October 24, 2011

Give It Time To Sink In

If you change your mind, you need to give your body time to get to where your mind is.

Dr. Joseph Parent, author of Zen Golf

As we address the ball, occasionally something happens that makes us want to change our mind. It may be a change in the wind, something about our lie or stance that we didn’t notice before, or an uneasy feeling about how you’re going to play a shot just before you execute it, there’s more that needs to be done than you might think.

When you change your mind, you need to leave time for two things to happen. First, your mind has to get comfortable with the new idea. Clear away any lingering thoughts about the old plan. You need to be completely committed to the new thinking mind. It’s also felt in the body. Your body has to feel comfortable with the new plan.

For your body to shift to the new plan, the message has to get from the thinking side of your brain to the side that controls your motor coordination. Too often I’ve seen a top player change his mind, go directly into a shot, and mess it up. His mind has changed to a new plan, but his body is still operating on the old one. Out of sync and out-of-bounds.

I saw a vivid illustration of this at the PGA Tour event at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles one year. A top international player was just off the green with a tricky chip down a slope to the hole. He stood there for quite a while making about a dozen practice swings with one of his wedges. Then he shook his head and exchanged the wedge for a different one. He took two quick practice strokes and addressed the ball. I thought, “That wasn’t enough time after changing plans. This will be trouble.” Sure enough, he bladed the chip across the green.

He hadn’t given the new plan time to sink in. Although his thinking mind had switched to the new plan, his body was still running on the old image. It takes time for a message to get from one side of your brain to the other.

If you change your mind, you need to give your body time to get to where your mind is. It can take up to 10 seconds. After you make a new plan, take a few warm-up swings with the new image in mind and allow enough time to let it sink in. Then you can flow through your routine with body and mind in sync and fire away with confidence.

Contributed by Dr. Joseph Parent, author of Zen Golf and mental coach to Vijay Singh. For more information, please visit his site at www.zengolf.com.