Golf in the Spine
October 30, 2011 § Leave a comment
Are you ready for a revolutionary way to think about the game of golf?
Do you want to find out how to integrate your mind and body for a better golf swing?
Do you want to find out how to reduce injury?
Do you want to learn one central concept that will relate to all swing mechanics and sport psychology concepts?
Are you ready to step up your game to the next level?
GolfintheSpine integrates what I have learned over the past 30 years into a simple approach that will give you a competitive advantage to successfully accomplish all the swing changes and mental tools that you might have in your bag.
First, let’s looks at swing mechanics. Turn on your TV and watch any professional tour player and see how they finish each shot. Luke Donald, the world’s number 1 player is a great example. He has balance and control. He is standing solid and watching his ball. Unlike the average golfer, he is NOT, falling over, falling backwards, jumping off the ground, nor twisting his feet and spinning left out of control. His balanced and controlled finish tells you a lot about his swing mechanics and the source of real power in a golf swing. Amateur golfers who are trying to get more distance often throw themselves out of position to make perfect contact with a square club face because they have lost all sense of gravity, focus, centered, and balance. They might hit it long, but probably not very straight.
Good golf instruction teachers a player to rotate around their spine and finish standing firm and balanced. Nick Faldo often talks about using the sternum as a focal point to maintain maximum spine angle for distance and accuracy, both for power and the short game. Spine angle is often discussed in reference to a negative pivot where the left shoulder (for right handed players) dips down, resulting in loss of power and a strong slice or fade. Of course we know that there are different styles and methods to swing mechanics. We see the results from Hank Haney, Butch Harmon, and Sean Foley through their tour players. However, they all have these common elements. Every good teacher addresses balance, focus, rhythm, timing, and spine angle.
Once the grip and setup are established, then a player’s ability to rotate and follow through without losing the proper and optimal spine angle becomes very important for a powerful and consistent golf swing. Flexibility is obviously important in the swing. Players with spinal problems often struggle to perform at their best. Freddie Couples received some great treatment for his spine in Germany and a few weeks later won again on the Champion’s Tour. We often hear the phrase, “swing within yourself.” What does this really mean? Many amateur players are not aware of themselves. In my golf coaching, I will always ask, “what were you aware of,” on that last shot. I often hear, “nothing.” “I was not aware of anything.” There was no awareness of body sensation, body position, balance, thoughts, emotions…nothing. With this type of player, it is difficult to accomplish, “swing within yourself,” when there is no recognition or awareness of “self.”
This idea of “self” may seem too abstract or conceptual for the average player without a Ph.D. in psychology. However, awareness, focus and the ability to reflect on what just happened all assumes someone is watching and observing what is happening. Thus, a “self” is there somewhere. The big question is how one develops and matures this sense of self for peak performance on the course. Golf is a great game because it provides an opportunity for a player to learn more about himself/herself if he or she really wants to improve. Just going to the range and pounding balls is not the roadmap for success.
Now, let’s consider the mental game taught by sport’s psychologists and mental coaches everywhere. Everyone talks about focus, concentration, the ability to visualize, the ability to stay in the moment, the ability to manage inner emotional states, the ability to stay positive, and the ability to quiet one’s mind of distracting thoughts. These are among the most important, basic principles for a sound mental game. There are other issues that do get addressed for the serious golfer that have deeper psychological roots, but the above issues are key to any success in golf or life. I have discussed in detail how to address all of these issues in my various books and CD’s. (Find the Zone II: Master the Mental Game of Golf; The Yoga of Golf; Bouncing Back: How to Recover When Life Knocks You Down; Inspiration for Meditation; and Sacred Healing: Integrating Spirituality with Psychotherapy.)
How do we make all this rather complicated and sophisticated information more easily understood and applied? GolfintheSpine brings both the body and mind together for an integrated approach that makes a lot of sense.
What is GolfintheSpine ? All tour players know that great golf requires both a physical and mental state of excellence. In a recent interview with David Feherty, Greg Norman told David that if he had to do it all over again, he would get more involved with a sport psychologist. So why do I talk about the spine in relationship to both the physical and mental game?
The Physical Game
The physical aspect of the game is more obvious. Spinal flexibility allows for more rotation, more stability and more fluidity in a golf swing. The spine is in the center of the physical body and is a central point of awareness for advanced players. When the spine shifts, then balance is lost along with power and control. Everything falls apart when the relationship with the spine is lost. The spine becomes to root cause and focal point for balance. The question, what does it take to keep the spine in the right position helps to identify problems with take-away, shoulder turns and follow-through. If any of these things are off, it will throw off the spine angle. It is impossible to self-correct if you are not aware of the problem. Paying attention to the spine provides a way to analyze mechanical problems and find their root cause. The head sits on top of the spine. If one’s spine is stable, then the head is still and a good golf swing results. The head does not pop up or move ahead of the ball when the spine is stable. Spinal health and spinal awareness result in a sense of being “centered.” Access to the zone is related to one’s ability to “be in the spine.” All the golf instruction in the world will not yield the desired result if a player’s sense of balance and conscious connection to the body is not addressed. Being aware of the spine brings a player to a deeper physical connection and awareness that will result in better performance. Years ago I was coaching a young female high school golfer. She wanted to develop a knock-down shot with a three quarter swing. She complained she could not do it.
I asked her what she felt in her backswing and where the club was.
She responded, “I have no idea.”
Now here was a very coordinated, healthy young girl who sure looked like she was more connected to her body than she was able to identify. I asked her if she ever did ballet.
“Sure, I had years of ballet lessons.”
Now we had something to talk about.
I said, “When you were dancing and spinning, didn’t you have a sense of your body and how you were moving?”
She replied, “Sure I did.”
OK, we had just created a realization that she did have a conscious awareness of her body from her dance background that we could bring that memory to her golf game. I asked her to pay attention to her take-away and feel how much she was turning. She quickly became aware of a ¾ turn vs. a full backswing and began to hit the shot she was looking for. This all happened in fifteen minutes. Because of her ballet training, she had body awareness and a sense of her center in the spine. Feeling these sensations from the center of her core, rather than focusing on the hands or arms, resulted in very quick learning and success. She was a much happier player!
Hatha Yoga provides some very easy, yet powerful, poses to help develop a deeper sense of spinal awareness. My book, The Yoga of Golf, has suggestions for standing poses and spinal rotation postures that will achieve this result. For example, the Tree Pose is very easy when you have your awareness centered in the spine. If you don’t, you will fall over when you attempt to stand on one leg. Without proper balance and a sense of your inner core, i.e. spine, you will fall out of balance on side hill, downhill and uphill lies.
The Mental Game
The power of spinal awareness and its relationship to consciousness and the mental game is less known. I have learned some profound things that apply to golf and peak performance as the results of thirty years of meditation and hatha yoga training and practice, a Ph.D. in psychology, and thirty years of practice as a clinical psychologist. Quite honestly, I do not know anyone in the field of golf coaching that understands the hidden potential in the spine. GolfintheSpineR unleashes a powerful energy and level of awareness that changes one’s mental and emotional states. The ancient yoga philosophy of Sankhya and Kriya Yoga explain the hidden reserve of energy that lies deep within the spine.
In normal waking consciousness the life force energy is directed outward through the five senses for hearing, seeing, touching, tasting, and smelling. The ancient rishis understood that there are actually two qualities of the mind: one identified with the physical senses and one resulting from a deeper flow of energy within the spine creating a higher level of perception and discrimination. There are three subtle currents of energy the flow along and within the spine: ida, pingula, and the sushumna. When awareness in centered deep within the spine, then the sushumna is more dominate.
When the energy is flowing outward, the left side of the brain is more activated promoting more rational thinking and more reactive responses from the primitive brain stem. The fight or flight mechanism is programed into our primitive brain stem. When the life force energy is consciously internalized in the spine and drawn up to the higher centers of the brain through breath and visualization, then the right side of the brain is more active, resulting in more intuitive knowing, less thinking, more visualization, more focus and less emotional reactivity. All of this is discussed in great detail in my two books, Sacred Healing and The Yoga of Golf.
What does this mean for the mental game? Awareness in the spine with an internalization of consciousness results in a profound shift in mental and emotional states: the bread and butter for sport’s psychology. It is often suggested that a golfer needs to focus better, concentrate better, stop reacting emotionally and visualize every shot, but there is often not much advice or direction given on how to achieve these lofty goals. Most golfers do not even realize the importance of the mental game and the value of a solid pre-shot routine. The average golfer is not even utilizing the profound and powerful techniques that will take many strokes of his/her game. The average golfers keeps doing the same thing, playing the game without any degree of consciousness and just keeps swinging away missing fairways, greens, and putts and feeling frustrated at their lack of improvement. Even with all the improvements in equipment and golf balls, the average index has not gone down. A big reason is that the average golfer is playing from the outside in and is clueless to the deeper techniques that can improve their performance. If you don’t care about your performance or self-improvement, then this information is of no value to you. However, if you have high standards for personal excellence and want to be the best you can be, then this information can be very helpful to you.
GolfintheSpine address your state while you are playing. The Zone does not have to be a mystical state of pure chance or luck. Learning to internalize your state of awareness into the spine will result in a profound change in your perception, your ability to visualize, your ability to manage your mind and emotions, and your ability to maintain physical balance with enhanced swing mechanics; all together your score will go down and you will have more fun as you explore a new type of game.
The power of consciousness is not widely understood in our culture. All too often I see amateur players going out there without any degree of awareness. They are just swinging at the ball making the same mistakes: little self-awareness, and no self-correction. Peak performance comes from the inside out, not the other way around. If you can ground your awareness in the spine, you will see significant changes in every aspect of your life.
If you would like to know more about how to accomplish this shift, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Dr. Ron Mann
Dr. Mann obtained his Ph.D. from the California School of Professional Psychology. He maintained a private practice over 30 years in Beverly Hills, Nevada City, and Sacramento, California. He is also a certified Hatha Yoga Instructor and student of Kriya Yoga as taught by Paramahansa Yogananda. He has been playing golf for almost 50 years and holds a low single digit index with two hole-in-ones to his credit. As a youth, he was very involved in organized baseball and even played in the Western Boys Baseball Association World Series. He has taught programs on consciousness and spiritual development worldwide and was very active during the Cold War with Projects for Planetary Peace, which was a citizen diplomacy program between the United States and the Soviet Union. He is a best selling author and has produced several audio programs for the mental game of golf, meditation, and self-healing. More information about Dr. Mann and his products can be found at www.ronmann.com.
© 2011 Copyright Ronald L. Mann, Ph.D.