I want you to consider for a moment that time when you’re over the ball about to swing.
What are you paying attention to in this most critical moment? You’ve picked your target, you’ve seen your shot, you’ve had a practice swing to feel it. Now it’s time to do what?… “Empty your mind”, “Trust your swing”, “Just do it”, “Let it rip”
Yes all of the above is great advice given by leading sports psychologists. And it’s all useless if you don’t know HOW to do it! Empty your mind – you mean fall asleep? Trust your swing – you mean point and hope? Just do it – just do what? Let it rip – erm how exactly?
Like many powerful skills, it’s very simple, yet not always easy to do consistently unless you practice it. In my humble view it is a technique so fundamental to great golf, I want EVERY pro to teach it, and EVERY golfer to use it for EVERY shot. It’s not a trick to get your mind out of the way. It’s a training to direct your awareness, with origins spanning back thousands of years from meditation and martial arts. I call it the PLAYING STATE. Here’s how it works:
Use your peripheral awareness to connect the ball to the target throughout the shot.
I wrote about this a while back in my article on “Join the Dots” and want to add to this now. So here we go.
1. Firstly read each word in this sentence, one at a time, with tunnel like vision. Notice how long it takes, how it affects how you feel and your internal dialogue.
2. Now let your mind go loose so that whatever is on your mind can simply disappear for a moment
3. As you’re reading, spread out your awareness now, so that you begin to notice the whole line of text, now the whole sentence. Now expand your awareness out sideways and up and down so you can see the chunk of text, and now the edges of the screen. Now keep reading and go beyond the screen so you notice the corners of the room with your peripheral awareness. Notice the walls and furniture on either side of you
4. Still facing the screen, continue to draw your awareness around you until it covers 360 degrees, as if you have eyes in the back of your head. Notice also your hearing spreads out and you hear things you have not heard before all around you. Notice also as you feel your back on the chair, your feelings can spread out too, as though you could touch the far wall in front, the ceiling, the floor and the wall behind you
5. As your awareness starts to fill the whole room, allow it to expand out further beyond the room in all directions, forwards, backwards, up, down, left and right
6. Notice your connection with all of your surroundings. Now whilst paying most attention to the periphery, very slowly take your eyes off the screen to look around the room for a few seconds.
7. Maintaining this expanded awareness, notice how quiet your mind has now become. Notice what looks, sounds or feels different to your normal state. Noticing what’s different will help you return to this state whenever you want. So how is it different for you?
8. Now switch off this state, return to “normal” and notice the difference
9. Once again, whilst focus on the spot, spread your awareness out once more, 360 degrees and return to the Playing State
If you find that there is so much to pay attention to that you become distracted, notice that you can turn attention up and down, focusing on some things and blocking other things out. Just allow yourself to purely notice.
Imagine your next round, standing on the first tee behind the ball. You see the ball and expand your awareness out to notice everything around you, taking in the whole picture. Staying in this state, you pick your target and ball flight. Connect to the target, both visually AND with your expanded feeling. As you expand out your feelings to your target, you might or might not notice that the hole seems to shorten.
Maintaining this connection, address the ball. Notice how the back of the ball is connected to it’s target. You can see the ball flight that will take it there. Notice that there is no space for nerves, self talk or distraction as you immerse yourself in connecting the ball to it’s target. As your connection to the target becomes even stronger and clearer, your swing starts itself. Throughout the swing, your awareness stays expanded, connecting ball and target. The club strikes the ball and you follow through, still connected to the target. You notice the ball fly off left to your target in your peripheral awareness as you maintain your focus on where the back of the ball was. You complete your follow through, still connected to the target, and only then look up to see your result. Welcome to the Playing State!
Now remember – the Playing State is simple to do and only easy when practised!
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Mental Performance Coach