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GOLF - It’s not all in the head!

A client of mine, a keen amateur golfer and getting on a bit in years, stubbornly insists that the problems with his golf swing are all in his head. This is a common thought process within the golfing fraternity because golf is a game where you are playing against yourself, and on a bad day you can’t help but lose your head.


Whilst I do agree that golf has its mental challenges, it is no different to any other sport. When your moving well nothing seems to bother you, and when you’re not your mind is full of frustration and negativity. Believe me, I played national standard competitive squash for 9 years and I could tell when I woke up in the morning if my body was going to perform or not.


Now you can argue that your mindset made you rush the swing but answer me this. . . Did the mind teach the body to play golf or did the body teach the mind?


Ah, the infamous Chicken and Egg question. Well I’ll answer the question by directing your attention toward babies. These cute little (soon to be the next Rory Mcilroy) humans are born with very little brain or body power at all. In fact they really only have the absolute basic system software needed to breath, cry, eat and poop. Nothing else exists in their little heads and so begineth the task of expanding the mind. This growth of mind doesn’t come from reading books or employing a coach, it comes from body stimulus. They slowly take in the sounds they hear and the colours they see, and just as importantly they begin to discover the environment around them by moving their arms and legs. And so, without making this a infant development lecture, they gradually expand their mind and increase their confidence until they have grown into an adult taking their first swing at a ball.


So the answer to my question is that the body teaches the mind. Everything the mind has learnt, including your golf swing, came from the body and is called Motor Patterning. For good or bad we learn regardless, developing our own unique movement abilities. The more we practice good technique the better we become at the task. Unfortunately, the more we practice bad technique the better we become at doing the task badly. Infants earn the right to move by becoming competent in small things like rolling over, picking their heads up and crawling. They can’t jump any stage, yet when we learn sport we jump right into it skipping the little things because they are boring. so often never learn how perfect form feels. And it is this feeling that the mind remembers.


Often time we practice hard on the driving range and when it is not going well we just try harder. And this teaches the mind lack of confidence. “I must have hit 100 balls today and about 10 went straight and long” you think to yourself walking to the clubhouse.


The body has taught the mind very quickly that there is a problem. So at this point the best option is to see the club pro. Or is it?


In the beginning, yes. It is by far the best course of action, but is the pro telling you the same thing time and time again? This is where the second issue of the body comes into play. The problem of Range of Movement.

Range of Movement (ROM) is basically the ease at which your joints can move through a given direction. Pro golfers work hard to keep ROM nice and free, which allows them to remain consistent, round after round. Amateur golfers on the other hand prefer to just try harder to consciously hit the ball better. And this, I’m afraid to tell you, is a fools logic.


Your Range of Movement changes daily because of movement stimulus. Professional golfers don’t sit at a desk 8 hours a day then play golf like we do. Their stimulus is golf and most importantly, training for golf. They have a rigorous stretching and strengthening program that stops them from getting postural problems from hitting the ball in one direction all the time. Almost all sports suffer this problem because we play them with a dominant hand or foot. Repeating the same movement time and time again causes imbalances to develop in the body. And it is for this reason that the Pros have a golf specific training program. Look at the top Pros, these men and women look and act like athletes now because they realised that the body hits the ball not the latest technology in club.


These imbalances develop whether your are Tiger Woods or Joe Bloggs and they change the way you hit the ball daily. They change so much in amateurs because you are not just getting out of balance by playing golf, you are also developing imbalances sitting at your desk, driving your car and doing almost any activity. Even the way you slept last night, how cold the days is or if you’ve were ill several days ago have a big impact on the flexibility you have right now. For example, I treat one female tour professional regularly to help her move more freely after the long flights she makes for her tournaments.


Babies learn movement with unlimited flexibility but most adults progressively lose their flexibility due to the reasons I just mentioned. And in sport, flexibility is king. Flexibility allows you to balance and allows you to have power or develop skill. In my business, helping people make better use of their body, we have a simple rule. To have a great functional body you must first develop flexibility, then stability, then strength and skill, then power. And it has to be in that order, like a child learning to walk.


Now if your golf pro is saying the same thing to you more than a couple of lessons in a row you should consider whether it is your body that is the problem not you willingness to swing the club correctly. Having your Range of Motion assessed and corrected will give you the ability to rotate more from the shoulders and stop pulling the hips round for example. When your body is free to move your brain is capable of reproducing the same swing consistently and this is what makes great golfers great - consistency of movement from the first hole to the last.


So let me leave you with this final thought. If your body could move freely, so consistency was your secret weapon, would your mind worry so much about how well you would hit the tight, tree lined dog leg on the 3rd? Remember, a healthy body breeds a healthy mind.



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