Dr. Sport: The Thinking Must Stop Before the Hitting Begins
by Bob Phillips, Ph.D.
One of the important reasons for having a strong pre-shot routine is to have a specific point in time where you switch form planning and thinking to hitting or putting. I have worked with hundreds of golfers in both Charlotte, North Carolina and now in the Atlanta area, and one of the most useful changes a golfer can make is to put a breathing step into his or her pre-shot routine.
You can use a breathing step by simply taking time to take two beep breaths, each one moving your breathing center down into your stomach a little further. If, however, you would really like to increase the effectiveness of the breathing step then you should practice combining the breathing step with a relaxation process. To do this you simply take time at home to sit comfortably and take six or seven breaths that gradually move down deeper into your body. This relaxes your upper body and causes your breathing to become more regular and centered. This longer exercise will cause the mind to form a conditioned response that gives you a way of attaining the deeper relaxation you have practiced by using the first two breath as a trigger for the full process. Now you are really ready to place the breathing step into your pre-shot routine.
I suggest that you place the breathing step near the end of your pre-shot routine. After the breathing step the only things to be done are for you to: 1. Hold the specific target in your mind. 2. Be aware of the ball. 3. Let the swing happen. By placing the breathing step near the end of the routine you have set a point at which your planning and other thinking will stop and your mind and body can take over for putting the ball where you want it. The mind does not need to be thinking or planning at the time of the swing or putt. Any thoughts, other than target and ball location, are more likely to be disruptive than helpful.
Some people think that the phrase "Let the swing happen" is a strange request. They think that if they do it they will be standing there a long time. Trust yourself. Your mind knows what to do, and if you have the experience and the physical preparation for the shot, then the best thing you can do is to let your body have the freedom to execute the movement you have trained it to do. After you include the breathing step in your pre-shot routine you no longer interfere with the process and you will find that your golf game will improve.
Bob Phillips, Ph.D.
Clinical and Golf Psychologist
The Sport Psychology Training Center