The final area of intelligence is your gut. I think of the gut as the glue that holds great players together. It provides the fiber that connects your head and your heart. How? By providing you with intuition to help you as you move through your golf round.
As you walk the fairways, chatting with your playing partner, your subconscious is taking in a lot of information. If you are walking on a slope, it knows. If you are feeling wind on your left cheek, it knows. If you are pumped up with adrenaline, it knows. Our subconscious gives us as much information as our conscious brain provides, even though our focus seems to be distracted. This is how we are wired and how we survived in the days when we were either hunted or hunting. If we pay attention to our intuition, we are simply giving our subconscious awareness credit for doing its job. By doing so, we are learning to trust our gut.
Players are often taught to do just the opposite. In today’s world of computer analysis, laser yardage finders and trackman-measured club fitting, there is little attention paid to the gut. If you laser a flag at 150 yards, you automatically pull a 7 iron. The act has become automatic. When the ball comes up well short of the hole or flies past, it then becomes a mechanical problem. I blogged about this in an earlier blog and in that blog, I talked about how so many juniors make the very same error given the same situation, but when asked, most will tell you they mishit the shot. Players need to understand that their gut has wisdom and if they have the feeling they should hit more club, it is probably for a good reason. Here is how your gut works for you on the golf course.
Have you ever felt like a hole didn’t set up well for you? Have you ever been over a shot with no confidenc you could pull it off? Have you ever been in a pairing that made you uncomfortable and got in the way of your focus? All of these are examples of not being connected to what you were doing. Your head is telling you what to do, your heart might even be in it, but your gut is telling you something isn’t right. This is when you listen to your gut and adjust what your head had in mind. Find a different way of looking at the hole, the shot or the people you are paired with. Your gut is asking you to change your approach and if you listen to your intuition, your decision-making will benefit from this new view. If your connectedness extends to more shots, more holes or a lot of your pairings, you probably need to take a look at where your heart is on the golf course.
There isn’t much more to say about this that hasn’t already been said earlier, but your gut is a crucial component in your decision-making and that is a good thing. Listen to it!
When you size up a shot, your eyes take in the situation along with your other senses, including your feel. Great young players are often not great putters. They spend the hours needed to hone the skill and they have confidence in their stroke, yet they do not putt as well as tour players putt. Why? Because they haven’t developed their feel for greens as the pros have. Many think green reading can be boiled down to a science and while more information, such as fall line, can help, it cannot replace the intuitive knowledge that comes from trial and error. That is how feel is developed. Feel understands how much the grain will affect the speed. Feel tells the player that the wind will hold down the speed of the putt. Fell helps to combine all the factors a great putter considers and condenses it into a simple read. Since so many of these factors are not thought of consciously, but instead, enter the process through the subconscious, they are reliant upon the gut. Once again, the gut is the glue that puts things together for a player.
Trusting yourself is a big task on the golf course. It means that you trust your decision-making, your ability to hit the shot, your readiness to perform and your resiliency when things go a bit wrong. Trust is rarely visible when it is in place, but a lack of trust can be seen in body language, reaction to shots and self-directed anger on the course. A player who misses a breaking five footer can often be seen reacting as soon as the club hits the ball, not when the ball misses the cup. She is not reacting to the miss, but instead to the lack of trust.
Every time you set up to hit a golf shot, you have a simple choice of trusting or not trusting yourself to hit the shot. It rarely feels that easy after a few wayward shots, but often a lack of bounceback on the golf course is more a result from choosing not to trust instead of poor swings. One thing doesn’t have to lead to the next, but if you have a habit of allowing it, you need to stop that cycle. What is in charge of trust? Your gut!
If you are the first person who comes upon an accident, you will most likely stop to help. Your gut tells you to do it. People are heroes every day because they listen to their gut and run into a burning building or reach into a shattered car. There is no trust that all will go well and there might be a thought that it might not go well. However, the gut wins and the hero often prevails. Can you play golf like a hero? In other words, can you trust that what you are doing needs to be done and consequences be damned? That is the mindset needed to win tournaments. Trust on the golf course comes from knowing in your gut that what you are doing is the right thing and the consequences don’t matter, even though we both know they do. Thinking of consequences during a planning stage is okay, but after choosing a shot and committing to it, there should be no consideration of consequences. Lack of trust is when the gut tells you yes, but the head stays with the consequences of the shot.
When all of your intelligence sources are lined up, you will have a calmness that will comfort you. That isn’t to say that you won’t be nervous, pumped up or distracted. What it means is that you will be able to set those things aside, make a clear decision, commit to it and hit the golf shot with confidence. Your gut knows intuitively that you are doing what you were meant to do. Calmness is a by-product of being in touch with your head, your heart and your gut. It is a wonderful feeling!
Hopefully, this three part blog helps you find that calmness on the golf course. Can you put your head where it needs to be, fill your heart and listen to your gut? If so, you will be a competitor at whatever level you play the game. In the years I have spent in coaching and teaching golf, I have found that many people simply don’t know how to approach the game in a way that helps them find success. They think they are supposed to fix their swing during a round. They get angry because they see their role models on tour act that way. They hit shots that they know they can’t pull off, because they don’t understand that its okay to be great at what they can pull off. If anything, this blog gives you permission to have fun with golf and what you personally bring to the sport. When that happens, I bet your scores will reflect your new found state of being.
This blog post was the second in a series of lining up your three areas of intelligence to play better golf. If you want to read the first, which introduces the premise of the blog, you can find it here. The second blog can be found here.