How my dentist improved my golf game

Like most, I’m not a fan of the dentist. There’s usually not too many positives that come from an hour sitting in that chair.

Today was different.

My dentist was doing his usual checks and commented on my back teeth. I’ve been grinding my teeth for years and now wear a special plate when I sleep. I was pretty sure that this issue had been solved and I wouldn’t suffer too many long-term issues. Apparently not.

There was evidence that the grinding is continuing. This is obviously not a good thing and the dentist wants to get it solved ASAP. After some questioning he believed that I may be grinding my teeth when I play golf (because I was pretty sure I wasn’t doing this during the day and the plate stopped me from doing it while I was asleep).

He asked me to become aware of any grinding during play. This is brilliant coaching! He didn’t ask me to stop doing anything or follow any special technique. He wanted me to become aware of what was happening while playing golf and see if there was any grinding. This is the best coaching you can give anyone. When you are aware of what is happening you can make corrections much more easily. In what may seem like magic, simply becoming aware of certain things is enough for the problem to go away.

Most of us are asleep. We’re blind to what is going on (and not just in golf) and are too interested in quick fixes and golf tips. We want someone to tell us what to do – too lazy (or just ignorant) to realise that we already have the answers when we wake up. Back to the teeth.

Last night I went out for a relaxing nine-holes with a new mission. Become aware of my teeth while I play. Now this is certainly a little different and something I certainly haven’t done before – you aren’t going to find this kind of thing in the latest golf magazine. Here’s what I found.

– I definitely crunch my teeth when I hit the ball (it may be some sort of bracing thing but I’m not sure)
– It also happens when I’m Einstiening (thinking about my shot)

So for the duration of the round I kept my focus on my teeth and as the round progressed the less my teeth were grinding together. Simple awareness was enough to keep my teeth from banging together. Note: I wasn’t trying to NOT grind my teeth – I was placing my attention on my teeth and feeling what was going on. There’s no manual control.

In time I’m pretty sure that this will become automatic. I can forget about having to remember to focus on this and hopefully be rid of this tooth issue for good. But here’s the good bit.

By the end of the round I was playing really well. I was relaxed (maybe because my jaw wasn’t clenched and tight) and the swing was feeling looser and freer. Now this could be a complete coincidence and have nothing to do with my teeth but it certainly got my attention.

So what’s the lesson here?

The first thing is learn to put your focus/awareness onto things causing you trouble. It could be your backswing or grip but shedding some light onto it will definitely help any problems. Wake up and start to feel what is really going on. A good coach/mentor can point you in the right direction but it really is up to you because nobody else can feel what is happening in your swing. And this is the biggest issue with modern coaching – there’s not enough awareness, it’s all about telling you what to do. It doesn’t help the situation.

The second thing is that we’re always learning. Opportunities pop up all the time and we need to be open and ready for them. Who would have thought a dentist could help your golf game? But you can get similar insight by watching a dog chase a ball or kids playing cricket. But you’ve got to wake up and start to see, hear and feel what’s going on in your world. I think it’s also a good idea to listen to those that are masters in their own field. There’s definitely going to be some overlap for your golf game.

Thanks Doc Harper. It was a great lesson.

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