Are you doubling down on fixes that fail?

Whether it’s tour pros or weekend warriors, the overwhelming majority of golfers feel like their games are infected by something gross and horrible, but they seem powerless to cure it.

A player knows, for example, that if she swings smoothly, the ball will arc triumphantly over a pond.

Instead, her iron inexplicably slams behind the ball, and the ball ignominiously scuttles into the drink.

Or a player dreams of a buttery putting stroke. Instead, his stroke resembles a spasmodic lurch.

Most golfers tormented by recurring foozles and afflictions do the same thing—they work hard to fix them. However, they rarely fix the problem. And with each fix that fails, they usually double down, and try yet another fix.

But the cycle and the horrible shots persist. It’s enough to cause some people to seriously consider giving up golf. Some do.

What if we took a novel approach?

This next bit will seem completely nuts. Hang in with me.

What if we stopped trying to fix whatever is going on? What if we just let it be? What if we surrendered and gave up trying to control it?

I can hear you: ‘You mean keep doing the wrong thing? Don’t try to change it?’

Exactly.

I know. I know. It seems crazy, as if we were somehow violating some kind of law.

Well, you’d be surprised what can happen when you stop trying to fix your affliction.

It can make an amazing difference in golf, and in other parts of our lives. I’ve seen in hundreds of times with golfers in my Quiet Mind Golf putting clinics and QMG six-month program that professional Nate Robinson and I are currently running.

During our QMG chipping session last week, we invited Craig to do an exercise. Craig has long been tormented with the chip yips; when I met him last summer, he was close to quitting golf.

During the exercise—which Craig performed with his eyes closed—it was impossible for him to think about his chipping mechanics.

He hit about 15 chips—each one crisply and solidly.

When he was done, he opened his eyes and looked at the balls on the green, all gathered in a relatively small circle. He broke into a wide, beautiful smile.

Craig continued to chip with his eyes open and to different distances with a sense that he was observing what was happening rather than trying to make anything happen. He was ecstatic.

“This is epic on a scale of biblical proportions,” he said, laughing. “It’s like my body knows what to do.”

Note that we did not give Craig one piece of technical instruction. We just conducted an exercise in which he stopped trying to swing the correct way. Instead, he was feeling and allowing his chipping stroke to happen.

We had a similar experience during a QMG putting session with Jason.

We invited Jason to set up to putt a ball about 12 feet from a hole. Nate crouched behind the hole. We told Jason that Nate was going to flash numbers with one hand. Jason’s job was to keep his eyes on Nate’s hand, add the numbers and say the total out loud while putting. (I learned this amazing exercise from legendary coach Fred Shoemaker. Thanks Fred!)

Most people laugh when I describe the exercise. ‘Isn’t putting hard enough?’ is a common reaction.

The exercise didn’t seem funny to Jason. He looked agitated and his stroke was jabby. Balls went all over the place.

He couldn’t even add the simple numbers, and he’s an accountant! With each putt, he grimaced. He sped up. He did what most people do—he tried harder. He was clearly frustrated.

I walked over and said, “Jason, just breathe. When you feel ready, give it another shot.”

He jabbed at a few more putts, and then something interesting happened.

He began arriving at the correct of total of numbers, and his stroke smoothed out. His putts started rolling close to the hole.

He rolled in three in a row dead centre, stood up from his crouch and beamed a wide, happy smile. “Oh my God.”

“What happened?” I asked.

He said that when he began the exercise, he wanted to make sure the putter head was going straight back from the ball. But he couldn’t watch the putter head and add at the same time, which frustrated him.

I asked: “Do you think it was a matter of letting go of control?”

“Exactly,” he said.

He said everything changed once he gave up trying to watch the putter head, and he just kept his eyes on Nate’s hand and added the numbers.

“I gave up control,” Jason said.

He said that it was like the putter moved on its own. He was delightfully surprised to notice that his stroke was now buttery smooth and unhurried, and his results improved remarkably.

When Craig and Jason stopped trying to control and direct their motion, they discovered their own innate brilliance. When they stopped self-interfering, their brain and bodies did what they know how to do.

What’s more, Jason and Craig discovered that the answers to their afflictions were within them all along. They weren’t broken and they didn’t need fixing after all.

They learned just how capable they are already are.

What an incredible thing to witness.

Tim O'Connor
Tim O'Connor is a golf coach, an award-winning writer, and speaker. Tim takes a holistic approach, coaching golfers in the physical and mental aspects of golf. He co-hosts the Swing Thoughts podcast, and is the author of The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story. He plays bass in CID—a Guelph punk band! www.oconnorgolf.ca

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