So many of my students lament that they lose their games on the golf course after hitting it fine in practice or on the range before the round. And usually they'll blame their golf swing mechanics. This article is about thinking twice about that notion.
I put Jason Day's image in the article because he demonstrates better than any golfer a routine where he is resetting his mind to the right state for the shot. You'll see him close his eyes for a short bit and you can feel him grounding himself through a routine time and time again. You'll see baseball pitchers and hitters applying their own routines to try to accomplish the same thing.
What happens to us when we feel pressure over a shot is that we use a part of brain, the pre frontal cortex that is great for thinking about things but not so great for motor coordination. Try dancing and thinking at the same time, it'll be awkward. To operate any kind of complex motor coordination like a golf swing the "thinking brain" needs to take a back seat to other parts of the brain that carry out those functions. When the "thinking brain" wants to take over is just too slow to carry the timing of the swing and that's why often times we don't hit the shot we'd like to hit.
You might say, using a wi-fi analogy, that your pre-frontal cortex has a one bar connection (poor connection) to your muscle movement. At least for for the amazing sequencing and speed of a golf swing.
On the range or when a shot is seemingly "not important" we can be free with our motion and not over think it. You're trusting your action and it feels easy. But when we face that difficult or more important shot we think that we have to "bear down" or try harder and that when the thinking brain gets too involved and nice fluid swing is now a patch work of different pieces that aren't timed and anything can happen. This is what choking is and strange as it sounds we literally have to find a way of quieting the thinking brain since it'll choke out the motor cortex's commands to the muscles.
The easiest way to overcome this is to stay aware of your senses. To get out of your thinking mind try connecting to your senses in your body (sight, hearing, feeling, smelling and tasting) with what is called 5,4,3,2, and 1.
So when you feel like your thinking mind is taking over try this before your shot:
5 is for noticing five things you can see in front of you. Your ball? The flag? The trees? Sky?
4 is for listening for four things around you. Can you hear birds? The wind? Cars?
3 is for sensing three sensations you can feel. It might be with your fingers like touching your pants or shirt. It might be the feeling of your shirt against your skin or even the wind against your skin. Just find three somethings that you can feel.
2 is for what couple things can you smell. Maybe in the air. The trees. Your golf glove. The grass.
1 is for what can you taste? Maybe it's the coffee you had this morning. It could be just noticing the neutral taste in your mouth.
If you've gone through the 5,4,3,2,1 you'll at least be in your head less and more connected to your body and the present moment. With practice this routine will help you play to your ability since you'll be less in your thinking brain and more in the parts of your brain that facilitate your muscles firing in the golf swing.
Try it and let me know how it works for you.