Golf – In The Zone
Anchor Hypnosis Unconsciously for Golf in the Playing Zone
Silence your Inner Critic and Play Positive Confident Golf
For most players good golf is primarily based on making use of both the analytical conscious and automatic and instinctive unconscious parts of our minds. Nowhere is this more important in what I call the Playing Zone, the time that starts when you arrive at your ball and begin your pre-shot routine and ends after you’ve hit the shot, learned from it and released it to the past. That’ rarely adds up to more than a quarter of the time you spend on the golf course. The rest of the time you’re free to simply enjoy the scenery, share the company of your playing partners and relax as you move between shots. That’s another zone or state completely.
The first time I heard about what we now refer to as the Zone was back in 1970 when I heard Tony Jacklin talk about being in a “cocoon of concentration” in an interview after he won the Open Championship at Royal Lytham St. Annes in 1969. In fact, I recall him saying much the same thing to me, when I played with him in 1970, just a few weeks before he won the US Open at Hazeltine. He wasn’t the only one experiencing that sort of thing back then, with the legendary Arnold Palmer talking of “a tautness of mind but not a tension of the body”, “concentration on the shot at hand” and “the heightened sense of presence and renewal that endures through an entire round or an entire tournament”.
Years later, I remember Nick Faldo talking about getting into a trance-like state when playing in major championships and calling it a “cocoon” of concentration. He went on to describe it as, “a state of oblivion where I shut out all the people on and off the course.”
Have you noticed that, apart from their being in the Zone when they were winning, the common factor with Tony, Nick and Arnie was that they were all trying stay in the zone for entire whole rounds and even tournaments? You have to be really focussed and mentally strong to stay in the zone for that length of time. Maybe that’s why Nick Faldo and Tony Jacklin often seemed so emotionally drained at the end of a championship.
So what about some of the other major winners, people like Tiger Woods, Padraig Harrington and Lee Trevino? Well, they seem to be in the zone only for the time it takes them to plan and play their shots. Between shots, Lee would talk to anyone who’d listen to him and many who wouldn’t, while he entertained the galley with jokes. However, he certainly seemed to be in the zone for the few seconds it took him to hit the ball. Tiger’s considerably less talkative, but you couldn’t lose your temper after a bad shot like he often does and stay in the zone. Again, he’s well into the zone from the moment he gets to his ball to the moment he either twirls his club in celebration or beats it in anger. Padraig’s eyes tell us everything we need to know about his focus and concentration when he’s in the Playing Zone, and the next moment he’s walking jauntily along the fairway laughing and joking with his caddy.
So I’m sure that by now you can understand why I advocate the idea that the time to be in the Zone, starts when you’re ready to begin your pre-shot routine and ends after you’ve hit the shot, learned from it and released it to the past. To be more specific, I’m talking here about four specific steps of Golf in the Playing Zone. They are your
- Pre-Shot Routine – where you consciously concentrate on preparing, planning and visualising you’re the shot you want to play
- Rehearsal swing – where you get the feel of the shot you visualise
- Shot Routine – where you unconsciously take your stance, have one final look at the hole and hit the ball instinctively
- Post-Shot Routine – where you consciously learn from the shot and either celebrate it or release it to the past where it can’t hurt you.
So what’s included in Golf in the Playing Zone?
Well, I’ve included three powerful freestanding golf hypnosis sessions to help you to:
- Build a series of unconscious triggers or anchors to take you automatically into the Playing Zone and step you systematically and unconsciously through your pre-shot routine, your rehearsal swings, your shot routine and your post-shot routine
- Zone out your inner critic and reinforce your positive inner guardian or champion so you naturally play golf more positively and confidently
- Isolate and set aside all distractions that interfere with your concentration in the Playing Zone.
The Playing Zone – Hypnosis Session
The first hypnosis session is simply called The Playing Zone and it helps you build a series of unconscious triggers or anchors to take you automatically into the Playing Zone and step you systematically and unconsciously through your pre-shot routine, your rehearsal swings, your shot routine and your post-shot routine. Now I’m not specifying the contents of those routines. As I’ve said before, I feel those are individual to you. What I want to achieve is a set of cascading triggers that take you automatically through from the moment you arrive at the ball through to the time you release the results of the shot and walk on to the next one. For me, that’s the Playing Zone, the time for concentration. The rest of the time you’re out on the golf course, you should be relaxed and unfocussed as you’re walking, talking and enjoying what’s going on around you.
Some of the top players are now using anchors or triggers like these, but they have to consciously remember. That’s why Louis Oosthuizen’s had to paint that red spot on his glove, so successfully at the British Open this year, to consciously trigger the things his golf psychologist wanted him to remember to do. Tiger Woods, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to need these conscious triggers, he just seems to automatically to use the unconscious anchors he installed using hypnosis. I’m talking here about his double blink before he hits a shot, his twirl of the club after a good shot and his ability to, as Nick Faldo commented, “hit the reset button” while displaying his anger after a bad one.
Zone Out your Inner Critic Hypnosis Session
Do you talk to yourself when you’re playing golf? Well, if you don’t, you may have a serious problem. It’s called brain death! Self-talk, otherwise known as internal dialogue or intrapersonal communication, is one of the main functions of our conscious mind. It allows us to make sense of our conflicting thoughts and to express our ideas and feelings to ourselves. Most of the time we talk to ourselves internally and sometimes, particularly after a bad shot, we share our self-talk with everyone in earshot. That can be a large distance with some of the golfer’s I’ve played with!
Many golfers regularly talk to themselves in a negative or even abusive manner on the golf course. With some, it doesn’t even seem to matter whether it’s a good shot or a bad one! If you use negative self-talk, it’s almost certainly spoiling both your enjoyment of the game and your score. The abusive self-talk is often far more offensive than you would normally use in public. Just imagine how you would feel if your fourball partner, foursome partner or your caddy said the same things to you after you hit a bad shot. You’d be horrified and you’d probably make a mental note never to play with them again.
Positive self-talk is what you want to be using and it really comes into its own when we are internally analysing and evaluating complex choices in our lives. A good example is when you’re starting your pre-shot routine and deciding on the type of shot you’re going to play. Have you ever had one voice in your head proposing an ambitious shot with a driver and another one encouraging you to make a more conservative shot with an iron? Don’t worry about it. It’s perfectly normal and unlikely to be a symptom of schizophrenia!
The second hypnosis track, Zone Out your Inner Critic, starts by building a powerful, calm, relaxed and resourceful set of feelings. This prepares you to learn more about your inner critic and the hidden meaning behind its negativity. The session also helps you unconsciously learn more about and strengthen the powers of your much more positive and resourceful inner guardian or champion. Finally the session uses and NLP “visual squash” technique to help your inner guardian overwhelm the inner critic while capturing any positive intention from all your old negativity. I know that sounds odd, but it’s a very effective and rewarding process.
Concentration on the Zone Hypnosis Session
I was intrigued to hear some years ago about a then fairly obscure European Tour player by the name of Philip Archer. What piqued my interest was his reputation for winning the pro-am events on the Wednesdays before the main tournaments. In fact, he often won them with a course record. This contrasted with him then scoring badly on Thursday and Friday and missing the cut. His problem was finally diagnosed as over-concentration. When he played in the pro-ams, he concentrated briefly on his own shot and then hurried over and focussed his attention on the amateurs. After all, they were paying a lot to be there, so he felt he had a responsibility to help them. As a result he only focussed on his own game when he was planning his shots and hitting his own ball.
When Phil played in the main tournament, he felt that, as a professional golfer, he had to concentrate hard for the whole time he was on the course. The problem was he couldn’t keep that intense focus for the 5 hours or more it takes to complete a round on tour. As a result, he didn’t play to his full potential and was a nervous wreck by the time he completed his tournament round.
The good news for Phil is that a good golf psychologist pointed this out to him and helped him find a way to relax between shots in the main tournament. Once he did that, he unleashed and fulfilled his potential as a professional golfer by winning on the European Tour.
I recorded the third golf hypnosis session in this programme, “Concentration on the Zone”, to help you isolate all and set aside, the thoughts and distractions that interfere with your concentration and enjoyment on the golf course. Some of these will be the usual golf related things, like thinking about your score, your swing, course conditions – the list is endless. There are also the thoughts you bring to the course that have nothing to do with golf apart from getting in the way of Golf in the Playing Zone.