Last weekend I had a rough time mentally, playing at a new course. I hit a few poor shots early and started getting self-conscious about my swing. Do I look like an idiot? Are these people I’m playing with laughing at me? What’s wrong with me? Have I completely forgotten how to swing a golf club? Something started feeling weird at the top of my backswing…just felt out of position all the time. It was a vicious downward spiral.
You quickly begin to beat up on yourself. You’re going to screw this one up too, aren’t you? Why the heck am I out here? I just paid $100 to torture myself. Really sad when I reflect back on it. Though, it wasn’t the first time. And I’m sure I’m not the only person in the world to have experienced such self defeat.
I got a copy of the Zen Golf: Mastering the Mental Game from the iTunes store ($18) and copied it on over to my iPod. I have a 45 minute commute to work (each way)..so I have plenty of time to listen to audiobooks…unfortunately I haven’t found too many interesting golf related ones. Zen Golf and Golf and the Spirit have been the only decent ones I have heard to date.
The audiobook contains selected chapters from the complete book, and is pretty fast paced. Coming in around 5 hours, it certainly is an ‘abridged’ reading of the 224 page book. (There is an unabridged version of the audiobook on amazon.com for $29.95) Listening to an audio book while driving, it is quite easy to get distracted and lose your place. However, Zen Golf seemed to grab hold of my attention and hold it hostage for the vast majority of my lengthy commute each day.
The book focuses on some Zen/Buddhist methods for clearing ones mind and not taking the game so seriously. It is very easy to let your thoughts take over your body, and Zen Golf gives you some great tips to use to help simply notice those thoughts and let them pass…rather then letting them consume you. Parts which were of the most help to me: breath counting, letting the intuitive mind take over and firing the evil caddy.
I won’t go into complete detail on this, as it was quite lengthy, however let me touch on the breath counting. Between holes, walking between shots, waiting for partners to hit their shot, or waiting for people in front of you to do their business, I am sure you have found your mind wander…perhaps to negative thoughts. Zen Golf gives some simple techniques for dealing with these thoughts. One of them I liked was counting your breaths. Count each breath..in and out…in sets of 9, until you can get to 72. Whenever a stray thought takes over…stop…start again from the begining. You’ll have a hard time with that initially, but you’ll get the hang of it pretty quick…and find yourself doing it when some negative thoughts creep in.
Let it Fly. Dr Parent describes two minds in his book, the Thinking Mind and the Intuitive Mind. The Thinking Mind is what brings all the mechanical swing thoughts into the equation. It brings the doubt as well. The Intuitive Mind knows how to swing the club effectively. If you can hand over the process of swinging the club and sending the ball to your target to your Intuitive Mind…your swing will be free of the encumberments of the Thinking Mind. This is totally me at times. Getting to the top of the backswing…doubting my swing, am I in the right spot? Am I going to mess this up too? I needed to hand the job over to my Intuitive Mind. Zen Golf suggests coming up with a phrase or keyword to let your body know that thinking is over, now it’s the time to send the ball to the target. For me, I used Let it Fly. I have tried it out at the driving range a few times (generally where I find myself questioning my swing the most) and have been pleasantly surprised by the results. When I told myself to Let it Fly, I really felt like I was just freely swinging the club and launching the ball off to my selected target.
Firing the Evil Caddy. There’s an amusing part of the book which goes through a little scenario. Imagine a caddy that tells you “Don’t screw this shot up too”, “Oh god, here we go again, don’t embarrass us here with a big slice off the first tee”, “Getting nervous already, geesh, your hands can’t stop shaking..let’s just go home now.” What would you tell a caddy like that? You’re Fired..of course! Can you imagine someone talking to you like that? Craziness. Well, how many of us tell ourselves things like this when we start struggling on the course? Fire that evil internal caddy. Send him on his way.
There are a TON of other great ideas and things to consider in this book. I certainly cannot cover it all. I plan on picking up a copy of the complete paper back book as well, perhaps even having a look at the putting related Zen Golf book. If you find yourself beating up on yourself or being easily distracted on the golf course, do yourself a favor and give this great book a read (or listen!). I’ll be playing tomorrow afternoon, we’ll get to see the new attitude in real action soon enough!