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Friday, November 13, 2009

Introducing the Practice BRAINge

Brian left a comment late Wednesday on this post to let me know that golf season was pretty much over in Canada. He also said that his last three rounds had been the best of the year, which makes me feel pretty darn good!

Still, it got me thinking. Many of us don't get to play much golf this time of year―some because of the weather, some just because of family obligations during the holidays. If we improved this year, how can we hold onto the gains when we can't get out and play? And if our game needs work, isn't there something we can do to get ready for the new season?

I think there may be. I've read about people who were prisoners of war or were imprisoned for their religious or political beliefs, who, in order to keep from being broken, began mentally playing sports. They would imagine a round of golf or a tennis match in extreme detail, trying to actually experience the memories; they would smell the freshly-mown fairways, or feel the fuzziness of the tennis balls. They would try to imagine their muscle movements, feeling the stretches and strains as they played the game.

What interests me is that many of these people actually improved their games while imprisoned!

Scientists say this happens because the brain can't distinguish between reality and imagination if the images are realistic enough. If you've ever had your heart race at a horror movie, you've experienced this phenomenon.

Therefore I'm introducing the practice BRAINge, which will show up as a new listing in the sidebar category list. Every so often, I'll add a new "practice session" that focuses on a vivid mental image, one that will help you to better feel a good golf swing. The idea is that, when you have a few seconds, you can focus on one of these images and help your mind "groove" this feel. Hopefully, when you get back to the course, these practice sessions will help you swing better.

Granted, this is an experiment, but it certainly won't hurt to try some of them over the winter. When the new season starts, I'll be interested to see if these images help any of you get off to a quicker start. You can just put a comment on the relevant post if it does.

I'll post the first BRAINge session tomorrow, and then I'll add a new one every so often. I hope you all find them helpful.


  1. Hi Mike,
    It's funny to see this post here because I was just coming back to respond to your reply to me a few posts down about how I can "think" about my game now that golf season is over.

    I really believe - as you clearly do - that this is a big part of golf - particularly for beginners trying to improve. Visualizing and mental practice if you will, have been really important to me in better understand the golf swing, and of course trying to improve my own swing.

    I remember Phil Mickelson talking about this very point earlier this year when he had to take time off because of the illnesses in his family. He said (I'm paraphrasing of course) that he'd had a lot of time to think about his swing and that it had been extremely helpful.

    I bet a lot of folks guffawed at that comment by Phil, but as someone who has 6 months every year to think about golf instead of playing it, I can say there are benefits to this that golfers with year-round course access may not fully appreciate.

  2. Phil's not the only one to mention this. It's been a couple of years ago, after he had his knee worked on (but before the big surgery last year), when Tiger made a similar remark. One of the TV commentators asked him how he dealt with reduced practice time, and Tiger said (paraphrased, of course): "I find that I don't need as much practice when I think more about my swing."

    There is no substitute for understanding what you're doing. Beating balls will only take you so far - or, as someone once said, "Practice doesn't make perfect; practice makes permanent. Only perfect practice makes perfect."

    I'm glad to know I'm not the only person who thinks these BRAINge drills might help. ;-)