Average driving distances on the PGA tour of over 300 yds are becoming commonplace. Many of our oldest and cherished golf courses are being reduced to becoming pitch and putt. The governing bodies are considering combating this with changes to golf ball design. However, the distance that many players struggle to conquer remains the 6 inches between their ears.
Mindfulness, the ability to stay in the present is seen as one solution to this perennial challenge.
I’m partway through a zoom based Mindfulness course with Vin Harris and Karl Morris; Vin lectures at the University of Aberdeen and Karl is an outstanding mind coach.
So what is Mindfulness, and why is it relevant to golf?
In its purest form we “play golf” against the course architect. He or she sets us a challenge on every shot and we respond to that challenge. How we respond is the key.
For example we are faced with a 150 yard shot over water to a narrow green. What do we see, where is our “attention” and what is our “intention.”
If our attention is on the water and by the way, last time we duffed it into the water, then guess where the ball is heading?
Alternatively, having assessed the wind direction and strength, the air temperature and how we are hitting the ball that day, we settle on a 7 iron, aim at the 3rd stripe from the left (and still dunk it in the water) we have a problem Huston
We’d asked all the right questions, chosen the right club and picked a target but half way up our backswing a little voice said “don’t hit it fat”.
The reality is the “chatter” in our heads never stops and the challenge is how do we engage with that chatter.
So this is where Mindfulness comes in. Imagine you are sitting on a riverbank and you are watching things float by on the current. Those “things” are your thoughts. You can choose to engage with those thoughts, or acknowledge them (and this is the key) and just let them go – let them float on by. For example, the memory of hitting it into the water did happen, but engaging with that memory at this point in time is not “useful” and the opposite of useful is…useless. A memory of flushing your 7 iron like an arrow is conversely quite “useful” at this point in time. So replaying that memory in your mind and then “committing” to the 3rd stripe on the left side of the green is useful.
While your “attention” is on that green stripe your “intention” is clear and there is no room for the thought of the water.
Every day since I started the course (a couple of weeks now) I’ve been practicing meditation. You may have visions of someone sitting crossed legged on the floor chanting but that wasn’t the case for me for two reasons;
- Because my hips are two stiff to allow me to bend my knees that far and even if I did manage to I’d need to call the fire brigade to unravel me.
- It’s not necessary – you can meditate sitting comfortably in a chair, standing up or even lying down
The core of the meditation is closing your eyes, and just being aware of your breath. The in breath brings in fresh air, and the out breath is about “letting go”. Letting go of the baggage (memories of shots poorly struck for example)
Now that sounds so easy and with a bit of practice, it is. To begin with other thoughts will race by and try to disrupt you. Acknowledge them but don’t engage with them. Over time, achieving a “state” of relaxation will be achieved more quickly, you’ll be able to block out noises whether inside your head or around you on the golf course. Those guys chatting noisily on the next tee will be noted but then not engaged with as you settle on the matter in hand – holing that 5 foot putt to win the hole. Being aware of your breathing then just letting the putting stroke happen…
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Karl Morris https://themindfactor.net/
Vin Harris https://www.inspiredbylearning.eu/book/11
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