Just watched Saudi Arabia beat one of the favourites Argentina in the World Cup. A super charged emotional stadium. However, are high emotions good for golf?
Attended a podcast with Karl Morris and Dr Izzy Justice, a neuroscientist who studies the brain waves of elite athletes. And tracks their emotional state.
Once upon a time his work all took place in the lab. Now with new technology he can monitor a sportsman’s brainwaves while they are competing in their given sport so gathering far more useful dat
Golfer traffic light system
He monitored a number of golfers of all abilities (but especially pros) and noticed some extraordinary things. Missing a 3 foot putt was seen as “the most expensive shot” and the spike in brain waves was equivalent to losing a member of the family! Hence the expression “seeing red” or “the red mist came down”.
This spike pushed the player into a so called “red zone” and unless they were able to calm themselves, the next shot was highly likely to be a poor one. His calming method was about having a good “post shot routine” where the player could “let the poor shot go”, calming the nerves before embarking on the next shot.
The next level down was described as “The yellow zone” where the player should be cautious to take on high risk shots. The optimum level was the “green zone” where the player was once again – calm.
He went on to explain that the brain controls:
- Muscle sequencing – that we have no “muscle memory” but are “slaves to the brain”
- The amount of force we apply
- The target we are aiming at
Internal vs. External distractions
His research identified that internal distractions (our monolog that’s running in the back ground (“don’t go left here”, “you hit it in the pond last time”, “don’t embarrass yourself on the first tee “, etc) is far more influential on our brains and therefore how we perform than external “noise”.
Dr Izzy encouraged us to respond to our form:
If we are experiencing “pure” form – go for it!
If “dodgy” form – play conservatively
If playing poorly – be ultra conservative
His brain monitoring revealed that our minds wander every 3 seconds so long practice sessions can be counterproductive.
On the range, play a maximum of 3 balls to a target or try to shape shots to the same target, again only 3 shots per shape.
Pre shot routine
Have a pre-shot routine and always think of the target “last”. This ensures you play “in the present moment”.
Be aware of your emotions and how you talk to yourself on the golf course. Take on shots that are aligned with your mental state; the more uptight you are the more cautious you should play.
If you would like to try to put these principles to the test, we can have a playing lesson where you assign a value to each shot; the lower the score the better.
1 is played as intended and 2-3 are “good enough” – all are in the green zone.
4-6 is the yellow zone and 7-10 is the red zone.
The goal is to “acquire” a low score so you are gaining rather than losing and more aware of your emotional state throughout.
Izzy Justice https://gyragolf.com/dr-justice/
Karl Morris www.themindfactor.net