Mastering Your Golf Mind

How to control your mind with your golf game

How to control your mind with your golf game

Your Golf Mind

This lesson probably should have come before the last one. It is incredibly important and something you must understand and be able to apply. It is especially relevant if you’re struggling to play automatic golf.

The stages I’m about to talk about will be explained in Cameron speak – they may not be exactly scientifically correct, but I’m describing them as I understand them. Simple, yet some profound insight to be had. Here goes,

Your two golf minds

The brain has two minds. Timothy Gallwey, author of The Inner Game of Golf, called them self 1 and self 2. I usually refer to them as conscious mind and the subconscious mind. In this article I’m going to call them Pesky and Flair. Whatever you call them is not important. What is vitally important is learning how your two golf minds affect your game.

To play your best golf you need to play with Flair. By “play”, I’m referring to the task of hitting the ball on the golf course and attempting to shoot the best score you can. Flair is responsible for fine motor skills under pressure – he gives you the ability to play golf as an art. To swing freely and allow your real swing to shine through. Flair is responsible for all those birdies, long drives and memorable shots you’ve hit.

But there is a problem.

Pesky likes to bully Flair. Pesky hates giving up control. And he especially hates feeling uncomfortable – he will do anything he can to avoid feeling scared or slightly uneasy. When Pesky feels uncomfortable he overrides what Flair wants to do. And the second you try and play instinctively Pesky starts getting grumpy. Here’s an example,

My game on Saturday was derailed by two poor shots. On the third hole I faced a fairly easy bunker shot – I needed to get the ball up quickly and allow it to run to the hole. The uphill lie made it simple – the process was straightforward, with nothing much to it.

In normal circumstances I’d go through my routine and slap the ball out onto the green. I wouldn’t worry about consequences, whether good or bad, and just hit the shot. But something different happened this time.

Worry kicked in.

Pesky reminded me not hit the ball thin (I slightly bladed a ball two-weeks ago and he was now reminding me of it). Instead of ignoring him (more on this later) I moved the ball more forward in my stance (to avoid hitting the ball first). I made the swing and the club buried deep into the soft sand. The ball popped up sluggishly and did not clear the lip – it rolled back down into the newly created divot.

Now I was in trouble.

Three more shots later I was still not on the green. I was lucky to eventually chip and putt and get into the hole for an 8 (four over). With a below scratch handicap, the quadruple bogey almost certainly destroyed my chances of a good score.

A few holes later Pesky did the same thing. He told me not to aim down the middle of the fairway. He again reminded me of a time when a poor swing hit the ball over the fence on the left. So what did I do? I aimed further right and made my swing. This time I pulled hooked the drive way right under a bush. Dead. A double bogey was the result. At least it didn’t go out of bounds! Pesky had done his job.

The error here was taking in too much of what Pesky wanted. You can’t stop Pesky talking. You have to learn to not let his ideas disrupt what you want to achieve.

Pesky is only doing his job. He is trying to feel safe – the second you try and be brave he will give you all the reasons why you shouldn’t be doing that. If you listen to him at this crucial time you have little chance of performing successfully.

So what’s the answer here?

You have to ignore that Pesky mind. Thank him for his input but don’t get distracted by it. If you can accept the fact that Pesky is there you will nullify any distractions.

But this is hard. Ignoring Pesky is not easy. It does not feel sort of bad. It feels horrendous. And this is where the problem starts.

Because it feels so bad we listen to little Pesky. We adjust – we swing safely. We don’t hit the correct shot. We don’t swing without fear.

Understanding this is vital to grasp. If you don’t get this you’ll always be sabotaged by Pesky. Pesky wants full control. He wants to make sure you don’t feel embarrassed and stuff things up. He doesn’t want Flair raining on his parade and making him feel out of whack.

In a previous work I refer to removing interruptions from your game. Interruptions are almost always caused by Pesky getting in the way. Remember he wants to feel safe – he also has been around longer so he likes to pull rank and boss Flair around.

But that’s not all.

Not only are you fighting Pesky – you’re fighting the system. Traditional instruction plays up to Pesky. It is structured. Grip this way. Swing on plane. Play the golf course this way. There is no room for Flair to breathe. This kind of systematic systems sabotages artistic movement. It makes Pesky feel good but it doesn’t allow you to play.

A young kid with a funky swing is forced to change. Those that don’t understand the two brains can’t see the magic. They try and make everyone swing in the same way. And when things go awry the industry has got a million ideas, tips and cures to fix any problem. This is Pesky brain thinking. There’s little pain, but there’s also little excitement.

And don’t think playing with Flair is easy. It isn’t. The closer you get to managing Pesky the harder he will fight. He will always be fighting and this is where the courage comes in.

You have to be prepared to play no matter what. You can actually use the interruptions and fear to drive you. What you are afraid of is exactly where you should be aiming. If Pesky is scared of the bunker maybe you should take dead aim at it and make the best swing you can.

If playing great golf was easy then you’d be doing it already. It isn’t easy and is only possible for those with an understanding of your two brains. Swing technique, course designs and the make of your clubs matters little if you can’t control that Pesky mind. Only those that are prepared to break free from the fear and the system can experience something remarkable.

Remarkable golf is different. It’s hard to put it into words. Yes it takes discipline – but it requires a level of courage that can’t be bought.

So learn to accept the fear and anxiety. Accept that your mind works in mysterious ways and that aiming at the fear is the right thing to do. Slowly and surely the interruptions will diminish in intensity and you’ll play your best golf.

You also need to stop aiming for perfection. This is Pesky thinking. Let Flair have his chance and aim for something realistic. Like remaining calm under pressure and not getting distracted by every thought that comes your way. Better scores and lowering your handicap will come your way. When I’m playing Pesky golf here’s a typical situation;

Worry about all the trouble that’s around
Needlessly change clubs
Fidget and fumble over the ball
Try and workout what I am doing right (or wrong)
Make excuses and tell stories

When I’m letting Flair do his job it’s a different story;

Workout what I need to do
Thank Pesky for any input he may give me but tell him things are under control
Dance (this is playing golf)

This is where confidence, enthusiasm and real enjoyment lies. When you experience – and you need to experience it, reading about it doesn’t work – that you play better golf WITHOUT Pesky, that you don’t get injured and there’s nothing really to be scared about huge breakthroughs are made.

Automatic golf is the answer

If you can learn to ignore that Pesky mind you’ll play better. Automatic Golf is the answer to keeping naughty Pesky at bay. If you want to see the process in full detail then you should check out this page.

It’s time to play golf. Flair is there waiting for you.

For a fantastic resource on the two minds and being the best that you can be please read this book. You won’t be disappointed.

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  • Bernie

    Reply Reply February 16, 2010

    Hi again Cameron
    I was a little bit dubious when I saw this Blog. Sounded a bit tooooooooooo deep psychologically. However, it was explained in normal Cameron “little words and English”. Good stuff – Cam. I can relate to that little pest “Pesky”. Again good stuff – actually GREAT stuff.

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply February 16, 2010

    “Again good stuff – actually GREAT stuff”

    Hear, hear!

  • Steady

    Reply Reply February 16, 2010

    Hi Tribers,
    great article. It’s a bit like the old cartoons with the devil on left shoulder and the angel on the right trying to convince whoever it was to be influenced into their way of thinking. I wish I had a $ everytime pesky stuck his nose while I was trying to play, I’d be a multi billionaire. Truth is that as adults we lose trust in flair by thinking that pesky is better. However Flair works under any type of situation on the golf course. Stick with it and keep trusting that you have the knowledge/understanding and skills that our subconcious brains have toget the job done.
    Cheers Steady

  • Tony Lucas (Lukey)

    Reply Reply February 16, 2010

    Having read Timothy’s book I can elate to this post very well because I did adapt his teaching (back,hit) and found my golf did improve but unfortunately I was on a tangent of perfection and went else where with ordinary results .One of the things I remember in the book was he too related that you had to get rid of Mr. Ego.So I find this post very refreshing because it further stresses the need to stay auto and go out and just enjoy.Being one of the original tribers from a little way back it is also great to see the interaction now occurring and I look forward to more of it.
    Cheers Lukey

  • Bill

    Reply Reply February 17, 2010

    Hi Cameron
    I like this. I have a granddaughter 12 who plays with FLAIR most of the time she has dropped 8 shots on her handicap since November. It is a joy to watch her play with out the fear of stuffing it up. more help like this article and less swing changes will help us all. Thanks

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply February 17, 2010

    Bill – keep her away from golf “teachers” whatever you do!

  • Terry

    Reply Reply February 17, 2010

    Cameron – an excellent account that goes a long way to explaining why I ended up with only 37 points last Monday when I was on track to have at least 40! I too have read the IGofG and also the IGofTennis many years ago, but had forgotten the concepts. Probably Pesky telling me that I didn’t really need to worry about them?!

    I have been attempting to play automatically for over a year now, and in general, it works. Now I have a better understanding of why I am not able to do it for the WHOLE round.

    Must go – due on the (wet) tee in a couple of hours. Looking forward to playing with Flair.

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply February 18, 2010

    Hi Cameron

    I re-read this article and got even more out of it the second time through.

    Especially this:

    “Only those that are prepared to break free from the fear……can experience something remarkable. “Remarkable golf is different. It’s hard to put it into words. Yes it takes discipline – but it requires a level of courage that can’t be bought”

    To a non-golfer all this talk of fear and courage must sound strange. What fear? What courage? It hardly requires “courage” to hit a ball does it? Facing a pace attack on a rock hard pitch and risking getting your head knocked off requires courage but hitting a golf ball?

    But of course there’s different types of courage. I’ve been amazed at how much courage it takes to TRULY play automatic golf. You can SORT of play automatic – and yes, you get some results. But having been on this journey for a little while now I’m starting to fully appreciate what you’re saying above. To TRULY let go and just 100% TRUST is incredibly difficult. I reckon its like the trapeze artist needing to overcome his fear of letting go of the bar and trusting that his mate will catch him. He knows there’s a safety net and he can’t really get hurt but its still incredibly difficult to let go of the bar at first.

    Anyway I’ve seen enough in my relatively brief journey in automatic golf to know that its worth conquering this fear. The little glimpses I’ve had of where TRUE automatic can take me are very exciting and compel me to keep going. And I must say its great having blokes like Steady and Lukey around who are much further down the track. I hope we can all get to play together some time! Thanks for the article, its a ripper.


  • Steady

    Reply Reply February 18, 2010

    Well done Grayden. I couldn’t have said it better myself. It takes a lot of balls to trust. It is simple but pesky often tries to take over. I’ve been playing golf for 15 years, however I got stuck on the golf merry go round. Poor old Lukey’s done it for 30 years. I understand the frustration and anxiety associated with wanting to play great golf. Just remember you are more than a swing. Golf is a package made up of swing. short game and mental approach. It’s going auto that unlocks all of it for you.
    Cheers Steady

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply February 18, 2010

    “Poor old Lukey’s done it for 30 years”
    I know how he feels!

  • Evan

    Reply Reply February 20, 2010

    Hey Guys

    Just a note to let you know my progress is going in the right direction. It has been a slow process and many is the time I have wanted to go back to my old technical self but things are starting to fall in place. My scores are improving, my putting is back to being solid but my ball striking is really good.

    Stay the path.

  • John Eaton

    Reply Reply September 2, 2010

    Hi Cameron going out for a practice round tomorrow friday with all your swing tips in back of mind let you know how i go !

  • howe

    Reply Reply September 19, 2010

    No doubt about it cam you are spot on,often when i am putting old pesky is there especially on short putts.i have gone back to your bio swing and hfr and immediately i have had results so am now re readind all the book and going thru all comments on the web etc

  • Wayne Preston

    Reply Reply October 21, 2010

    Harry vordon once said there are two types of golfers, those who are mentally strong, and those who aren’t. This piece goes to show you should not fear fear but to embrace it, and let yourself go. love your work thankyou. Wayne

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