The power of positive thought — and how it can help you play better golf

I came to golf late and managed, by hook or by crook, to improve at a rapid clip, eventually playing at a fairly high level. But the sad truth is I never completely fulfilled my full potential.

With the benefit of hindsight it occurred to me that my approach to improvement went from sound to off-the-mark in no time at all. And that watershed moment happened despite every good intention.

As a high school golfer, I basically learned the elements of alignment, rhythm, timing, shot-shaping, trajectory control and scoring and these led to significant success.

That brought me to an advanced level, and it was then I thought I would take the next step by “improving” my technique. I strode into a phase where I was continually tinkering with my swing and perpetually trying new things. Regretfully, all I ended up doing was spinning my wheels, becoming confused and losing confidence.

The path I chose was not the route to enduring success.

Indeed, that realization shaped me as a golf instructor and coach. Don’t get me wrong, I do focus on technique and improvements in areas that are lacking, but it is always a part of a completely holistic approach to instruction, coaching and mentoring.

“You are a human before you are a golfer and inasmuch as this may sound trite, it is important to comprehend and respect.”

Gary Player once said to me, “I always expect my ball to bounce out of the trees.”

To be honest I thought his observation was a little crazy at the time.

At a later date, during a low point in my playing days, I was prepared to try anything. I remembered Mr. Player and resolved to look for good bounces instead of only “seeing” bad bounces. Lo and behold I began to notice how many good bounces I did in fact get.

I took it further and chose to remember putts made instead of putts missed. The same result transpired. Long story short, my confidence percolated; my game turned around, and I won a significant College event shortly thereafter.

It turns out that the power is positive thought is very real, and it’s phenomenon based in neuroscience.

The human brain is astonishingly complex. In fact it is like your superpower as it can sift through billions of data points in the blink of an eye. Miraculously the brain by organizes every bit of information taken in with its Reticular Activating System (RAS).

The RAS is a bundle of nerves, at the stem of the brain, that acts as a filter for unnecessary information so only the important stuff can be used.

Examples of your RAS at work are: If you buy a red car and then “every” car you see after that is red, or if you are in a loud environment yet you are able to hear someone call your name. The Reticular Activation System takes what you focus on and creates a filter for it.

Much in the same way, if you continually harp on the bad bounces, missed putts or bad swings the RAS will filter those as important to validate your beliefs. As a result you will never notice the good shots or breaks, and the sad result is a downward spiral of poor form and “Bad Luck”.

Reset and reactivate your RAS and watch your luck and your form improve.

I wish I had known this many moons ago!

Onward and upward.

Good luck.

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