Quiet Mind Golf – a very clean golf lesson
This is my first post this week. My excuse is that I’ve been trying to finish editing my upcoming book, Quiet Mind Golf. (My inner perfectionist is in full gallop.)
The following is an excerpt from a draft chapter in which I discuss how you can press pause on your nagging inner critic and your endless stream of swing thoughts. I argue that we play and feel better when our minds our quiet.
I hope you enjoy it, and that you will offer me your feedback either in a comment or in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thx
When your mind is quiet, it doesn’t mean you’ve cleared your mind. When your mind is completely clear, you are dead. It’s not a mystical experience either in which a mysterious fellow in plus fours emerges from the mist and offers you sage wisdom. There’s no time travel, and no chakra clearing, bell ringing, smudging or mantra chanting.
It’s my experience that when people play golf with a quiet mind, they are not putting a mind technique into practice. They are not trying. It’s more like they are allowing and observing.
Does it mean that we’re just swinging away wildly like we didn’t care? That if the ball went anywhere, we would just laugh.
Hardly. Playing golf with a quiet mind requires intention and paying attention. To me it’s closer to what the Buddhists describe as making the right effort.
Words usually fail to articulate the experience, but I believe that playing with a quiet mind is playing in a state of relaxed concentration, as Timothy Gallwey explained in his 1974 classic book, The Inner Game of Tennis. “Concentration is the act of focusing one’s attention,” Gallwey wrote. “As the mind is allowed to focus on a single object, it stills. As the mind is kept in the present, it calms.”
If you’d like to explore what concentration feels like, I invite you to just pay full attention as you engage in an everyday activity, such as washing the dishes, driving your car, or unloading the dryer.
Rather than listen to music, talk to someone, or think about something else, just pay attention as you, for example, wash the dishes. Be fully attentive to the shape and feeling of a pot in your hands, the temperature of the water, the feeling of the bubbles on your skin, the sound of the water, the smell of the detergent, and so on. When your mind inevitably wanders into thinking, simply bring your attention back to your intention to be fully present to what you are doing.
Now, pick up your putter or a wedge and bring the same kind of attention to making a stroke or chipping a ball. Rather than think about swinging correctly, simply pay attention to what you notice.
That’s concentration. Many golfers have never experienced it, or they haven’t since they were kids.
That simple experience is a great golf lesson. Rather than being caught up in thought, you become more attuned to what you are experiencing when you are hitting a putt or shot. You are better able to notice what you are doing, and what allows for a solid shot and what doesn’t. In short, you learn from your own experience.
The exercise is also an introduction to a form of meditation in which you choose to pay attention to something by simply observing and noticing what’s happening.
Becoming more mindful pays huge dividends in golf, but it’s not easy. It requires ongoing practice because it goes against—for most of us—the culture of golf and decades of behaviour. We are habituated to having a noisy head on the golf course, which leads to self-interference and crappy golf.
Developing the skill of awareness and experiencing relaxed concentration is essential to mastery and responding appropriately to the circumstances of golf and your life.