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Golf: a game of mind-body connection

When it comes to actually playing the game, the fundamental rule you have to remember is that the mind cannot consciously control movement. But a mind that is in sync with the body can lead to extraordinary levels of fluid, effortless performance, writes Jayne Storey Stop press! Golf is not a mental game. Quite a controversial statement, I think you’ll agree, especially considering that many golfers have bought into the premise that positive thinking, outcome visualization and the re-framing of thoughts in their mind’s eye can have an impact on their on-course performance. These interventions do work to a large extent but the effects are short-lived and cannot do much to halt the biochemical reaction (nerves, anxiety and adrenaline) which pressure arouses in the nervous-system when standing on the first tee or putting out for the championship. While I absolutely see the value of achievement psychology, motivational thinking, and neuro linguistic programming as tools to motivate, inspire and prepare you before stepping on to the course, when you are actually playing the game, you need to leave these things in the locker room along with all those swing tips. Here’s why. The mind cannot control movement. In fact the wrong use of the mind only serves to hinder the flow of motion. But a mind that is connected to the body can and will enable the performance of movement that is fluid, powerful, effortless and precise.

improvement of the sport and for our understanding and development of the athlete golfer. However, my experience and the feedback I’ve had from hundreds of players around the world is that during play, and especially under pressure, another level of attention is required – one that’s not concerned with the realm of the mind alone. I think Graeme McDowell explained it best, after he holed the winning putt at the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor. Fresh from his US Open victory at Pebble Beach, GMac found himself in the deciding singles match with Hunter Mahan, and said he was so nervous before stroking the putt that he literally couldn’t think and could barely feel his hands – the adrenaline was pumping so much. In that moment of absolute pressure, he said it all came down to instinct and intuition. You can’t think your way to the perfect golf shot; this is something that happens only when the controlling influence of the mind is subdued. If you follow my work you’ll know I’m a great advocate of traditional Zen meditation, a practice which helps to tame what’s often called the ‘inner chimp’ through the process of focusing on breathing. This is the easiest and most direct way to activate the so-called mind~body connection. It creates a sensory feedback loop between your attention (mind) and your breathing (body) and so conjoins thinking with feeling, your mental state with your swing. Conversely, the more the mind tries to take control and organize movement, the more you try to “get it right”, the more tension arises in the body and the less fluid and accurate your motion. Again, the mind cannot control movement. It’s not fast enough to keep up with the tens of thousands of neurons, slow and fast-twitch muscle fibres and tendons all firing at the right time, and in the right sequence, to create the chain of events that allows for the 1.8 seconds of one of the most complex movements in all of sport…the golf swing. Yet how often have you tried to think your way through a shot and wondered why it didn’t turn out the way you wanted?

“ The mind cannot control movement. But a mind that is connected to the body can and will enable the performance of movement that is fluid, effortless and precise

Understanding the mind~body Connection Golf, perhaps more than any other sport because the margins are crucial, is a game where your mind and your body really need to connect. To play well, it is vital that your mind and your movement are unified, in sync, seamlessly working together to produce the shot you want. And this just doesn’t happen often enough for the majority of golfers using the mainstream approach that separates the mind from the body, the mental game from the swing, golf psychology from technique. It’s nobody’s fault, it’s simply where things are in the industry at the moment. For clarity, I’m not saying there’s anything negative about ‘mental game’ coaching or swing coaching. These things are absolutely necessary for the continual 28 ATLANTIC GOLF & LIFESTYLE ISSUE #3

Atlantic Golf & LifeStyle Magazine - issue 3 (Dec 17 /Jan 18)  
Atlantic Golf & LifeStyle Magazine - issue 3 (Dec 17 /Jan 18)  

The third issue of this recently launched regional golf title for the West Country. A free, high quality golf magazine from the previous pu...