Golf Swing Thoughts

Are you playing golf with the handbrake on?

Does your golf ever feel like it does when you drive your car with the handbrake pulled on? Restricted? Lacking flow?

Consider the following…

We learn to walk BEFORE we learn to talk. This is a very good thing. Imagine what it would be like learning how to walk by following verbal instructions and then consciously attempting to carry out the physical movements. Would it help or hinder you if you required conscious thought to develop the neurological motor patterns for walking and running? Clearly the latter.

Without spoken language as infants we rely purely on self awareness. We have no choice. We can’t analyze, strategize or debate at this time. We use our senses and the power of NON-conscious mind to process the world around us. We learn to crawl, walk and run free from conscious thought. We develop many motor patterns trusted for life , all non-consciously.

Then we learn to talk,  learn to think and this is where for many of us we start to pull the handbrake on.

As soon as we involve our “thinking” mind in the development of any new motor skills, we in essence throw a cloak over our non-conscious mind. We forlornly attempt to achieve similar levels of performance using our conscious mind, which our non-conscious mind previously demonstrated.  The conscious mind offers many benefits but helping us efficiently acquire motor skills is NOT one of them. This is important. The sooner you can remove the conscious mind from attempting to control physical actions, the sooner you can leverage the resources of the non-conscious mind.
When we repeat any physical movement we improve the myelinazation of the neurons responsible for that movement. The more we repeat the stronger the memory is created REGARDLESS of whether it is the correct motor movement. This is why we take technical lessons to ensure we identify the correct movements. So what prevents a motor pattern from being PERFORMED successfully whilst it is being developed? Conscious attempts to control the physical movement i.e swing thoughts. These frequently occur when we consciously learn any new motor skill but through repetition we  usually STOP the conscious interference. When? When our attentional focus shifts away from the physical task we are carrying out be it riding a bike, driving a car, typing, playing an instrument etc. Unfortunately, this critical attention shift does NOT happen in golf due to how we attempt to learn, practice and play. It’s all very conscious.

It’s important to understand that muscles do NOT store the motor patterns we develop. Our muscles enable us to carry out 1000’s of different physical tasks in life. So where are all these different memories stored? In the brain. We create NEUROLOGICAL memories and it is these which are called upon when carrying out habitual physical tasks. Our brain sends the signals to the muscles and they fire accordingly. This all works typically and most effectively as a NON-conscious function. We think a statement of intention and then non-consciously move to carry out the task. The golf motion is just 1 of many physical tasks so why can’t you ever trust it to move non-consciously too?

Well, how can you do this in golf where we typically spend our lives being taught how to swing and practice consciously? You need to understand how to keep your conscious mind out of the physical movement process. Dr Anthony Piparo has developed a significant and systematic training program which explains in great detail how to achieve this. It doesn’t matter if you’re just beginning, a frustrated amateur or a confused professional – this mental game training program is relevant to all.

Golfers spend their lives attempting to improve their skills using CONSCIOUS efforts to control their physical actions in practice. Under the “perceived” pressure of competition this dominant mentality in practice comes to the fore, typically destroying physical flow in their actions and the ability to focus their attention appropriately. Your swing clearly can’t “go off” over a round of golf – the brain simply can’t alter it’s neurological structures so quickly. That’s not how the brain functions. So WHAT is changing between your driving range practice to the heat of competition when your game breaks down?

There are many sports where some arousal and adrenaline heighten the athletes ability to perform and triggers the ‘flight or fight’ response in a positive way. However, there are many sports which require a single pointed concentration like golf, tennis serve, archery, shooting, goal kicking where losing control of your attentional focus leaves you in the wrong physical and emotional state to enable physical and mental flow to occur. Your thoughts destroy flow, not your body.

So if you don’t learn how to prepare for a ‘worse case’ scenario in your practice before it occurs in competition, it’s no surprise that golfers ‘choke’. Their physical skills don’t suddenly desert them but their lack of control over what they are choosing to attend to does. Their perception of the task changes, not the task itself. When you manage your perception of a situation, pressure no longer exists. How can it? It is no more than a figment of your imagination. Performance follows.

That’s the value of learning Target Oriented Golf. Understanding how to keep your conscious mind focused and occupied with where you wish to send your ball (the task) as you look down at your ball, enables your non-conscious mind to perform the physical movement. You experience what if feels like to play golf FREE of swing thoughts, just like you perform every other life task successfully today. You take the handbrake off.  Why wouldn’t you play golf this way too?

The technical and mental aspects of golf are often seen as skills to be developed independent of each other. In reality, they need to be developed concurrently or you end up attempting to build a wall with no mortar between the bricks. It never feels stable. If the above resonates and you are ready to learn how to develop your golf skills further using effective attentional focus control techniques when developing new motor skills, practicing and playing golf you can begin your journey today.

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Colin Cromack

is the creator of Target Oriented Golf, an independently produced applied golf psychology coaching program. He specialises in the brain function of Attentional Focus. This lies at the heart of skills acquisition (how we learn) and psychology (how we perform). His work is supported by the very latest academic research. He is a PGA UK recognised Coaching Specialist and presents his work to PGA coaches, Pro players and dedicated amateurs.

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