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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

The Wedge Guy: Short game tempo

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One of my favorite things to do is observe golfers closely, watching how they go about things from well before the shot to the execution of the swing or stroke. Guess the golf course has become kind of like going to the lab, in a way.

One thing I notice much too often is how “quick” most golfers are around the greens. It starts with grabbing a club or two from the cart and quickly getting to their ball. Then a few short jabs at a practice swing and usually a less-than-stellar result at a recovery.

Why?

If you are going to spend a morning or afternoon on the course, why hurry around the greens? I tend to be a fast player and despise five-hour rounds, but don’t fault anyone for taking a few seconds extra to get “right” with their recovery shot. You can still play “ready golf” and not short yourself in the close attention to execution. But let me get back to the specific topic.

Maybe it’s aggravated by this rush, but most golfers I observe have a short game tempo that is too quick. Chips, pitches and recoveries are precision swings at less than full power, so they require a tempo that is slower than you might think to accommodate that precision. They are outside the “norm” of a golf swing, so give yourself several practice swings to get a feel for the tempo and power that needs to be applied to the shot at hand.

I also think this quick tempo is a result of the old adage “accelerate through the ball.” We’ve all had that pounded into our brains since we started playing, but my contention is that it is darn hard not to accelerate . . . it’s a natural order of the swing. But to mentally focus on that idea tends to produce a short, choppy swing, with no rhythm or precision. So, here’s a practice drill for you.

  1. Go to your practice range, the local ball field, schoolyard or anywhere you can safely hit golf balls 20-30 yards or less.
  2. Pick a target only 30-50 feet away and hit your normal pitch, observing the trajectory.
  3. Then try to hit each successive ball no further, but using a longer, more flowing, fluid swing motion than the one before. That means you’ll make the downswing slower and slower each time, as you are moving the club further and further back each time.

My bet is that somewhere in there you will find a swing length and tempo where that short pitch shot becomes much easier to hit, with better loft and spin, than your normal method.

The key to this is to move the club with the back and through rotation of your body core, not just your arms and hands. This allows you to control tempo and applied power with the big muscles, for more consistency.

Try this and share with all of us if it doesn’t open your eyes to a different way of short game success.

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Instruction

The Wedge Guy: The core cause of bad shots

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You are cruising through a round of golf, hitting it pretty good and then you somehow just hit an absolutely terrible shot? This isn’t a problem unique to recreational golfers trying to break 80, 90, or 100 — even the best tour professionals occasionally hit a shot that is just amazingly horrible, given their advanced skill levels.

It happens to all of us — some more frequently than others — but I’m convinced the cause is the same. I call it “getting sloppy.”

So, what do I mean by that?

Well, there was a USGA advertising campaign a while back feature Arnold Palmer, with the slogan “Swing Your Swing.” There’s a lot of truth to that advice, as we all have a swing that has — either frequently or occasionally – produced outstanding golf shots. While there is no substitute for solid mechanics and technique, I’ve always believed that if you have ever hit a truly nice golf shot, then your swing has the capacity to repeat that result more frequently than you experience.

The big question is: “Why can’t I do that more often?”

And the answer is: Because you don’t approach every shot with the same care and caution that you exhibit when your best shots are executed.

To strike a golf ball perfectly, the moon and stars have to be aligned, regardless of what your swing looks like. Your set-up position must be right. Your posture and alignment have to be spot-on. Ball position has to be precisely perfect. To get those things correct takes focused attention to each detail. But the good news is that doing so only takes a few seconds of your time before each shot.

But I know from my own experience, the big “disrupter” is not having your mind right before you begin your swing. And that affects all of these pre-shot fundamentals as well as the physical execution of your swing.
Did you begin your pre-shot approach with a vivid picture of the shot you are trying to hit? Is your mind cleared from what might have happened on the last shot or the last hole? Are you free from the stress of this crazy game, where previous bad shots cause us to tighten up and not have our mind free and ready for the next shot? All those things affect your ability to get things right before you start your swing . . . and get in the way of “swinging your swing.”

So, now that I’ve outlined the problem, what’s the solution?

Let me offer you some ideas that you might incorporate into your own routine for every shot, so that you can get more positive results from whatever golf swing skills you might have.

Clear your mind. Whatever has happened in the round of golf to this point is history. Forget it. This next shot is all that matters. So, clear that history of prior shots and sharpen your focus to the shot at hand.

Be precise in your fundamentals. Set-up, posture, alignment and ball position are crucial to delivering your best swing. Pay special attention to all of these basics for EVERY shot you hit, from drives to putts.

Take Dead Aim. That was maybe the most repeated and sage advice from Harvey Penick’s “Little Red Book”. And it may be the most valuable advice ever. Poor alignment and aim sets the stage for bad shots, as “your swing” cannot be executed if you are pointed incorrectly.

See it, feel it, trust it. Another piece of great advice from the book and movie, “Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days In Utopia”, by Dr. David Cook. Your body has to have a clear picture of the shot you want to execute in order to produce the sequence of movements to do that.

Check your grip pressure and GO. The stress of golf too often causes us to grip the club too tightly. And that is a swing killer. Right before you begin your swing, focus your mind on your grip pressure to make sure it isn’t tighter than your normal pressure.

It’s highly advisable to make these five steps central to your pre-shot routine, but especially so if you get into a bad stretch of shots. You can change things when that happens, but it just takes a little work to get back to the basics.

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Stickney: To stack or not to stack at impact?

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As you look at the impact positions of the best players in the world, you will find many different “looks” with respect to their body and club positions. Some of these impact positions might even appear unique, but don’t be fooled. They all have one thing in common: preserving the players’ balance throughout the impact interval! In fact, if you are not in-balance, then you will lose power, consistency, and have trouble controlling your launch dynamics from shot to shot.

This balance is a necessary key to playing well and one area that can be easily understood with a few graphics shown on GEARS 3D. As you examine the photo in the featured image, you can see a few things:

  • The player on the left has “fallen” backwards through impact slightly moving his head out of the circle established at address
  • The player on the right is more stacked at impact — meaning that his chest, zipper and hands are all in the same place at the same time (within reason)
  • The player on the left has reached this same position in the swing with different segments of the body reaching the ball at different times
  • There will be a difference of impact shaft lean between the two players due to one player reaching impact “together” and the other shoving his hands more forward as he falls back
  • The player on the right is more “connected” through impact…won’t be the longest hitter but will be able to find the ball in the fairway more often
  • The player on the left is putting more pressure on the rear portion of the lower back which could have a potential for injury if he’s not careful

Now, obviously there are pro and cons to both positions. Overall, if you want to be consistent and in-balance more often that not, I would suggest you try your best to focus on being “stacked” when you hit the ball.

Let’s dive in a touch deeper to show you what happens physiologically on 3D when you fall back through impact and I think it will really drive the point home.

  • At address notice the Vertical Spine Number 96.2, this is showing us where the spine is positioned at address
  • You can see the head is in the center of the bubble

  • On the way to the top of the swing you can see that the spine has moved “away” from the target laterally a slight bit to 98 degrees
  • The head has dropped downward and has also moved laterally as well- more lean over the right leg to the top

Now here is where the problem comes in…as you work your way to the top, it’s ok of your head moves a touch laterally but in transition if it stays “back” while your hips run out from under you then you will begin to fall backwards on the way to your belt-high delivery position.

  • We can see at the delivery position that the spine has continued to fall backwards as the hips rotate out from under the upperbody
  • When this happens the hands will begin to push forward- dragging the handle into the impact zone
  • Whenever you have too much spin out and fall back the hands move forward to accommodate this motion and this reduces your Angle of Attack and decreases your dynamic loft at impact
  • This will cause balls to be hit on the decent of the club’s arc and reduce loft making shots come out lower than normal with a higher spin rate and that means shorter drives

Now let’s examine impact…

  • The player on the left has reached impact in a more disconnected fashion versus the player on the right as you compare the two
  • The player on the right has a shaft lean at impact that is less than a degree (.75) while the player on the left has a much more noticeable forward lean of the shaft thereby reducing dynamic loft at impact

  • The player on the left’s spine has moved from 96.2 to 112.9, a difference of 16.7 degrees while the player on the right has only moved back a few degrees. We know this because his head has stayed in the bubble we charted at address
  • The hips have run out from under the player on the left in the downswing and this causes the head to fall back more, the hands to push forward more, and the impact alignments of the club to be too much down with very little dynamic loft (as also shown in the photo below)

Whenever the hips turn out from under the upper body then you will tend to have a “falling back effect of the spine and a pushing forward of the hands” through impact.  Notice how the hips are radically more open on the player on the right versus the left- 27.91 versus 42.42 degrees.

So, now that we can see what happens when the hips spin out, you fall back, and you fail to be “stacked” at impact let’s show you a simple way you can do this at home to alleviate this issue.

  

  • A great drill to focus on being more stacked at impact is to make slow motion swings with the feeling that the upper portion of your arms stay glued to your chest
  • These shots will be full swings but only 20% of your total power because the goal here is connection which allows everything to reach impact together and in-balance
  • The second thought as you make these swings is to pay attention to your head, if you can focus on allowing it to stay “over the top of the ball” at impact you will find that it will stay put a touch more so than normal. Now this is not exactly how it works but it’s a good feeling nonetheless
  • Once you get the feeling at 20% speed work your way up to 50% speed and repeat the process. If you can do it here then you are ready to move up to full swings at top speed

Finally, don’t forget that every golfer’s hips will be open at impact and everyone’s head will fall back a touch — this is fine. Just don’t over-do it! Fix this and enjoy finding the ball in the fairway more often than not.

Questions or comments? [email protected]

 

 

 

 

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