Perhaps no game is more wrought with mental hazards than golf. The sport introduces a constant struggle between the conscious mind—analyzing, alert, logical—and the subconscious mind—the well of intuition and long-term memory. Though golf fundamentals like body stance and stroke are learned in the conscious mind, they are stored in the nether regions of the subconscious.
This clash between subconscious and conscious mind presents an opportunity for the awakened athlete to override the mental strife created by the overanalyzing conscious mind and reach toward the wakeful, clear mind state accessible through the intuitive subconscious.
Golfers who don't learn the nuances of the mental game of golf remain frustrated or give up before mastering the sport. Yet by incorporating elements of yoga practice, you can develop the mental discipline that golf demands.
The Flow of Concentration
The breadth and depth of available instruction contributes to golf's reputation as an intensely mental game. Detailed videos and books on the science of the game abound, and golf's one-on-one coaching is considered incomparable to other sports. Yet all the instruction in the world won't help you if you allow stress to seep into your game.
When dedicated golfers are making progress, hitting the ball well, and feeling on top of their game, they're "in the zone"—a state of being athletes reach where thought is suspended and focus and concentration are heightened. Many golfers invariably bring in the element of performance pressure and wham!—the zone disappears. The conscious, analyzing mind steps in and they begin to think their technique is faulty. They tell themselves they have to practice more, hit harder, and correct their imperfections.
In these cases, it's usually not faulty technique but the stress of negative self-talk that disrupts the flow of concentration, and therefore, impairs the physical aspects of the game. In his book, Training a Tiger: A Father's Guide to Raising a Winner in Golf and Life (HarperCollins, 1998), Earl Woods, father of golf great Tiger Woods, reminds his son, "If you don't clutter your conscious mind with endless pointers and tips, you make it easier for your subconscious instincts to guide you."
This is not to say that you can ignore the physical game. There's always a need to practice, learn the fundamentals, and focus on technique. However, there also comes a time to let it all go and let the subconscious take over, allowing hours of practice and experience—your long-term memories—to flow through you. Then you can move beyond logical thinking to intuitive, "thoughtless" action.
Freeing the subconscious is contingent upon the body's ability to relax. When you've entered a deep state of relaxation, you're able to experience the "now" and your mind becomes clear. You know how to react or not react by anchoring yourself internally. When your mental chatter quiets, you're able to approach your golf game with focus and awareness.