The golf brain

The Golf Brain

I saw an amazing video today from Ted.com.  Neuroanatomis Jill Bolte Taylor suffered a stroke and learned first hand the differences between the right brain and left brain when she had a massive stroke one morning.  Watch this video if you have some time.

Although she never mentioned golf in her lecture, it got me thinking about the golf brain.

I think most golfers play left brain golf.  They have a tremendous amount of mental chatter going on.  They are also thinking a lot about the sequence of the swing along with the 32 million other swing thoughts cramming their brains.

Just go to a driving range and watch golfers hit.  You can immediately tell that there is so much chatter going on.  In addition to the chatter they are constantly reliving golf mental and emotional baggage.  They’re constantly getting angry because they hit a poor shot, and then they remember a good shot and think that’s how they should be hitting it all the time.  I watched one golfer mumbling at the golf ball after every shot, trying to tell it what to do.

Now, the right side of the brain is the more like a parallel processor than the left side of the brain.  Instead of thinking in sequences, it sees the whole picture right now as it gets all the information from the senses.  It is also the side of the brain that runs much of the body like your heartbeat, blood pressure, breathing etc.  In addition it is also the creative center.  I believe that golf is a creative activity.  The best golfers are like artists who use the golf course and the golf ball as a canvas on which to create amazing things.

When you put all this together it makes sense to have the right side of the brain be the main driver of the golf swing.  Now obviously you need both halves to play well.  The left side of the brain can be used to create strategy and analyze the situation.  Once that is over and you’ve decided on a course of action, you need to let the right side of the brain take over and hit the golf shot.

I went out to the range and experimented with a number of ideas to reduce mental chatter and engage the right side of the brain in my shot making.

The hardest part to do was to quiet the chatter.  The left side of the brain is really chatty and wants to constantly give you information.  I found that I could quiet it by focusing on my environment.  I could look out the range and notice the trees in the back of it, or notice the patterns that the mat made, or the feel of the grip under my fingers.  All of these things could quiet the left brain chatter.  I also found that once I decided on what I wanted the shot to do, I didn’t need to remind myself of it.

So what happened on the swings where I was able to cut the chatter out?  I was able to hit some really good shots.  They felt pretty effortless and it was as if everything was nicely in sync.

I also noticed, that at times, the chatter would come back in the middle of my back swing.  That was annoying, and would take make out of the moment.  It also resulted in average to below average shots.  Luckily I experienced that less than I expected to.

Rob LaRosa, the Head Golf Professional at Sterling Farms Golf Course where I play and practice, came over and noticed how good I was swinging.  I hadn’t seen my swing on video since the first 30 day challenge I had and so he took a video and showed it to me.  It was really smooth and fluid.  He told me that it looked really good.

I think this is a great area to explore.  If I can begin to use my right brain more when I play I think it will really help to improve my ball striking.  It certainly felt really good to quiet the mind and just swing.

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