Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Mind FITness for Golf

Americans spent $4.7 Billion on golf equipment in 2002 according to the National Golf Foundation. Drivers are bigger; balls go further. Despite these facts, scores are NOT going down. Surprisingly, the average handicap has dropped only .5 since 2000. Pro scores have risen .26 strokes over past 10 years. David Feherty writing for Golf Magazine muses, “Maybe we’re all supposed to stink at this. It’s our punishment for playing this insane game.” The best equipment in the world won’t make your game better if you don’t have the fundamentals; if you haven’t received the proper instruction, practiced, and played sufficiently. Even if you have the right equipment, instruction, and experience, if your mind is not your ally, your game will suffer. Our attitude and mental approach are crucial if we are to be successful in this game, whether that success is measured as enjoyment or as going low. We know how to buy equipment, to take lessons, to practice, and to play rounds. How, though, can we train our minds?

We tend to take attention for granted. Because attention is a faculty that originates between the ears, we think we have this mastered. Attention, like chipping and putting, requires training, and lot’s of it. Most of us just take whatever attention we have and spend most of our time engaged in an internal dialogue. When we are playing golf, this dialog may be crucial. What are we telling ourselves? Are we providing ourselves with supportive encouraging messages or are we castigating ourselves and complaining? Can we concentrate on the task at hand sufficiently to execute to the best of our current capacities?

A set of techniques and skills called mindfulness, derived from an ancient form of meditation, can help to make your game more consistent, skillful, and enjoyable. Mindfulness is a method for training and managing attention. Mindfulness is a particular way of paying attention that focuses attention on what is happening precisely now. To be mindful is to give all of our attention to whatever is happening now. The now of playing consists of feelings in the body as you walk between holes, swing the club, and notice the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations of being outside on the course. More specifically, there are the feelings of the club in your hands, the sensations in your arms, torso, and entire body as you conduct a swing. The breath as it is gently forced from the body in the torque of the swing. To train mindful awareness, attention is placed on the physical process of breathing or other sensations in the body. That is, noticing the sensations in the nose, mouth, chest, and abdomen that arise during inhalation and exhalation. When attention wanders, which it will quite readily, attention is picked up and escorted back to the awareness of breathing. This process is repeated as often as necessary. Mindfulness is nothing more complicated than that.

The Exquisite Mind of Golf brings together mind, brain, and body to help you play your best. Doc Arnie’s Mind FIT clinics complement professional swing instruction with a professional instructor. These clinics can help you to get the most out your lessons and skill level while providing more enjoyment to your game. If you get angry, frustrated, or discouraged while playing, or if you want to refine your attention skills and deepen your understanding and appreciation for the psychology of the game, these clinics are for you. My Mind FIT program can help you to accomplish the following goals:

Manage mental factors that can interfere with your game:
• Develop fierce attention to facilitate your performance and enjoyment
• Become skilled at being calm in the face of the unexpected and unwanted
• Increase your enjoyment of the game no matter how you play
• Learn the basics of mindfulness meditation which will facilitate above goals

For more detailed information, please visit: http://exquisitemind.com/golf.html

Arnie Kozak, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist and golf consultant. He maintains a private practice, Exquisite Mind, in downtown Burlington and teaches for the psychology department at the University of Vermont. To his recent passion for golf, he brings 25 years of clinical and meditation experience. “Doc” trains individuals from all walks of life to use mindfulness to their benefit. He is the author of the forthcoming book Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness (Wisdom Publications, spring 2009).


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