their goals. Essentially, when you hire a transformative coach, you are being assigned a golf partner.

Transformative coaching begins with a solid rapport that develops into an all-encompassing relationship centered around helping you become your very best. Technology alone doesn’t make a coach transformative, but it can help when it comes to creating periodization of your development. Benchmarks and goals are agreed upon by both parties and both parties share the responsibility for putting in the work.

Due to transformative coaching tending to have larger goals, the development process tends to take some time, however, the process is more about attainment than achievement. While improved performance is the goal, the periods for both performance and development are defined.

Which One is Right for You?

It really depends on how much you are willing to invest in your development. If you are looking for a quick tip and are just out enjoying the weather with your friends, then maybe finding a drill or two on Instagram to add to your practice might be the ticket. If you are looking to really see some improvement and put together a plan for long-term development, then you are going to have to start looking into what is available in your area and beyond.

Some things to consider when selecting a coach

  • Do they use technology?
  • What are their qualifications when it comes to teaching?
  • Do they make you a priority?

As a golf coach who has access to the most state-of-the-art technology in the industry, I am always going to be biased towards a data-driven approach. That doesn’t mean that you should only consider a golf coach with technology, however, I believe that by having data present, you are able to have a better conversation about the facts with less importance placed on personal preference. Technology also tends to be quite expensive in golf, so be prepared if you go looking for a more high-tech coaching experience, as it is going to cost more than the low-tech alternative.

The general assumption is that if the person you are seeking advice from is a better player than you are, then they know more about the golf swing than you do. This is not always the case, while the better player may understand their swing better than you do yours, that does not make them an expert at your golf swing. That is why it is so important that you consider the qualifications of your coach. Where did they train to coach? Do they have success with all of their players? Do their players develop over a period of time? Do their players get injured? All things to consider.

The most important trait to look for in a transformative coach is that they make you a priority. That is the biggest difference between transactional and transformative coaches, they are with you during the good and bad, and always have your best interest top of mind. Bringing in other experts isn’t that uncommon and continuing education is paramount for the transformative coach, as it is their duty to be able to meet and exceed the needs of every athlete.

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The importance of arm structure

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How the arms hang at address plays a vital role in the golf swing. Often overlooked, the structure in which we place the arms can dictate one’s swing pattern. As mentioned in the article How Posture influences your swing, if you start in an efficient position, impact is much easier to find making, the golf swing more repeatable and powerful.

To start, I opt to have a player’s trail arm bent and tucked in front of them with angle in the trail wrist. While doing so, the trail shoulder can drop below the lead with a slight bend from the pelvis. This mirrors an efficient impact position.

I always prefer plays to have soft and slightly bent arms. This promotes arm speed in the golf swing. No other sports are played with straight arms, neither should golf.

From this position, it’s easier to get the clubhead traveling first, sequencing the backswing into a dynamic direction of turn.

@peterthomson

When a player addresses the ball with straight arms, they will often tilt with their upper body in the backswing. This requires more recovery in the downswing to find their impact position with the body.

A great drill to get the feeling of a soft-bent trail arm is to practice pushing a wall with your trail arm. Start in your golf set-up, placing your trail hand against the wall. You will instinctively start with a bent trail arm.

Practice applying slight pressure to the wall to get the feeling of a pushing motion through impact?. When trying the drill with a straight trail alarm, you will notice the difference between the two? arm structures.

www.kelleygolf.com

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What is ground force in the golf swing?

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There is no doubt about it, the guys and gals on tour have found something in the ground—and that something is power and speed. I’m sure by now you have heard of “ground reaction forces”—and I’m not talking about how you “shift your weight” during the golf swing.

Ground force in the golf swing: Pressure and force are not equal

With respect to ground force in the golf swing, it’s important to understand the difference between pressure and force. Pressure is your perception of how your weight is being balanced by the structure, in this case, the human body. Your body has a center of mass which is located roughly one inch behind the belt buckle for men and about one inch lower in women. When we shift (translate and/or torque) the center of mass, we create a pressure shift as the body has to “rebalance” the mass or body. This pressure shift can help us understand some aspects of the golf swing, but when it comes to producing power, force and torque are where it’s at.

Pressure can only be expressed in relation to the mass or weight of the body. Therefore, if you weigh 150 pounds, you can only create 150 pounds of pressure at one time. However, when we direct that mass at a larger object than our mass, all of a sudden that larger mass directs an opposite and equal reactionary force. So now, when a human being “pushes” their legs against the ground and “feels” 150 pounds of pressure, they now get 150 pounds of force directed back towards them from the ground, creating a total of 300 pounds of force that allows them to jump off the ground in this scenario.

If ground reaction forces don’t have anything to do with the “weight shift,” then what do they affect? Everything!

Most people use the same basic ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies. However, almost everyone has chocolate chip cookies that taste slightly different. Why is that? That is because people are variable and use the ingredients in different amounts and orders. When we create a golf swing, whether we are aware of it or not, we are using the same basic ingredients as everyone else: lateral force, vertical torque, and vertical force. We use these same three forces every time we move in space, and how much and when we use each force changes the outcome quite a bit.

Welcome to the world of 3D!

Understanding how to adjust the sequencing and magnitude of these forces is critical when it comes to truly owning and understand your golf swing. The good news is that most of our adjustments come before the swing and have to do with how we set up to the ball. For example, if an athlete is having a hard time controlling low point due to having too much lateral force in the golf swing (fats and thins), then we narrow up the stance width to reduce the amount of lateral force that can be produced in the swing. If an athlete is late with their vertical force, then we can square up the lead foot to promote the lead leg straightening sooner and causing the vertical force to happen sooner.

While we all will need to use the ground differently to play our best golf, two things need to happen to use the ground effectively. The forces have to exist in the correct kinetic sequence (lateral, vertical torque, vertical force), and the peaks of those forces need to be created within the correct windows (sequencing).

  • Lateral force – Peak occurs between top-of-swing and lead arm at 45 degrees
  • Vertical torque – Peak occurs between lead arm being 45 degrees and the lead arm being parallel to the ground.
  • Vertical force – Peak occurs between lead arm being parallel to the ground the club shaft being parallel to the ground.

While it may seem obvious, it’s important to remember ground reaction forces are invisible and can only be measured using force plates. With that said, their tends to be apprehension about discussing how we use the ground as most people do not have access to 3D dual force plates. However, using the screening process designed by Mike Adams, Terry Rowles, and the BioSwing Dynamics team, we can determine what the primary forces used for power production are and can align the body in a way to where the athlete can access his/her full potential and deliver the club to the ball in the most effective and efficient way based off their predispositions and anatomy.

In addition to gaining speed, we can help athletes create a better motion for their anatomy. As golfers continue to swing faster, it is imperative that they do so in a manner that doesn’t break down their body and cause injury. If the body is moving how it is designed, and the forces acting on the joints of the body are in the correct sequence and magnitude, not only do we know they are getting the most out of their swing, but we know that it will hold up and not cause an unforeseen injury down the road.

I truly believe that force plates and ground reaction forces will be as common as launch monitors in the near future. Essentially, a launch monitor measures the effect and the force plates measure the cause, so I believe we need both for the full picture. The force plate technology is still very expensive, and there is an educational barrier for people seeking to start measuring ground reaction forces and understanding how to change forces, magnitudes, and sequences, but I’m expecting a paradigm shift soon.

 

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