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 "Beyond Breathing...Managing Your State Of Mind On The..." 
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Post "Beyond Breathing...Managing Your State Of Mind On The..."
Beyond Breathing...Managing Your State Of Mind On The Golf Course
by: Steven Latham




Beyond Breathing.......Managing Your State of Mind on the Golf Course.

I'm sure every golfer recognizes the importance of managing their state of mind on the golf course. The aim of this article is to provide you with a variety of techniques to manage your state on the course. This article goes beyond solely using breathing exercises for better golf and highlights that improving your respiration (breathing) is just one of many ways to manage your state on the golf course!

To begin, it's helpful for you to become aware of what your intention is for playing golf. This is important as your intention drives your behaviour. Sometimes increased focus and flow can result from simply reminding yourself of your intention for playing. Intention for behaviour operates at a much deeper and higher logical level than behaviour, which means when you're clear about your intention to play golf, your behaviour will automatically become more focused. Using the analogy of shopping for food for example: Have you ever noticed the difference between going into a supermarket with a prepared list of items (your intention for shopping), as compared to walking vaguely through the supermarket not sure about what groceries you want? Of course, I’m sure like me, you become more focused when your intention for shopping is clear (having the shopping list). With the list of foods you want already determined your mind will begin filtering through your senses for those items. !

You can move through the store confidently and quickly. A very similar thing happens after becoming clear about your intention to play golf, when your intention is clear, your mind starts filtering and focusing on satisfying your intention.

Breathing can be used to induce a variety of different mental states and can be used to rehearse calming and centring your attention. To do this, diaphragmatic breathing techniques are beneficial. The idea is to practice those techniques away from the golf course so you’ll have the ability to use diaphragmatic breathing naturally whilst competing. I would like to highlight that an optimal state for golf is a product of fluid conscious / unconscious interface. What do I mean by this? Well, can you remember a time playing golf when you pictured the shot you wanted to hit, and then you automatically got a feeling for how you needed to execute that shot? That’s an example of a state where you’ve demonstrated excellent conscious / unconscious interface. Sometimes breathing can help you to access that state but this is not a given, and is just one of many ways to access an optimal state. By taking advantage of the social nature of golf, more often than not you can access an optimal state simply by enjoying conversation between shots! Laughing and enjoying yourself on the course between shots will do just as much to support high performance as any technique ever will!

It’s useful to understand that every mental state you experience on the golf course is a combination of the way in which they you're holding yourself (your posture), your respiration (breathing patterns) and how you're organising your attention through your senses (both internal and external). Generally speaking, when a golfer becomes unresourceful on the golf course it’s because their attention shifts internal and they start talking to themselves inside their heads....’urrrggghhhh, I should’ve done this' or 'I buggered up that shot' etc. You can deliberately shift your attention during play if you feel you need a method other than simply enjoying conversation:

- Observe how the trees move in the wind, feel how your feet feel on the ground as you walk, notice if you can smell the grass on the fairways, or listen to the birds chirping. This is a proven way to shift your attention whilst also giving yourself a break between shots. Jack Nicklaus was famous for 'Smelling the flowers'. That was Jack’s way of using his attention in a highly useful and simple way, and we’re all aware of Jack’s golfing records. Of course maintaining an optimal state was one of many skills in Jack’s bag of tricks, but I’m sure his simple ‘Smelling the flowers’ technique didn’t hurt his liking for winning majors.

The final method I’d like to outline in this article is ridiculously simple, yet amazingly effective. It is a technique to be applied away from the golf course so that you can become better at managing your state on it. I’ve developed this technique by applying learning’s from New Code NLP.

1) Recall a time when you were playing golf in the past we’re you were not in an optimal state, and would like to improve your state for a similar situation in the future.

2) In your mind’s eye, imagine you’re a coach sitting inside the clubhouse during that situation, and you’re overlooking the golf course through glass windows. Imagine watching a student golfer of yours who looks remarkably a lot like you playing on the golf course. Observe the pace and way that he moves as he walks between shots and moves through his pre shot routine. Observe the way he holds his posture when he prepares for his shots. How does he move when walking up to his ball? Observe if you can, the way he is breathing, observe how he is placing his attention, does he look focussed, confident, calm and so on.

3) Next, I want you to imagine that as the players coach sitting inside the clubhouse, you have the magical ability to give the golfer advice on how to improve his/her state. For example, if you want the player to go through his pre shot routine more precisely, then watch as that player now changes what he/she is doing in order to go through their pre shot routine as advised. You may instruct the player to become more focused, relaxed or calm as they choose their shot selections. Observe from inside the clubhouse as the player changes his/her behaviour to incorporate those improvements into their behaviour. Keep making suggestions until you believe that the player out there, who looks remarkably like you, is in an optimal golf state. Do this until you’re convinced that that player is ready to play their best golf.

4) Think of an adjective that effectively describes the state of that player now. For example, it may be confident, relaxed, calm etc.

5) Continue observing the golfer as the coach from inside the clubhouse, and notice how their new and improved state influences their performance on the course. Become aware of the learning’s you’ve learnt from this exercise and ask yourself if you could have access to those learning’s for future rounds of golf, would that be useful? If the answer is yes, you can use the adjective you came up with during step 4 of this exercise to remind yourself of your optimal golf state in the future.

6) Finally, when you have time, watch some professional players on television and use adjectives to describe their states, notice fluctuations in state from player to player and also fluctuations in state from one player during the course of the round. For example, what adjective would you have used to describe Tom Watsons state when preparing for his tee shot on the 72nd hole at the Open, compared to his state on the 2nd tee of the playoff. Are the adjectives different? If so, if you were his coach, what advice would you give him to better his state for a future situation, say at St Andrews in 2010? I’ve used the Watson example to demonstrate that this process can be used for your advantage whether you’re a beginner or a golfing legend like Tom Watson. Of course, like any golf skill, you’ll become better at this with practice. I recommend you use this process whenever you want to get some perspective on your performance on the golf course. It can also be used for becoming aware of technical improvements you may want to then discuss with your coach.

That concludes this article,to get your FREE copy of chapter 1 of my Golf Psychology Drill Book, visit http://www.stevenlathamgolf

About The Author
Steven has played golf at a high standard, playing American collegiate golf on scholarship and also winning various junior and open age amateur events.

He has a University degree as a Psychology major, holds the Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and is continuing with over 8 years study so far in applying human performance psychology to golf.

Steven's work has appeared in various media including Smarter Golf Podcasts, The Golfer, FHM, and JNJGF Backspin magazines, and is the current Golf Psychology contributor to Golf Australia magazine.
The author invites you to visit:
http://www.stevenlathamgolf.com



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Wed Feb 16, 2011 12:47 pm
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