Some Food For Thought...
Are swing thoughts destroying your golf game?
As a golf coach, do you wonder what your client is thinking about when struggling with a golf lesson? As a player, how often have you asked yourself the same question after playing a poor shot! Your thought process in the SECONDS before, during and after execution frequently undermine your ability to perform both in practice and on course. So who's driving the bus here? You or someone else? Is there nothing you can do to take control? What IS the focus of your attention whilst executing a golf shot and HOW do you control it consistently? Where do you think it should be? Swing, body, club head, ball, water, trees, bunker, birdie, outcome or possibly the Target.
Attentional Focus lies at the heart of thinking, vision, auditory and your other senses. Whilst awake we are always attending to something and our attentional focus is analogous to the lens of a film projector. The film running through it, usually at an high speed, comprises of information from your external senses and internal thoughts. Many can spend their lives feeling like observers of the film being "projected" rather than understanding how to take active control over what is being projected and become, instead, the director of their movie and hence their reality.
Whether playing a musical instrument, driving a car, riding a bike or making a sandwich physical flow exists when we allow our non-conscious mind to manage our physical actions. Flow exists in ALL life tasks when we remove the conscious mind from any attempt to control our physical actions. So what is the conscious mind doing whilst we perform those tasks? It can be anywhere in time and place. We don't need to control our attention to carry out those tasks as we rely on procedural memories which were practiced, mastered and put safely into storage for recall when needed.
Just imagine if you could build similar procedural memories you could call upon for your golf swing and putting stroke without doubting your ability to carry out the task? This is just one benefit of learning Target Oriented Golf. The primary psychological difference when playing a golf shot is you need a Single Pointed Concentration and control what you pay attention to for it critically influences our ability to perform the task consistently and accurately. If you are not thinking about Target as you execute a shot for example, what are you CHOOSING to think about and why? If you could look at the Target where would you focus your attention?
What makes golf such a challenge psychologically is we have to look away from our intended target just prior to execution. This is where the problems begin for the vast majority of golfers for they remove their eyes AND attention from Target. Clearly, at the MOMENT of execution we wish to experience physical Flow with no conscious control of our actions but how can this be achieved if the golfer is now looking at the ball and thinking about HOW to control the club? It clearly can not. Yet many Professional golfers still strive for elusive performance whilst insisting on having a swing thought! So what chance the amateur? The elite do attempt to overcome this lack of attentional focus and will do the best with the skills they have."Grinding" can salve the conscience but it can also kill golf performance.
In golf, just as in any sport where an athlete has time to 'think' before they execute, what happens at execution is significantly influenced by what an athlete CHOOSES to think about PRIOR to this moment. This is often where a golfer is told to stop 'strategizing' (think box/play box) but it does not also mean that significant tasks such as state management, physical alignment and attentional focus do not require deliberate conscious attention during this period of preparation time. Some coaches and psychologists advocate 'thinking less'. This is impossible and simply creates a void in which erroneous thought floods. You will then be 'out of control' at that moment in time rather than 'in control' of your process. It's not enough to advocate just a simplistic think box/play box strategy. You need a think box, then Attentional Focus.
Unfortunately, for many golfers, performance does not manifest itself regularly due to erroneous 'thinking' about how to control their physical actions at execution with a conscious 'swing thought' due to the way the game is taught and practiced. When will you ever trust in competition that which you constantly strive to control in practice? If the swing is not the focus of the golfers' conscious mind when playing on course, it will often be replaced with some outcome oriented event like score, water, don't hit it left etc hence the "advice" being offered to "not think" as you prepare to execute may sound like a better alternative for some than thinking. Too much thinking is not the problem however. That is pure nonsense. It should be evident, erroneous thinking lies at the heart of your poor performances.
If you struggle with the game of golf, irrespective of how much you 'grind', it may be time for you to switch focus from your technique and begin to understand HOW to TRUST it. When you understand the relationship between vision, thought and action you give up control of your body and gain real control of your Attentional Focus.