A professional hypnotists explanation of how to use your subconscious mind to improve your golf game, just like the pros do! This short article explains the why and the how of using the mind to improve those tough shots.
It is now fairly common knowledge that some of the major players in pro golf (like Tiger Woods) have used hypnosis to improve their game. Yet many are still unaware of how easy and accessible this method is for helping you reach your best game more consistently. The question many people seem to have is “why would hypnosis have anything to do with my game?” and it’s a good question. People think of hypnosis for quitting smoking or getting over phobias, but how does going into your subconscious mind improve your game?
We all know that staying calm helps with focus and control, and this is certainly a big part of it. But hypnosis is much more than just relaxation. Most techniques focus on relaxation as a way to access your subconscious mind. In this case, the idea is to get into that inner mind so that the right messages and images become connected with the idea of golfing.
Have you ever experienced a particular situation or type of shot that when you see it coming, you practically hear yourself saying in your own head “Oh no! Not that shot! I am terrible at that…” And what happens? Usually the evidence bears out this inner judgement. But does it have to be that way? If you are believing you are no good at the half-wedge, what happens when you approach it? Our inner minds don’t like us looking bad! So when we see a situation with potential for “failure” (even in something as ultimately unimportant as a friendly game) our bodies go into “fight or flight” reaction. Granted, this is usually pretty mild in golfing, but still, the body is now a little edgy, heat rate goes up a touch, muscles start feeling energized, making it all the harder to switch modes from the full-on swing of a long drive to the more delicate needs of that 40 yard range.
Also, it is a simple rule of the body/mind interaction that whenever you have a strong expectancy of an outcome, that outcome becomes more likely. The subconscious will subtly influence even muscular control in order to create the imagined outcome. A lot of hypnosis is based on this phenomenon. This is how someone’s arm will seem to float up on its own when it is suggested to them that there are helium balloons tied to their wrist. And these effects are strengthened when we are experiencing strong emotions. So if a game is really meaningful to you, you are actually more likely to be influenced by your expectation, negative or positive!
So the first step is to identify negative expectations, and then begin to create a different expectation. This will seem silly or inauthentic at first. “I can tell myself I’m a good putter all day long, but until I start making par I’m not going to believe it!” If our experience doesn’t validate the expectation we’re trying to set, how can we retrain our internal response?
This is where “hypnosis” really enters the picture! By learning (either with a trained hypnotist as a guide, or just on your own through self-hypnosis) to enter the natural, but slightly altered state of hypnosis, you gain the ability to bring down the barrier of believability. Not completely (that would be foolish and dangerous, and isn’t actually possible!) but enough to allow the mind to really vividly image something that maybe you haven’t experienced a whole lot. The secret to success is to push that envelop of believability just the right amount… You want to stretch a little above what you currently think you’re capable of, but not so much as to cause the mind to label it as idle fantasy. If you lie back, relax and imagine yourself hitting hole-in-one after hole-in-one, that might be fun, but probably won’t change your game much (though it’s better than imagining disaster after disaster on the course!). But if you can really get into the feeling of hitting that pitch over a deep bunker just so… taking your time before the final swing, taking a few practice swings, feeling it come together as the body and mind settle into it, and then the wonderful feeling of seeing the ball landing right near the hole, the feeling in your body with the club still held skyward, as if your entire body, the ground, the club, the ball, were all one piece, one perfectly set machine… Practicing a “visualization” like this a few dozen times can make a real difference!
I put the term “visualization” in quotes because I want to point out that it is best to include more than just visual imagery in this practice. The more real you can let your imagination seem, the more it will preset your inner expectation, creating a blueprint for your subconscious mind to make those minute adjustments for you. Imagine the feelings in your body, in your arms and hands holding the club, its weight, the movement in your hips, the weighting of your legs. Imagine the sounds on the course, the smell of the cut grass, whatever makes it real for you!
For a great little study with conclusively positive results, see The Effects of Hypnosis on Flow States and Golf-Putting Performance from JOURNAL OF APPLIED SPORT PSYCHOLOGY, 13: 341-354, 2001