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Be The Ball: Filmmaker exploring ‘the zone,’ mental side of golf

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Documentary filmmaker Erik Anders Lang is turning his attention to golf, and he’s working on one heck of a project.

Be The Ball,  Lang’s in-progress film, explores the mental side of the game through interviews with luminary figures in golf and the aid of a device known as the Focus Band. Lang’s film will culminate with a grand experiment: a meditation retreat for both pro and amateur golfers to aid and evaluate their abilities to get in the zone.

Lang has made documentaries for Serato, Louis Vuitton, The Guggenheim, Honda, MTV and TED, in addition to the feature-length documentary The Story of Braeden Reed. He already has hundreds of hours of interviews with enthusiasts, professionals and industry figures from Bill Murray to Rory McIlroy to the author of Golf in the Kingdom.

He’s gathering footage at Tiger Woods’ Hero World Challenge this week and has also set up an IndiGoGo to cover some of the production funding that you can check out here.

I had the chance to catch up with the filmmaker about his background in the game and the film.

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On his background in golf

“I grew up in an avid golf family, but I didn’t like it. I had complete contempt prior to investigation. I finally tried it like five years ago. I tried it and I fell in love immediately. It was a mix of everything that I really loved: inner challenge, group challenge, sport, nature.

Once I started playing, the next day I went and bought clubs…started reading every book, watching every movie. The movie idea came about pretty shortly after that.”

On the idea for the film

“The idea…A documentary that takes pro golfers on a meditation retreat to see how the process of focusing your mind can affect your golf score.

“I read a book early on called Zen Golf. I called the author. He said, ”Do you know how to meditate? You should come up, I’ll teach you. I had a kind of spiritual experience. Years went by and he became my kind of mentor. We would play golf together and meditate together. That was kind of the first brick.”

“Then I tried a thing called the Focus Band, which solidified how the movie will work. The Focus Band is a thing you wear on your head and it tells you whether or not you’re in the zone. I was totally skeptical. It worked. It knew when I was properly meditating.

“I couldn’t get it to say I was in the zone while I was there staring at a golf ball. Whenever I went back to the golf ball it would fall out. My relationship to the golf ball was anything but present. It was future and past.

“It made me say, ‘Wow.’

“On the PGA Tour, any player I go up to and say, ‘Hey is golf a spiritual game?’ They’ll pretty much all say, ‘Yes.’

“So, I saw there was this golden story lying under the veneer of every PGA Tour event. I thought: I’ve already got my theories about golf, and now I have a way to literally measure it.”

On his progress so far

“I started bringing my camera with me about four years ago. I interviewed a lot of the greats slowly but surely.

“I’ve done a lot of testing with the guys and the Focus Band to make sure the experiment is going to…work on camera. For each person, putting this Focus Band on is like seeing themselves in the mirror for the first time. I thought: This is awesome; we’ve got a golden brick here.

“We’ve attracted some great producers to the film [the producer of Rudy and Swingers, for example]. We have financing partners when this crowdfunding campaign is complete. We’ve done a lot, but there’s a lot further to go. A lot of what we’re waiting to shoot is this experiment with these great players…that’s the story.

“The campaign will be done January 12th. Then, we’ve got to wait just a little bit for the other funding sources to come in. The IndieGoGo campaign is a way for people to get involved now and learn about the story and get really cool rewards that are individual to the film.

“Pre-production: We’ll shoot over the summer, then we’re editing for about six months. We’ll have the theatrical release around the Summer Olympics in Rio in 2016.”

On what golf is

“All this brought me to this conclusion: Golf is an excuse to do anything you want. Maybe it’s stuff that you wouldn’t do otherwise…like meditate. If you think about the experience of going to play a round of golf, it’s so interesting and bizarre on so many levels.

“Pete Dye’s whole thing is: ‘You think you’re going to get better next Saturday. But next Saturday doesn’t come.

“You’re showing up every time and hoping that it’s going to be that magical round. It pretty much never is. Every round of golf is incredibly heartbreaking.”

On his hopes for the film

“This is an entertaining thing, but really it’s aimed toward change and helping people’s golf games and really helping people’s lives. I need to make this information as palatable and as interesting as possible to get people to watch it.

“I would like to see this film have an effect on so many things. I would like to see the non-golf audience look at golf and say, ‘That looks cool. I’d really like to try that.’

“I would like it to make it into the wide view of people watching movies. That’s why it’s called Be The Ball. It goes beyond just the golf ball.

“I would love golfers to say, ‘Wait a minute, have I been doing this all wrong? Is getting upset after every shot that doesn’t go in the hole the right way to do it?’

“And then I would like the Focus Band to make it into all facets of life…they’re talking about getting it into kid’s video games, and I would also like to see a large shift in how we think about thinking.

“It’s cool to see people so excited about this idea, because it’s so important to me.”

To follow Erik’s progress, check out the Be The Ball IndieGoGoFacebookand Twitter pages. 

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10 Comments

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  1. Dr Golf

    Dec 3, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    I have been in practice for over 20 years and have seen the positive results of neurofeedback therapy. When used properly, this type of training can be very effective. If golf teaching professionals get trained on how to do this, I think this could be a very valuable aide to those looking to achieve peak performance.

    As an avid golfer who loves the game, I hope this movie helps bring golf back into the positive media spotlight.

  2. GolfFan

    Dec 3, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    Just saw an interview of this on Back9Network – does a good job explaining it more. Made more sense once I watched that. Here’s the link: http://www.back9network.com/article/be-the-ball-could-feature-mcilroy-murray-if-funded/

  3. ParGolfer

    Dec 3, 2014 at 6:03 pm

    Very interesting topic but completely agree with the premise. I personally wasn’t able to get to single digit handicap (then eventually scratch) until I did some mental game training with a PGA teaching professional.

    I think the video is hilarious – and exactly what golf needs right now…some humor combined with something that might actually help them improve their game (or at least enjoyment of it).

  4. Chris

    Dec 3, 2014 at 4:24 am

    I checked out the website for Focus Band. Seems they are trotting out the tired old Left Brain/Right Brain myth, repackaging it and selling it with a (no doubt) expensive piece of electronics.

    The claim proven results but 8 PGA touring professionals is a laughably poor sample.

  5. No bueno

    Dec 3, 2014 at 1:03 am

    I would like to kill this guy. Thank you.

  6. dot dot

    Dec 2, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    What a crock. Step up, hit the ball, and move on. Done, done and done

  7. tedesco

    Dec 2, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    Hope that’s a golf ball in his pocket at 1.11

  8. TheBrokenTee

    Dec 2, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    Article was awesome, video was stupid.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: From “secret” to 5 basics for a better wedge game

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First of all, thanks to all of you who read and gave last week’s post such high marks. And for all of you who have sent me an email asking for me to address so many topics. Keep those coming and I’ll never run out of things to write about.

In response to so many of those who asked for more on the basics, I want to start a series of articles this week to address some of what I consider the basics as you move your wedge game from greenside chipping, back to “full” wedge distances.

While I certainly do not want to try to replace the skills and contributions of a good instructor, what I hope to accomplish over the next few posts is to give you some of what I consider the most sound and basic of fundamentals as you approach shots from the green back to 100-130 yards, or what you consider “full” swing pitching wedge distance.

So, to get this series kicked off, let’s take the most basic of greenside chips, where the ball lies in a reasonably decent lie 3-10 feet from the edge of the green. I know there are many theories and approaches to chipping the ball, from a “putt-stroke” to hitting them all with a lob wedge, but I’m going to focus on what I consider the most simple and basic of approaches to chipping, so here we go:

Club selection. For golfers who are not highly skilled in this shot and who do not yet want to try to exhibit tons of creativity, my theory is that it is much easier to master one basic technique, then choose the right club to deliver the appropriate carry/roll combination. Once you have done a little practice and experimenting, you should really understand that relationship for two to four different clubs, say your sand wedge, gap wedge and pitching wedge.

Geometry. By that I mean to “build” the shot technique around the club and ball relationship to your body, as those are static. Start with your club soled properly, so that it is not standing up on the toe or rocked back on the heel. With the ball centered in the face, the shaft should be leaning very slightly forward toward the hole. Then move into your stance position, so that your lead arm is hanging straight down from your shoulders and your upper hand can grasp the grip with about 1-2” of “grip down” (I hate the term “choke up”). I’m a firm believer that the lead arm should not angle back toward the body, or out toward the ball, as either compromises the geometry of the club. The stance should be rather narrow and a bit open, weight 70% on your lead foot, and the ball positioned just forward of your trailing foot.

Relax. This is a touch shot, so it needs a very light grip on the club. Tension in the hands and forearms is a killer on these. I like to do a “pressure check” just before taking the club back, just to make sure I have not let the shot tighten me up.

The body core is key. This is not a “handsy” shot, but much more like a putt in that the shoulders turn away from the shot and back through, with the arms and hands pretty quiet. Because of the light grip, there will, by necessity, be some “loading” as you make the transition at the end of the backswing, but you want to “hold” that making sure your lead shoulder/forearm stay ahead of the clubhead through the entire through-stroke. This insures – like I pointed out last week – that the club stays in front of your body through the entire mini-swing.

Control speed with core speed. I think a longer stroke/swing makes for a smoother tempo on these shots. Don’t be afraid to take the club back a bit further than you might otherwise think, and just make the through-stroke as s-m-o-0-t-h as possible. Avoid any quickness or “jab-iness” in the stroke at all. Once you experiment a bit, you can learn how to control your body core rotation speed much easier than you can control hand speed. And it is nearly impossible to get too quick if you do that.

Again, I am certainly not here to replace or substitute for good instruction, and I know there are a number of approaches to chipping. This is just the one that I have found easier to learn and master in relation to the time you have to spend on your short game practice.

Next week, we’ll move back to those shorter pitches up to about 30 yards.

And keep those emails coming, OK? [email protected].

 

 

 

 

 

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Reviewing TaylorMade’s NEW SIM2 woods and hybrids!

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TaylorMade’s new SIM2 woods and hybrids are out and I have had them on the range to test. SIM2 seems to offer better shots on mishits throughout the line, keeping those shots in play better than last year. Everything seems to be improved in one way or another and I personally love the SIM2 Max driver and fairway!

 

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: What’s your takeaway waggle?

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Two wonderful examples on the PGA Tour are Sung Jae Im and Justin Thomas. We explain how this takeaway waggle brings your awareness full circle to how your backswing matches the direction you want to start the ball on. With awareness and confirmation that the backswing fits and that you don’t have to rush through it. You get a sense of calm that you can accomplish the task you set out and your chances at consistency have increased exponentially.

 

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