Mental Side Of Golf… Stay In The Present And Lower Your Scores
A frequently heard commentators comment is that of a player needing “only to stay in the present”, possibly an obvious observation, but, certainly one of the most difficult states to achieve. The brain is such a fast operating super-computer that unconscious thoughts seem to fly unbidden from the right side of the brain to the left with alarming speed and clarity. Among the most useful tools that the sports psychologist or mind coach can give to a player are those that help clear the mind and allow them to stay in the present.
One of the most effective methods is that of “squeezing the sponge”. Squeezing the sponge is the title of a breathing exercise whereby the art of concentrated breathing will calm and relax a player. People generally believe deep breathing to have its emphasis on inhaling, squeezing the sponge is in fact the exact opposite, by fully breathing out, exhaling, to the point where the stomach can be felt moving backwards towards the spine eventually a point will be reached where a reflex action takes place and the body is filled with clean fresh oxygen as the player is forced to inhale, in scientific terms, an involuntary action. As a player breathes out they are also expelling any bad feelings, while the new breath provides new energy and centers the mind and body. By concentrating on breathing in this way a player has been forced to stay in the present.
The sensation caused in the abdomen during the full exhale in the breathing exercise is also the area of the body concerned with the concept of centering. Centering is a method used widely in the field of martial arts and is an excellent tool for helping players stay in the present. In his book “Chen-Hsin – The Principles of Effortless Power” Peter Ralston states.
“There are aspects of this field of study that are sometimes emphasized or made pivotal to the rest. Centering is one of those. Indeed, it would be possible to devise an ENTIRE art founded totally and solely upon this one point. Many warrior trainings, esoteric practices and metaphysical techniques revolve around this one principle of centering.
In my life, I have spent much time concentrating on that spot and have practiced a great deal moving from there. It is my experience that this produces TREMENDOUS results.
The center region is concentrated in a place within the abdomen. You should feel this place to be large enough to be powerful and yet not so large that you cannot maintain a feeling of its density.
Performing and functional activity while concentrating on that spot will automatically increase the POWER, SKILL and EFFECTIVENESS of that activity.”
It is important that players practice the art of centering to the point where they can automatically find their center in the pressure situation of tournaments. To help this and reinforce the benefits of these tools try hitting a dozen balls on the range thinking of nothing but technique, to in effect be hitting balls with your head, but still with a specific target. Then hit a second dozen having first squeezed the sponge and then following the centering technique as they cross the play line, feel how different the experiences are. This exercise has a tremendous added benefit in that when a player is fully and correctly centered they will also be perfectly balanced
Another tried and tested method to help players stay in the present is that of “clear keys”, clear keys are tools that can be used to distract the conscious mind and allow the subconscious to perform unhindered. An exercise to show how this works is to stand about 12-15 feet away from a partner, he holding one golf ball, you holding two. Initially using only one ball each start tossing the balls to each other simultaneously and continuously but the only thing either of you concentrate on is saying the word ‘now’ when you perceive that the ball approaching you has reached the apex of its flight. You will find that you are both effortlessly throwing and catching the balls in the manner of seasoned circus act. After a short period, introduce the third ball into the exercise, you will find that you continue to “juggle” the balls without difficulty. The word “now” is your clear key and you have quieted the conscious mind.
Clear keys whilst playing usually take the form of some sort of mantra, back-hit, being one of the most common, humming is another often used key but any distraction can produce the desired result.
Nick Madgett is a Sports Psychologist and qualified Mind Factor Coach, the Mind Factor system is used by some of the worlds greatest players such as Darren Clarke, Lee Westwood, David Howell and Graeme McDowell. Nick is also the main contributor to http://www.golfpsychologyonline.com.