The Mindfulness Approach to Golf
Jun 16, 2015 10:09PM
by Nicholas Trice and Heather Kouros
Mindfulness is a buzzword these days, with practices being rapidly integrated into modern psychology, sports and conversations in mainstream media. While mindfulness is beneficial in all aspects of life, the nature of golf is specifically conducive to a deep practice of mindfulness.
Within the realm of golf, the clubfocused approach, popularized by Manuel de la Torre, is where the tools of mindfulness are best seen and experienced. In this method, the swing and its destination are the focus, rather than the ball. The club-focused approach requires the player to transcend desired outcomes through a specific relationship with the mechanics of the swing. Instead of placing the intention on shooting good scores, the focus is reduced to simple and direct awareness of the club and its subtle motion.
Miraculously, if the body starts an action in a manner that is less likely to produce the desired result (such as a funny backswing), but there is a clear picture of what one wants to do with the club, the subconscious will take over and adjust the body to produce the envisioned shot. Heartland Golf School founder Ed LeBeau observes that the human capacity for tool use unconsciously formulates the body actions necessary for the tool to be used as instructed. The implications of this are enormous. Golf fully utilizes active intention and shows on the physical level just how profound this can be.
The paradox of golf is that it is regarded as a physical activity, when actually it’s a 100 percent mental activity that precipitates a physical action. Unlike fast-paced sports that are defensive in nature, golf is self-driven. As within meditation, the player initiates the engagement, actively choosing when to enter into a hyper-focused state. The results seen are a direct effect of the mental direction of the mind, which is realized through the swing itself. Within golf, we are able to directly experience the effect of our mental state on our game. Regular practice of these techniques within the game of golf transfers well to other aspects of life.
In a world that is filled with overstimulation and sensory input chaos, golf rewards the student that can be simultaneously relaxed, one-pointed in focus and emotionally unattached to outcome—past and future. Much like our lives, golf is not a game of pure will. Sometimes there are bad breaks, weird kicks and unlucky lies. This is the place for surrendering to nature and for the playful approach to a new challenge. It involves setting aside misfortunes without judgment to play the rest of the round and reflecting on what must be worked on and where to further direct practice.
Many psychological and physical benefits can be experienced through the regular practice of golf. Some of these include an increased focus and bodily awareness and the development of patience. Golf also offers the opportunity to practice visualization and positive redirection. Golf builds awareness of the implications of our thought processes on reality.
Golf may seem inaccessible to some, however there are points of entry at every level. The well-known stigmas of golf are fading, and one can easily find used clubs and affordable rounds. Musicians and artists have been attracted to the game for years because of the striking similarities to the creative process. With the myriad of excellent golf courses in Austin, now is the best time to personally experience golf’s multiple offerings.
Nicholas Trice is a musician and practitioner of Vedic yoga. He is studying under PGA professional Aaron Bergman and is a lead instructor at Golf in Schools, an Austin-based golf program for kids. For more information, visit NicholasTrice.com or GolfInSchools.com.
Heather Kouros is an Austin-based writer whose personal study of mindfulness was developed through exposure to many spiritual traditions and therapeutic processes.