Are You a Head Case? How Neurofeedback Can Help
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.
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The Wedge Guy: What really needs fixing in your game?
I always find it interesting to watch how golfers interact with the practice range, if they do so at all. I certainly can figure out how to understand that some golfers just do not really want to get better — at least not enough to spend time on the practice range trying to improve.
What is most puzzling to me is how many golfers completely ignore the rationale for going to the range to at least warm up before they head to the first tee. Why anyone would set aside 4-6 hours of their day for a round of golf, and then not even give themselves a chance to do their best is beyond me. But today, I’m writing for those of you who really do want to improve your golf scores and your enjoyment of the game.
I’ve seen tons of research for my entire 40 years in this industry that consistently shows the number one goal of all golfers, of any skill level, from 100-shooter to tour professional, is simply to hit better golf shots more often. And while our definition of “better” is certainly different based on our respective skill level, the game is just more fun when your best shots happen more often and your worst shots are always getting better.
Today’s article is triggered by what we saw happen at the Valspar tour event this past Sunday. While Taylor Moore certainly had some big moments in a great final round, both Jordan Spieth and Adam Schenk threw away their chances to win with big misses down the stretch, both of them with driver. Spieth’s wayward drive into the water on the 16th and Schenk’s big miss left on the 18th spelled doom for both of them.
It amazes me how the best players on the planet routinely hit the most God-awful shots with such regularity, given the amazing talents they all have. But those guys are not what I’m talking about this week. In keeping with the path of the past few posts, I’m encouraging each and every one of you to think about your most recent rounds (if you are playing already this year), or recall the rounds you finished the season with last year. What you are looking for are you own “big misses” that kept you from scoring better.
Was it a few wayward drives that put you in trouble or even out of bounds? Or maybe loose approach shots that made birdie impossible and par super challenging? Might your issue have been some missed short putts or bad long putts that led to a three-putt? Most likely for any of you, you can recall a number of times where you just did not give yourself a good chance to save par or bogey from what was a not-too-difficult greenside recovery.
The point is, in order to get consistently better, you need to make an honest assessment of where you are losing strokes and then commit to improving that part of your game. If it isn’t your driving that causes problems, contain that part of practice or pre-round warm-ups to just a half dozen swings or so, for the fun of “the big stick”. If your challenges seem to be centered around greenside recoveries, spend a lot more time practicing both your technique and imagination – seeing the shot in your mind and then trying to execute the exact distance and trajectory of the shot required. Time on the putting green will almost always pay off on the course.
But, if you are genuinely interested in improving your overall ball-striking consistency, you would be well-served to examine your fundamentals, starting with the grip and posture/setup. It is near impossible to build a repeating golf swing if those two fundamentals are not just right. And if those two things are fundamentally sound, the creation of a repeating golf swing is much easier.
More from the Wedge Guy
- The Wedge Guy: It’s not all about distance
- The Wedge Guy: Are you really willing to get better at golf?
- The Wedge Guy: Anatomy of a wedge head
Clement: It’s hard to hit the driver badly when you’re doing this
Mu and I go through the swing of the driver in slow motion to show the difference between hitting at the ball and then trying to move it to target versus collecting the ball from the top of the tee and releasing it into the flight plan. Check out the video to learn what this means for your golf swing.
Also: Congrats on Savy getting another personal best of 337 yards at the WLD event in Mesquite!
How to hit a fade…according to YouTube, a robot, and GolfWRX members
How to hit a fade. At some point, if you aren’t a habitual slicer of the golf ball and are able to hit a draw with regularity, in your quest to become a better golfer, you’re going to want to know how to do this.
Without debating the relative merits of a draw versus a fade, it’s agreed that working the golf ball both ways is key to to scoring, positioning off the tee, and risk minimization. If you’re a golfer who is currently only slinging draws, we have some advice for you on how to hit a fade from three very different sources.
How to hit a fade…
…according to a robot (that is, A.I. language model ChatGPT):
A fade is a type of golf shot that curves gently from left to right (for a right-handed golfer). If you want to know how to hit a fade, follow these steps:
- Set up for the shot: Aim your clubface at the target, but align your feet, hips, and shoulders slightly to the left of the target. This open stance will help promote a left-to-right spin on the ball.
- Grip the club: Hold the club normally, but slightly weaken your grip by turning your hands slightly to the left (again, for a right-handed golfer). This will help you hit the ball with an open clubface.
- Swing the club: On your backswing, keep your clubface square to the target for as long as possible. Then, on your downswing, try to swing slightly from the inside to out, which will help produce the left-to-right spin on the ball. Finally, make sure to follow through towards the target with a high finish.
- Practice: Hitting a consistent fade can take some practice. Spend time on the driving range and experiment with different grip and swing adjustments until you find what works best for you.
Remember, hitting a fade is not about hitting the ball harder, it’s about controlling the spin and direction of the ball. With practice, you can learn to hit a reliable fade that can help you navigate tricky golf course layouts.
Hitting a fade takes practice, and it may take some trial and error to find the right adjustments for your swing. It’s also important to note that a fade is not necessarily the ideal shot shape for every situation, so it’s important to be comfortable with hitting a variety of shots on the golf course.
How to hit a fade…according to the most-watched video on YouTube on the subject
With more than one million views on YouTube, this video from Any and Piers of MeAndMyGolf not only covers hitting a fade but also discussing drawing the golf ball as well as hitting it high and low.
…according to GolfWRXers
And of course, our GolfWRX forum members have opinions on the subject.
The appropriately named PreppySlapCut said: “If the face is open to the path, the ball is going to fade. There’s several adjustments you can make to encourage that to happen, it’s just a question of what feels best for you and allows you to do it most consistently.”
Bladehunter says: “For me just the sensation of taking the club back outside your hands , and then swing left with a face square to target , while turning hard as you can makes for a pretty straight flight that won’t hook. Unless you stall and let your hands pass you.”
“That’s my take as an upright swinger If you’re really flat it’s going to be tough to time up and never have the two way miss Because you’re always coming from the inside and will rely on timing the face open or shut to see a fade or draw . For me it’s just set the face at address and feel like you hold it there until impact”
Dpd5031 says: “Had a pro teach me this. Aim a little left, stance slightly open, still hit it from the inside (just like your draw), but unwind chest hard letting handle follow your rotation so toe never passes heel. He called it a “drawy fade.” Ball takes off almost looking like it’s going to draw, but tumbles over to the right instead of left. Cool thing is ya dont give up any distance doing it this way as opposed to cutting across it.”
Scottbox says: “Jon Rahm is a good example. Watch the hand path of his backswing– his hands are not as “deep” as someone who draws the ball (i.e. Rory). And even though he has a slightly shut face, Rahm rotates his chest and hips very hard. Because there’s less depth to his backswing, the club gets more in front of him at P6. He’s most likely 1-2* outside in at last parallel. Brooks Koepka has a longer swing, but similar, in terms of his hand path– well above the shaft plane going up with less depth to his hands at the top, and slightly above the plane coming down.”
“Most good modern players rotate pretty hard with their hips and chest to stabilize the face, but the difference between those who draw it and those who hit a baby cut is often seen in the way they “engineer” their backswing patterns.”
Check out more of the “how to hit a fade” discussion in the forum thread.
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Nov 11, 2017 at 4:13 pm
This is the most informative article on neuro-science ever on Golf WRX.
Keep up the good work informing golfers on the latest brain training methods.
Bobby Jones: “Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course, the space between your ears.”
Nov 10, 2017 at 5:58 am
Great article Rob, thanks for sharing. Reminded me of Gallwey’s Inner Game theory. I suspect the very best players have always had a knack for (or learned to and understood the importance of) switching between the two states, almost like flicking a switch-Hogan, Nicklaus, Woods. Or they simply just approached and played the game with feel, athleticism and simple thoughts e.g. a Snead, Couples or Daly. Anyhow, a follow up article on ideas on how to keep the brain in the green would be interesting-that’s the tough bit…
Nov 9, 2017 at 1:37 am
For a professorial explanation of the functions and abilities of the right and left brain hemisphere view this YouTube video in it’s entirety:
This lecture confirms the basis of the FocusBand and how it applies to the golf swing.
Nov 9, 2017 at 11:44 am
So what Professor Jordan Peterson is telling us is that it’s useless to inject a “swing thought” during the swing, and it’s even doubtful thinking about a swing tip using the left side of your brain at address.
The only way to improve your golfing brain function is to practice sufficiently so that the golf swing is established in the right hemisphere and the ability is transferred to the left hemisphere, and then transferred back to the right side!
Or is it the other way around…. oy, my head/brain is hurting already!! Best I use the FocusBand and then follow the colored lights! 🙂
BTW, if you view Peterson’s other videos you will be pleasantly surprised by his viewpoint. He declares universities are robbing students by teaching them useless social justice propaganda, and that “God” is real (in the minds of people).
Nov 8, 2017 at 10:08 pm
My instructor has a Focus Band and use it in our training. I’m familiar with the right brain (creative), left brain (analytical) theory. But at first when I use it, I thought it was made up junk science.
But to my amazement, it worked and I hit my best shot when I switched on my right side.
It is expensive for the everyday golfer to afford, however at $500.
Nov 8, 2017 at 9:51 pm
EEG has been relegated to the dustbin by neuroscience, and that band relies on the same principles. PET has demonstrated they are hokum. You have been hoodwinked.
Nov 9, 2017 at 11:50 am
PET has determined that both sides of the brain are working together at all times and you can’t completely switch off one side. However the EEG FocusBand registers which side of the brain activity is predominant during physical activities while both sides are working furiously during the golf swing! 😉
Nov 8, 2017 at 5:55 pm
Here’s a good question. How do the right and left hemispheres of the brain react when a right handed person swings left handed? How does it compare to a right handed person swinging right?
Also, do the brain hemispheres switch characteristics if you are left handed?
Great article which I’m bookmarking. Thanx.
Nov 8, 2017 at 1:52 pm
I’ve wanted to get this product for a long time. The only thing holding me back is the cost. It’d be nice to try it out through a practice or lesson before committing.
Nov 8, 2017 at 1:05 pm
WOW!!!! Mindblowing and also destroys all the old dog instruction books on golfing ‘my way’!
You say the Focus Band is also integrated with your FlightScope launch monitor. What readouts do you acquire during the golfswing sequence? Do you see color changes going from the backswing into the downswing, and if you do can you describe the patterns?
Since this is something very new you will undoubtedly be learning how to use it with time. Please keep us science-heads on GolfWRX informed of any new discoveries. Thanks.
Nov 8, 2017 at 6:00 pm
LOL! Sciheads v.s. gearheads. And the winner is ……
Nov 9, 2017 at 4:02 pm
What’s the difference between a ‘scihead’ and a ‘gearhead’?
A scihead knows that golfing brains are in his head.
A gearhead thinks the brains are in his clubhead.;)