How many of you have heard the old golf adage, “the most important real estate on the golf course is the 5 inches between your ears?
As a professional coach with over 20 years of experience leading international sporting bodies and working with athletes, I can tell you that the above adage rings true, and when it comes to golf, even more so. Golf is a beautiful game, but if you let it, it’s also a game that can “do your head in.”
Did you know that most, if not all, professional athletes, not just golfers, have understood the power of the mind and the role it plays in performance and success? But recently, more and more golfers have been turning to hypnosis? Why? Simple, in the hope that it takes their golf game to the next level.
But does it? Let’s take a closer look at hypnosis and whether or not it really stacks up to all it made out to be.
What Is Visualization In Sport?
According to Encyclopedia.com
“Visualization in sport is a training technique that forms a part of the larger science of sports psychology. Visualization is also known as mental imagery and rehearsal. Visualization is used primarily as a training tool, one that improves the quality of athletic movement, increases the power of concentration, and serves to reduce the pressures of competition on the athlete while building athletic confidence.”
To those of us in golf, we understand there is a strong relationship between your mind and your performance. Developing a broad spectrum of mental abilities like concentration, focus, analysis, and emotional control are generally accepted as necessary to excel and overcome the “ups and downs” that come with professional sport.
Visualization is designed to transform an athlete’s negative image or mindset into one representing an ideal “technique” or “play” in a specific sport.
While performing visualization, the brain sends signals to the target muscles to perform in the most efficient and perfect way. The brain is basically creating neural pathways to form patterns that the athletes can hopefully recreate when the big tournament rolls around.
Now at this point I should note that visualization is not a silver bullet when performed by itself but when coupled with repetitive physical practice routines the chance of a successful outcome is significantly increased.
During a tournament, the athletes generally perform visualization in a quiet and secluded place like their hotel room or even while exercising; One particular professional golfer I coached in the past loved to do her visualization while working out on the spin bike. Most athletes try to perform some form of visualization at least three times a week, and many set aside time daily to visualize their success.
Visualization is an excellent tool that can help golfers when they return from an injury or are currently undergoing rehabilitation. Visualizing your success as a golfer can help keep the mundane tasks during rehabilitation seem much more stimulating. It offers a great way to imagine one’s success after rehab is complete.
Whether it’s a three-foot putt or a long 4-iron over the water, taking the time to visualize success and create neural pathways can help automate your swing dynamics out on the golf course.
What is Hypnosis And Can It Help Your Golf?
According to the Mayo Clinic
Hypnosis, also referred to as hypnotherapy or hypnotic suggestion is a trance-like state in which you have heightened focus and concentration. Hypnosis is usually done with the help of a therapist using verbal repetition and mental images. You usually feel calm and relaxed when you’re under hypnosis and are more open to suggestions.”
Every golfer has the adage “being in the zone,” but many athletes struggle to describe what being in the zone feels like, and more than that, most players don’t even know how they got in the zone in the first place.
In my experience, I can tell you that concentration, focus, and a deep belief and confidence in one’s ability are definitely required if you have any chance of ever entering the zone. By supplementing your training with visualization and hypnosis, you can significantly increase your chance of performing up to your expectations when the big tournament arrives.
Hypnosis can help sharpen the mind, body, and soul, which in turn can open the doors to the elusive “zone.”
Golf and Mental Preparation
Over the years, mental performance always has interested coaches and athletes, particularly those looking to get the most out of themselves.
However, harnessing the power of the 5 inches between our two ears is easier said than done, especially while performing under intense pressure. With the advent of new research methods and study results that have come to light, coaches and experts now understand a lot more about the mental side of the game.
100s of studies have shown the direct correlation between mental and cognitive performance to outcomes and results, but we coaches didn’t need studies to confirm this; we’ve known this for years. But, what we didn’t realize is the extent to which mental training techniques like visualization and hypnosis can help players; it turns out it has a much bigger impact than we first thought.
Enter hypnotherapy. This relatively “new age” training method has become increasingly mainstream as golfers continue to take advantage of the many benefits it offers, particularly in dealing with pressure, stress, and anxiety.
What is Hynotherapy?
Hypnotherapy for sports can be defined as
“an altered state of consciousness characterized by specific physiological attributes such as relaxation, slowed breathing, and enhanced receptivity to suggestion. It can also increase access to unconscious thoughts, memories, and emotions.”
Hypnotherapy can also increase or heighten a golfer’s level of awareness, particularly for feelings in the moment; this can result in giving golfers a better understanding of what things to focus on during tournament play and what they need to block out.
By supplementing additional mental strategies such as meditation, visualization, and hypnosis, golfers can take full advantage of the benefits of cognitive training.
Reasons why hypnotherapy works:
- Boosts performance
- Allows golfers to remain relaxed
- Heightens levels of focus, concentration, and awareness
- Improves sleep quality
- Increases confidence in one ability
- Reduces stress and helps calm your nerves
Unfortunately, I believe many golfers and athletes still have an unfavorable view of hypnosis, probably due to pop culture. Don’t worry; the therapist won’t make you meow like a cat or program you to commit a heinous crime.”
Give it a go; you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain when it comes to improving your mental game and lowering your handicap.
Hypnosis Provides Golfers With An Hollistic Approach
Utilizing hypnotherapy and coupling it with a rigorous training program that focuses on performance is usually how therapists implement it. Although the primary focus of undergoing hypnosis is to boost performance, it can also dramatically reduce stress while expanding growth and healing.
Many golfers who have tried hypnotherapy have commented on the positive benefits to their mental game, such as increased confidence and a level of acceptance that there will be ups and downs. Hypnosis and visualization have given them ways to reduce their stress when the inevitable “downtimes” come a-knocking.
At any one time in a tournament, a number of factors influence the way in which golfers think and react. Still, off the course, mental issues like personal competence and career transition such as retirement can all take a heavy toll and are very real concerns for pro golfers.
Unfortunately, many golfers connect their on-course performance with who they are as a person. So a lousy performance during a tournament can lead golfers to believe they are also failures off the course. Hypnotherapy can ease this pressure and allow the player to realize that golf is their day job; it’s not who they are as a person.
What Are The Benefits Of Hypnotherapy
Every golfer can benefit from hypnotherapy, but those golfers who are open to the idea of boosting their performance and reducing their stress and anxiety will get the most benefit. Just as with any other part of their physical game, the more golfers dedicate time to hypnotherapy, the more they get out of it.
During rehabilitation or in times of a performance “slump,” hypnotherapy and visualization play an essential role in boosting a golfer’s confidence and morale.
For many rookie pros, it’s their first time facing the real pressures of preparing for tournament golf, and they may be stressed about whether or not they can handle the situation. But hypnotherapy is not only for the PGA Tour pro; one could argue the average club-golfer could benefit more from regular visualization and hypnosis sessions.
Benefits of hypnotherapy:
- Boost morale
- Increases confidence
- Improves mental strength
- It gives golfers an extra edge
- Can help golfers “get in the zone”
The vast majority of PGA Tour pros work closely with a sports psychologist to help them get through the ups and downs of being a professional golfer. The very best golfers always seem to be much more focused and have the uncanny ability to remain calm in the eye of the storm. This is not by chance; it’s through sheer hard work and setting aside the time to practice visualization and hypnotherapy.
With the rigors of physical practice and a comprehensive and holistic mental training program, golfers can enhance their performance on the course.
How To Use Imagery and Visualization
Research has shown that performance on the golf course can be boosted and enhanced by using specific mental image training and visualization techniques such as hypnosis and self-hypnosis. Visualization is often referred to as “imagery” or “guided imagery” and goes by other names like self-hypnosis and mental rehearsal.
Generally speaking, the techniques are solely targeted and designed to improve the performance of PGA Tour pros, but in recent times many club-level golfers have been turning their attention to this new style of mental practice, and it seems to be paying big dividends.
By learning to use and incorporate all of their senses and cognitive ability, amateur golfers have seen dramatic improvements in their on-course performance, and many have significantly lowered their handicap. By utilizing all of your senses, your chances of experiencing the desired outcome increase considerably.
10 Steps To Use Imagery Training
Suppose you’re a rookie or trying visualization and imagery for the first time. In that case, I highly recommend consulting with an accredited therapist or practitioner to help walk you step-by-step through the process.
You can also try image training by yourself, and while it is challenging the first few times, just like your physical practice, the more you practice, the better you get. There are CDs and DVDs that you can buy and books that can help you get the most out of mental training.
If you’re willing to give mental imagery a go, here are 10 practical steps that can help.
- Find a quiet and comfortable spot where no one can interrupt your thought process
- Take some long, deep and slow breathes, and slowly start to relax your body from your head to your toes
- Now comes the part that many newbies find challenging. Create an image in your mind that has previously caused you some sort of stress or anxiety
- If, for whatever reason, you get distracted, then let the image go and start again or think of a new image and give that a go.
- Remember; if you do happen to lose the image, which will more than likely happen to beginners, don’t panic. Simply keep breathing nice and slowly and start the process again
- Keep a positive attitude the best you can all the way through the process.
- Now, try to imagine and remember every single sense you experienced during the memory you are recreating; everything from the smells and sounds to the tastes and touches and the feelings you felt.
- Remember things like what you were wearing, what you were hearing, the time of the day, the weather, and anything else that can help recreate the memory.
- Many newcomers get to this point in the process and find they are struggling to recreate a vivid image; if this happens, simply open your eyes, stand up, walk around, and start again.
- Finally, even if you’ve had the toughest of times with your first visualization session, always finish your session with a positive image in your mind, even if it’s not the image you were initially thinking of.
If you can recreate a vivid image, it gives imagery training the best chance to work and do its thing. Remember to ask yourself questions such as your memories of the event? What did you see and hear? And importantly, how did you feel?
Golf Hypnosis FAQs
Will hypnosis make my swing perfect?
This is a question I often hear, especially from amateur golfers looking for a quick fix or a silver bullet. Simply put, hypnotherapy or visualization training can help your golf swing but will it make it perfect? NO.
There’s no such thing as a perfect swing, and those chasing such a dream are wasting a lot of time and energy. Visualization will help you become more confident when standing on the first tee and help you iron-out and conquer many of the mental demons that can haunt your golf swing, like, the fear of hitting out of bounds or flubbing your shot.
A solid physical practice program, combined with visualization and imagery training, will improve your swing, but it won’t make it perfect; nothing will.
Does Image training and hypnosis work for golf?
Yes, hypnosis works, which is why nearly every PGA Tour pro consults with a sports psychologist regularly and often full-time. Mental image training can help you with many aspects of your game that you’re struggling with. For most golfers, it’s dealing with the pressure during a tournament and learning to reduce stress and anxiety in times of critical importance.
Here’s how hypnosis can help your golf:
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Increase performance
- Boost confidence in one’s ability
- Improve mental toughness
- Help to conquer mental demons
Like anything in life, though, you only get out of it what you put in, so if you’re looking for a quick fix to your golf game, then hypnotherapy and imagery training might not be for you,
The 18th Hole
Visualization can help your golf game, but as you’ve seen, you have to put in the hard work just as you would on the putting green or the practice range.
Many golfers struggle to get into the zone, and when they do, they don’t know how they did, making it impossible to repeat. Visualization and hypnotherapy can help bring your feelings and senses to the surface and, more importantly, heighten their significance.
This allows you to focus on the feeling and emotions that will help your game and block out those that won’t. Either way, if you’re serious about improving your golf game, I’d consider giving image training and self-hypnosis a try.
After all, what have you got to lose? Oh, and remember, you won’t walk away from your session barking like a dog or meowing like a cat.