Every week the world’s top players tee off in championships with a chance of being crowned the winner. They spend hours on the driving range building a better swing, from dawn to dusk on the short game area honing a precision touch and feel, and the majority go to the gym to improve their fitness, flexibility, core strength and for injury prevention.
All of these factors and more contribute to the ultimate goal of achieving tournament victories, but it is perhaps the little known area of mental preparation that we have the least knowledge of, especially mental preparation that really works.
Some top golfers have visible ‘mind coaches’ in attendance with them at tournaments, but most do their work behind closed doors with many simply relying on their own inner mental strength.
However the sheer lack of consistency by the world’s elite (how many players win major tournaments never to be heard of again, or achieve a top five position in one championship only to miss the cut on the next one?) points to the fact that mental strength and good swing mechanics alone cannot guarantee success.
Here’s where the little known area of the mind~body connection comes into play.
A lot of coaches talk about the mind~body connection and incorporate simple techniques like awareness of breathing into their repertoire, thinking that will solve the issue, but they still approach the mental game and swing mechanics as two separate parts of the game.
Yet without connecting the mind to the body, a golfer’s mental game to their technique, even the best in the world play a game I’ve coined ‘Hit and Miss’
The typical club player may not ever compete at such a high level of the game but nevertheless faces the same challenges every time they tee off. From the pressure of the first tee shot in front of golfing comrades, to that nerve-jangling clutch putt in a club match.
The one certainty is that it doesn’t matter how well prepared a golfer thinks he/she might be according to mainstream wisdom, they won’t be victorious unless they can get into the zone or flow-state, that coveted experience of relaxed concentration which quietens the analytical mind and allows the motor-system to directly influence the performance of fluid, yet precise and powerful motion.
So what are the components of the mind~body connection – that laid back, yet focused manner when even under pressure, a player can hit a shot that’s simply effortless?
My research over the past 17 years working with hundreds of golfers around the world, has identified eight mental and physical conditions that are described as being characteristic of the feelings golfers have during those moments when they are hitting the ball extraordinarily well i.e. when they are in the zone or flow-state.
Mentally relaxed. This is described most frequently as a sense of inner calm. Some golfers also report a sense of time being slowed down and having a high degree of concentration. By contrast, loss of concentration is associated with a sense of everything happening too fast and being out of control.
Physically relaxed. A feeling of the muscles being loose and of movement being fluid yet accurate.
Confident/optimistic. A positive attitude, feelings of self-confidence and optimism; maintaining poise and feelings of strength and control even during moments of intense pressure.
Focused on the present. A sense of harmony as the body and mind works as one unit. No thoughts of the past or future. The body performs automatically, without conscious or deliberate mental effort.
Highly energized. A high-energy state frequently described as feelings of joy, ecstasy, intensity, and being “pumped”.
Extraordinary awareness. Also a sensation of being completely in harmony with the environment.
In control. The body and mind seem to perform instinctively, and there is no sense of exerting or imposing control.
In the cocoon. The experience of being completely focused yet detached from any external conditions and/or possible distractions. Also a sense of complete access to all of one’s powers and skills.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the mind~body connection is that it can be trained quite easily using simple ‘deep practice’ exercises like mindfulness meditation, attention control and slow-motion drills.
The benchmark for these practices of course is the Eastern world with its focus on stillness and mindful movement (Zen and Tai Chi respectively) and the efficacy of these arts has now been thoroughly researched by sports-science and neuroscientists who confirm that the golfer with the quietest mind in the moments before they putt for example, has the best chance of seeing the ball fall into the cup.
Want to learn more about the mind~body connection and the effortless golf shot?
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