Maintaining a state of relaxed concentration is the key to superior performance on the golf course, especially when you’re under pressure.
This article explains the simplest and most direct route to holding your nerve and delivering shots that are fluid, effortless and precise, especially when the next shot is the one that really counts.
In addition to working with golfers, over the years I’ve coached athletes from many different backgrounds, including a Masters World champion swimmer, an Iron Man record-holder, an Olympic middle-distance runner, junior gymnasts, snow-boarders and a number of elite tennis-players.
Time and again experience shows that whatever the competitive situation might be, the skill that separates the champion from the runner-up is being able to maintain a state of relaxed concentration aka ‘the zone’ or flow-state. This is perhaps more true in golf than any other sport.
The ancient Buddhist art of Meditation (awareness of breathing) is proven through my extensive research over the past 17 years (and verified by the latest findings from neuroscience) to be the only way to train for the zone.
This elixir of performance is not a psychological ‘technique’ (you can’t think your way into it) but a daily practice or deep practice of mindful attention. It will virtually guarantee that you can get round the course in fewer shots, put yourself in contention, and hole out to win.
How your breathing changes when you’re under pressure
Changes in your body go something like this. You perceive a tense situation, say a bad lie after a hooked tee shot and immediately and unconsciously you start shallow breathing. Next, your chest will get a little tighter, less oxygen is fed to your brain, your nervous-system becomes flooded with adrenaline, your heart beats a bit quicker, your muscles tighten and this makes your whole body tense.
With a tense body you are likely to feel up-tight, engage in too much self-talk, rush your shot preparation and probably shorten your back-swing, leading to a potentially duff second shot which will only increase your sense of anxiety, keep your breath shallow and hasten your decreasing circle of performance …I call it the Circle of Deterioration.
Here’s what happens when you take control of your breathing
Changes in your body go something like this. You perceive a tense situation, say a bad lie after a hooked tee shot and immediately and unconsciously you start shallow breathing…but this time you catch yourself, regroup and start breathing deeply, slowly and mindfully.
Now, instead of allowing your innate Stress Response to take over and run your brain, body and nervous-system for the duration of the shot, you can take conscious control of your mental and emotional state, bringing them back to neutral and opening the doorway to the zone.
Deep breathing sends more oxygen to your brain which then floods your nervous-system with endorphins, lowers your heart-rate, relaxes your muscles, strengthens your mind~body connection, raises your confidence levels, and creates a calm yet focused state from which to set-up and swing.
Physiologists call it the Relaxation Response… I call it The Circle of Excellence.
The inherent challenge
Now if you’re up to date with current trends it’s likely that you’ve heard or read about the beneficial effects of meditation before and you also know that many of the world’s top players now practice awareness of breathing when they’re walking to the first tee or stepping onto the putting green.
But knowledge alone cannot accelerate your performance; an intellectual understanding of why meditation works won’t help you lift that trophy – instead what’s required is consistent, dedicated practice and an attitude that isn’t afraid of daily effort.
And I’m not talking about spacing-out while listening to a meditation app on your iPhone, but actually knuckling down for 15 minutes every day, sitting quietly, focusing on your breathing, reducing all that mental chatter and getting reacquainted with your physical self (being present in your body in the moment).
What can you expect?
Here’s some feedback from a couple of my students who’ve made a commitment to regular meditation practice; they are both low handicap competitive amateurs who’ve broken through the performance plateau just by adding this simple (but not easy!) training to their golf and fitness practice.
My friend and I played in our club’s annual alternate shot tournament where we shot 68 GROSS (63 net) which is pretty incredible for alternate shot. I hit every fairway and we hit 16/18 greens including reaching the 18th hole par 5 in two to seal the victory under intense pressure. This brings my 2017 victories to 10 in total - from corporate events to monthly medals to the club team matches. I had meditated most days of the week and I envisioned success. During the actual matches, I just monitored my breathing, enjoyed the company and encouraged my partner while focusing on the target. In spite of the pressure and even the sledging that was going on, I never once felt anything but comfortable and confident. Thank you, again, for your guidance and support – John K
My golf since our meeting has been unbelievable. I arrived back in Australia Monday morning at 7.00am after a 24 hour journey from UK and teed off 2 hours later and shot 78. Then followed that up with 79 on Tuesday and 75 on Wednesday, to come 12th in the Seniors Championship; this is the first time I ever shot three rounds under 80, and my best result in any State Championship. I have in all played 10 games since I’ve been back and 7 of those been below 80. Once again thank you Jayne, your technique is working to achieve my goal with my golf. - Padge S
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The report details much of the research behind meditation (including an interesting story about His Holiness The Dalai Lama and an MRI scanner!), plus you’ll learn about the different stages of meditation, how to practice, how to prepare for competition and how to apply the training in real time on the golf course.
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