Letting my golf brain take over to play better

Golf improvement is a long and tortuous process. Sometimes it rains too.

Previously on Céline Stupidly Decides to Tell Everyone She Wants to Lower her Handicap:

After an intensive period of lessons and practice that brought many benefits and definite improvement, a couple of weeks ago, progress screeched to a halt. All I could produce were shanks of various shades of ugliness. Mucho frustration ensued and after a chat with Anthony, I decided that my problem wasn’t to do with technique, but mindset. I stopped trying to control my swing and just started clearing my mind, engaging my golf brain and hitting the ball. And it’s worked! The shanks are gone! My inconsistent, average golf is back!

However, I mustn’t make the mistake of taking this reversal of fortune for granted and fall back into bad habits, like analysing every inch of my swing. Last week, I subscribed to golfgooroo‘s golf lessons and coincidentally, the one I received this weekend describes exactly where I am at the moment and what pitfalls I must avoid. This will probably be familiar to most golfers:

Evan: So what are the biggest problems with traditional golf coaching?

Cameron: How long have you got? Here’s one of the most serious issues I see. Almost all modern golf coaching activates the left brain. This is our analytic

al brain – it does all the thinking and analysis. When you’re told to rotate your wrists and swing on plane, that certainly activates that part of your brain. And the issue is that we need to use a different part of our brain to actually swing the club. The part that performs a motor skill has no function to understand language. So you can pump as much information in, but there’s no capacity for it to understand.

Let me put it this way.

If I tell you to cock your wrists and swing on plane, your adult mind understands this perfectly. You know what you have to do. But the part of the brain responsible for the swing doesn’t work the same way. It can’t take that information and use it effectively. What you get is an ugly sort of over-controlled action that is stiff and unnatural.

Evan: Sort of sums up a lot of golfers’ swings…

Cameron: It does. And it’s ugly because your system is manually trying to perform the golf swing but it can’t. But then it gets worse.

Evan: What! It can get worse than this?

Cameron: We haven’t even started yet. It can get way worse than this. So you’re struggling. You’re fighting your system and you’re getting all sorts of inconsistent outcomes. What happens next?

Evan: You try and fix it?

Cameron: Yes. You try and fix your golf swing with more information. You feed more words into your left brain, words that your golf brain can’t really use. The worse you play, the more information that gets dumped in. And the more information that comes in, the worse you’ll ultimately play. It’s an awful merry-go-round that is the cause of poor scores all over. It’s the main reason why golfers are frustrated, confused, angry and just plain fed up. But it can get even worse!

Evan: How can it get any worse than this?

Cameron: Try this on for size. When you’ve been battling for a while; and it could be 5 minutes, 5 months or 5 years something strange can happen.

Evan: What is it?

Cameron: You get tired and you stop feeding all that info into your brain. You give things a rest because it’s just so exhausting. Then guess what happens?

Evan: [not sure] You play better?

Cameron: YES! When you finally give things a rest your subconscious takes over and does what it does best. It performs the motion and you’ll start getting good results. You could even have that unexpected great round that comes from nowhere.

Evan: But I don’t see where you’re going with this. Why is this bad? In my world, good golf is awesome!

Cameron: The good golf isn’t the problem. The good golf highlights your potential and gives you an injection of confidence and a surge of enthusiasm. It may just reignite your passion for the game and help you renew your membership for the following year. No, the good stuff isn’t the issue. The issue is what happens after you play some good golf with this more relaxed mindset. What invariably happens is your left brain goes into overdrive;

  • “Why am I hitting the ball so well?”
  • “What am I doing right?”
  • “I think I’m swinging slowly, this is why I’m hitting the ball so good”
  • “I hope I can take this swing into next week. I’d be a certainly to beat Freddy!”
  • “I’ve worked it out. I’ve finally got this golf thing worked out”.

Evan: Arrgh. You’re right. This is exactly what happens. I’m guilty of this – my mind starts spinning and I try and consciously figure things out.

Cameron: And then what happens?

Evan: Bad golf.

Cameron: Yes. You return to the crappy golf because you are using the wrong part of your brain to perform.

Does this mean that I should stop having lessons and practicing? No! Just that I need to trust that the learning that happens off the course will translate into better golf on the course without having to think about it. Practice with your left brain, play with your golf brain. Take the good and the bad with a gallic shrug and stop overanalysing everything. That’s what I’m planning on doing.