The keys to the effortless golf shot
lie in the moments of stillness before movement occurs.
In fact, the effortless golf shot has less to do with your understanding of swing technique and more to do with your understanding of yourself, and your ability to be ‘centered’ over the ball; but where can you find the method to help you adopt this different approach that is counter to the mainstream?
I’m happy to say that if you’re reading this you’re in the right place. I have spent most of my life training and studying the relationship between movement and stillness in the martial arts, 30 years to be precise and half of that time I’ve been engaged with understanding and applying simple principles of these arts (Chi Kung, Tai Chi and Zazen) to help people play a more effortless and enjoyable game of golf. It’s been an enormous struggle.
The mainstream approach, in fact the entire golf industry seems to be more concerned with selling products than it is with helping golfers achieve their potential. The ‘tips and tricks’ culture of golf magazines was recently described by one of my students as being like a feature from a Women’s magazine; you know the sort “Win Your Dream Man, Lose Weight and Get Promoted – all by following these simple steps!”
Then of course, there’s the industry within the industry, the fairly new phenomenon of swing coaching. This micro-industry within golf (with all due respect to my PGA and WGTF colleagues and friends) is a bit like Freudian analysis in that the more coaching / therapy you have, the more you try to overcome your issues and ingrained patterns of thinking and moving, the more lessons / therapy you need to have. It’s a vicious cycle and one that keeps many people locked at their current level of performance or worse still, sees their performance deteriorate.
However, this downwards spiral of counter-productive practice can be halted once you decide that in fact YOU can be the expert on your own golf swing because only you inhabit your body and your mind; only you know what type of self interference manifests, from nerves and anxiety to harmful self-talk to over-confidence, lack of confidence, rushing your preparation and so forth.
Here’s an example to illustrate. Erik, an older, mid-handicap player came to me after suffering the following problem for many years in his golf swing, which remained despite countless lessons on golf swing technique.
“My major problem has been the nervous raising of the head and upper body just before hitting the ball, a reflex action that I simply could not overcome; despite many years of having golf lessons, this issue could not be solved and it affected all aspects of my game from driving to putting”.
Adopting the Chi-Motion GOLF approach of deep, mindful practice and awareness techniques, within a few short months the issues had all but evaporated, leaving Erik free from the reflex-action that was undermining his performance and ruining his enjoyment of the game. He says,
“With the meditation and focusing exercises I seem to have been able to “uncouple” these reflexes. With a new pre-shot routine of breathing and using the learning about biomechanics from your method, to relax and get centered before the shot, my ball striking has much improved”.
My approach is similar to that of some sects of Buddhism, who believe that we are already enlightened, it’s just that we’ve forgotten this is our natural state and so cover it with all manner of self-interference, mostly from the incessant chatter of the mind and extreme, often negative emotions.
So too with your golf game. I truly believe if you could only quieten your mind and relax your body, and play with the swing you already have, you will have far more enjoyment out on the course, you will play to your own potential and you are virtually guaranteed to win more games.
How do I know this? From the years of research and the hundreds of students I’ve coached and listed to. What I’ve discovered is that if you’ve played golf for three years or more, then chances are you’ve plateaued and the only way to improve is to stop learning ever more about the golf swing and start the process of learning about yourself, we might call this the path to self-mastery which is a term used by the great Jack Nicklaus, my personal golfing hero in his book ‘Golf and Life’.
It was Jack Nicklaus’s remark that “golf is played with the feet” that started me on the journey to working with golfers and other athletes as it links directly with a phrase used by Tai Chi Grand-master Yeung Cheng-Fu – “Rooted in the feet, Moving through the waist, Expressed in the hands”. These are the principles of biomechanical movement, which were around eons before golf swing technique was even thought of, and demonstrate the order in which power and complex motion flow through the body.
Coupled with the meditative state (which we now know is akin to the Zone or Flow) it seemed to me when I heard the Golden Bear’s remarks, that Tai Chi and Meditation could be of enormous value to golfers, by providing another language, another map, another model of the human body, and show how effortless yet precise movement is best achieved, particularly in times of intense pressure when the nerves, anxiety, adrenaline and mental self-interference can all but wreak havoc with the most well-prepared athlete or competitor.
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