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Previous Letters to Dr. Nick:

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At the driving range I hit the ball great. when I get to the tee box I can't even hit the ball at all. I am a 10 handicap but for the last 2 years have not been able to hit a drive. I actually "step in the bucket" when I swing which I do not do on the driving range. I cant stop it. Which one of your tapes would be good for me? Or how else can I solve this problem?

Dear Robert:

Many golfers I’ve worked with, who want to correct something, give themselves negatively framed mental instructions. For example, someone who steps in the bucket might say something like “Don’t step in the bucket!”

Just as saying “Don’t think of the Eiffel tower!” conjures up a mental image of that structure, “Don’t step in the bucket!” conjures up a mental picture of stepping in the bucket and prompts concomitant actions consistent with that picture. Thereby, one is more apt to step in the bucket.

Accordingly, when you are in the tee box, I hope you are giving yourself positively framed instructions. That is; for example, saying to yourself “Keep your feet planted Bob!”

Notwithstanding, the tape you want to listen to is Integrating Mind & Body for Better Golf: Driving. Doing so will enable you to transfer your best balance and driving mechanics from the range into the, course, tee box.

Guaranteed!!!


Hi, Dr Nick,

I wonder if you can help me with this problem I have. At my home course we have 3 par 4 holes which have O/B on the right hand side. I hit the ball with a draw which means that these holes should be of no problem to me (Notice I said should!).

Unfortunately, I have a major tendency to slice at these 3 holes. I know it is all mental, have you any advice? I am a 12 handicapper(ex 6) and still play to my handicap even with these 3 horror holes.

Alan Beacham

Hi, Alan:

On the holes indicated, it seems obvious that your swing mechanics and, thus, your swing plane changes causing you to slice the ball. I suspect the following to be going on mentally.

When driving the three holes mentioned, (A) mentally you’re saying to yourself “Don’t slice the ball.” and/or (B) you have a mental picture of slicing or having sliced the ball. Actually, one and two tend to occur in tandem, (A) precipitating (B) or (B) precipitating (A).

For example, read the following: “Don’t imagine the Eiffel Tower.”… What happened? For a fraction of a second, you imagined the Eiffel Tower.

Likewise, when we tell ourselves not to do something (e.g., “don’t slice” our brain creates a picture of it happening which, in turn, recreates the muscle memory related to the picture. Moreover, when remembering doing something that we don’t want to repeat (e.g. slicing), we tend to tell ourselves not to (e.g., slice).

Accordingly, my prescription is: Before you address the ball (1) mentally say “I’m going to nail this one straight* down the pike.” or (2) mentally see your drive drilled down the middle. In either case you will be instructing your brain and body memory to execute the swing consistent with the self- talk or imagery.

*Note that there’s even a difference between saying “right down the pike” vs. “straight down the pike.” The former will tend to subtly influence brain and body to “hit right”, the latter to “hit straight.”

A third option (3) is to imagine (pretend) that you are playing any of the remaining 15 holes instead. Following prescription (1), (2) and/or (3) will help you to move towards being a 6 handicapper again. Guaranteed!!!


Dear Dr. Nick,

I am an 8 handicapper at my club. I often shoot sub 40 nine holes, and occasionally break 80. I do have mental concerns about my driving as it is very average. My good scoring days come when I chip and putt well. Which brings me to my 'Achilles heal', the dreaded shank. It is in my thoughts everytime I play a full sandwedge to the green. I can practise with my short irons and never seem to shank, then it just starts and I often have to pack up and go home as I cant stop it from recurring, sometimes 8 out of 10 practise shots can shank when it pops its ugly head into my head. I know that their is a mechanical cause to my shank, but I am also convinced that I trigger the shank by putting the thought into my head.

I can continue practising my short game, but how do I fix the mental side.

I played a good round on Saturday, and shot a gross 84, that included a 7 after I shanked an approach shot from 40 metres. The positive side of my shank is that I accept it when it happens and continue on with the game. I did not play another bad shot for the rest of the game, and played the remaining 7 holes 1 over my handicap.

George Crew

Hi George:

Great, you’re taking the first step by having a pro check out your mechanics. So let’s proceed to the second step, the mental side.

Here’s what I gather from what you’ve described. The “it” that pops into your head is negative thinking. Whether we fully realize it or not, such thinking is both verbal and visual. Your negative verbal thought might be in the category of fearing that you will shank; e.g., “I’m going to shank this one.” or “I hope I don’t shank this one.” Either way, “Shank this one” is what you, inadvertently, program yourself to do.

Concurrently, you would have a mental image of shanking this one. This image may appear for as little as a fraction of a second, enough time to reset your muscle memory for mechanics to shank.

What triggers such thinking is the association that’s evolved between selecting and using (feeling/grip) your sand wedge and poor shot thinking and mechanics. So what we want to do is to create a new association between the act of selecting and using your sand wedge and great shot thinking and mechanics.

Accordingly, I offer the following prescriptions.

At home or in the clubhouse:

  • A. Stand and have your sand wedge handy. With your eyes opened or closed, mentally picture one of the times (from the 20% successful full sand wedge shots) that you holed out or came within a foot of the hole.

  • B. Next, pick up your sand wedge and imagine that your are you are back in the sand trap making that great shot; feeling the mechanics, hearing the sweet sound, and seeing the loft and placement of the ball. Take a deep breath and hold for the count of three or four.

  • C. Repeat (A) and (B) a few times.

When playing:**

    Take a deep breath and hold for the count of three or four. Do only part (B) above. Proceed playing, picking your target, practice swings, set up, … and great shot.

** Part (B) will take only 20 to 30 seconds. --- Take this half-minute to successfully blast out traps. Guaranteed!!!


Dear Dr. Nick,

For the past 3 years I've experimented with hitting short chips and all putts while looking at my target instead of the ball. I feel, since the ball is not going anywhere til I move it and the body is pretty much stable, that my mind can tell my hands and arms how hard to hit the ball.

On chips I find a spot on the green where I want the ball to land, keep my eye on that spot, and swing the club. It does work better than if I look at the ball while swinging.

On putts, I read the break, keep my eyes on a spot the estimated distance it will break, left or right of the hole, then stroke it.(eg.- putt breaks left 8 inches, eye a spot on green, blade of grass, old ball mark, etc. 8 inches to the right of the hole, directly to the side of the hole, then stroke it. If a putt is up hill , my visual target will be 8 in. to the right and maybe 6 inches behind the hole. Visa versa on downhill putts.

With this method, my body stays relaxed and my mind has a target to focus on. I feel more confident with this but nobody else does it so there must be something wrong with it. I believe this is much better than looking at the ball. Why would I want to look at the ball? Shooting basketball, throwing darts, passing baseball or football you dont look at the ball.

What are your thoughts on this and have you tried it? I need someone smart to tell me do it because ... or don't do it because....

Thanks for your time.
John

Dear John:

I’m not sure that hitting a golf ball is analogous to throwing a ball or darts. To me it’s more analogous to hitting a baseball or cue ball which requires keeping one’s eye on the ball. Notwithstanding, following are my thoughts on the short game focusing strategy you described.

If you haven’t done so, have someone stand behind you when you’re putting straight away and assess if:

    (1) your stroke remains on the target line
    (2) your clubhead is square to the line/path, and
    (3) your clubhead meets the ball on the sweet spot?

If these three criteria are met consistently, congratulations! It means that your feel for the proper swing path and angle of the clubface at impact is consistently good. Accordingly, keep doing what you’re doing, you’re in excellent shape. Guaranteed!


Hi Doc,

I'm 43 years old, am in a (3) times a week workout program + running, total (5) workout days/week and have a 1. handicap. Your system sounds very appealing, so I've been experimenting with it a little. Anyway I'm going to try the Hooters tour this year, in early preparation for the Senior tour and believe that your system will accelerate me to be even better, (which is what I'm looking for).

Would you suggest I see a therapist in your field or purchasee one or all of your tapes? If you are going to suggest seeing someone, my zip is 37043. I wouldn't mind traveling to Nashville for therapy.

As you know, the P-3 golf psychology system I developed is unique in its application of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Ericksonian hypnosis. While you may find a number of NLP practitioners or a number of Ericksonian hypnotists, there are few who have mastered both. Moreover, those who have mastered both probably don’t know the system. (By the way, two senior tour players from the Philadelphia area reported that their play improved after listening to P-3 tapes.)

So, here’s what I suggest. Consider purchasing one of the P-3 tapes, either “Integrating Mind & Body for Better Golf: Driving” or “Integrating Mind & Body for Better Golf: Putting”, depending on whether it’s your long or short game you want to improve. The tapes are inexpensive enough ($19.95 each) and listening to it/them may preclude your having to shell out substantially more for a “therapist”.

However, if you decide you want to work one-on-one, Advanced Neuro Dynamics in Nashville (telephone: 615-391-3274) is listed as an NLP Center. If you decide contact them, having the practitioner listen to one of the tapes will enable him/her to best replicate the P-3 system.

Do either or both and your chances of qualifying and making some money on the tour will be greatly enhanced. Guaranteed!


Dr. Rosa:

How can I practice concentration?

Dear Mr. Bell:

Hypnosis is the best way to go. Not to worry, no quacking like a duck nor barking like a dog; just a pleasant state wherein you become more interested in the hypnotist’s words and less interested in your surroundings. It is easier to learn anything in a hypnotic state, be it to play the piano, golf, polo, control pain, be more confident… or to concentrate.

If you consult a hypnotist, no more than two sessions would be necessary. In the first session, the hypnotist would likely inquire about what, specifically, you want to concentrate on as well as where, when and/or under what conditions. This information would be used to develop a script for the second, audiotaped, session. Finally, in the first session, preliminary hypnosis, without suggestions for concentration, would be conducted.

In the second session, the hypnotist would share the script of images, suggestions, and post-hypnotic suggestions (s)he proposes to use during the hypnosis session. Whatever you consent to, (s)he would use during this taped session. Very likely, you would have already learned to concentrate better after the taped session. Notwithstanding, you would have an audiotape which you can listen to if you want to “practice” more.

I’ve done hypnosis sessions with scores of golfers who wanted to concentrate or be more focused (among other goals). Hypnosis has always proved to be an efficient and effective means to accomplish such goals. As I indicated above, “hypnosis is the best way to go.” Guaranteed!


Dr. Nick,

I am going through one of the most frustrating times in my golf career. I have been taking lessons from my local pro and my swing has improve. However, I have a BIG problem...On the practice range I can take a full swing, especially with my woods, and hit my drive a consistent 230-240 yards and my 3 wood 210-220, which I a satisfied with. But once I get on the course to play a round I CANNOT take the full swing and "bunt" my drives and fairway woods 180-190 to the right. I believe the on course problem is mental and an thinking about seeing a sports psychologist. Suggestions?

Thanks in advance.
Harry Seck

Dear Harry:

Thanks for your inquiry. I’m honored to offer suggestions for overcoming what you describe as the “Big” problem.

Most of us have experienced the frustration of being able to drill the ball so well on the practice range and find that we could not do the same on the golf course. No question that this is a mental (psychological) problem.

My Dad used to say, “Son, if you can ride a two wheel bike well in the driveway, you can ride it well in the parking lot.” So, I venture to say, “Harry, if you can drive the ball well on the practice range, you can drive the ball well on the golf course.”

So, my first suggestion is that you change the presupposition from “I CANNOT” to “I COULD NOT”. It seems that when we tell ourselves we cannot do something that our brain seems to say “O.K., from now on, I’ll do my best to make that a reality.” “Could not” does not have the same effect on the future; thus giving us a chance to succeed.

Now, the problem you present is commonly experienced that I wrote a brief article on how to resolve it. The article is entitled “Transferring Your Driving Range Ability to the Golf Course.” It is a do-it-yourself article that many golfers have used to empower themselves to successfully make the transfer. So, my second suggestion is to download the article, read it, and follow the exercise. It will help tremendously. Guaranteed!

My third suggestion applies if you prefer to have someone do the exercise for you. Find someone in your area who has Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) skills. This person may or not be a sport psychologist; the important criterion is that the person be trained in NLP at the Master Practitioner level or higher. Show the person the above referenced article as well as an article entitled “An Introduction to P-3: A New Sports Psychology”. (S)he will be familiar with the strategies to be used. (S)he will be able to empower you to resolve the presenting problem within on or two sessions. Guaranteed!

For articles, go to Golf Tips – The Mental Game.

Wishing you the best ever golf season in 2001,
Dr. Nick


As you can probably can tell by my web name, smasher-brasher@webtv.net, I can hit a golf ball from tee to green. But I have a hang up on putting. I am sort of like Tom Watson. When I get within 3 to 5 feet of the hole I have a big hang-up but outside of that I am pretty deadly. Is there some sort hypnosis that could cure this or will it work it’s own self out in due time?

David:

I suspect that within five feet of the hole, you have a tendency to tense up and worry about not making the putt. This would negatively impact your stroke and ability to sink the putt. And, each time you miss such a putt, the tendency to tense up, worry or anticipate failure increases.

So, as much as I’d like to predict otherwise, unattended, this difficulty is not apt to work itself out in due time. Actually, unattended, the difficulty is more apt to result in a full-blown case of the yips.

Notwithstanding, be it mild tension or a full-blown version of the yips, the problem can be readily resolved using hypnosis plus suggestions and relevant techniques. The utilization of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) techniques quickly (usually within one session) neutralize the negative thoughts and physiology associated with poor play in specific situations such as short putts as well as enhance confidence and flow.

Here are a couple of options:

  • Consider finding and scheduling a session with an NLP practitioner in your area. Indicate that I recommended that (s)he use the following techniques: Fast Phobia/Trauma Cure, Anchoring, and Future Pacing to Establish Contextual Anchors. (S)he will know these techniques and how to utilize them to resolve the problem…. If you want me to help you locate someone, just ask.

  • Consider purchasing and listening to Integrating Mind & Body for Better Golf: Overcoming the Yips, an audiotape developed and published by yours truly. It is a hypnosis tape that incorporates all of the techniques (plus) recommended above. It can be purchased through Amazon.com or from my own website listed above.

Do either of the above and you’ll be draining those three to five footers with confidence and ease. Guaranteed!!!

Dr. Nick


Dear Dr. Rosa:

I've taken lesson from several pros in search of becoming a presentable golfer. I generally show improvement initially but as I play and practice I sart to revert back to my previous performance level or worse. This has been the case with conventional swing instructors and with Jack Kuykendal's Lever-Power-Golf method which I'm using now. So, what's the problem here?

Respectfully,
Willis Cowell

Dear Willis:

“So, what’s the problem here?” I assume that the problem is that you haven’t learned how to hold onto that initial improvement; how to maintain and groove the muscle memory associated with improved swing mechanics.

So, what’s the solution here? How does a golfer efficiently and effectively grove improved swing mechanics? Generally, speaking you simply close your eyes, relax, and mentally rehearse practicing perfect swing mechanics a number of times. And practicing your swing perfectly every time (which is easy to imagine doing) will not only build muscle memory and groove your swing but build confidence as well.

Anytime you have a lesson whereby you show improvement, here’s what you do at home:

  • Step (1) - Close your eyes and review the lesson. Imagine seeing yourself on a screen or monitor swinging (or putting) perfectly. Picture yourself from set up to follow through and swinging smoothly and perfectly. First imagine seeing yourself a few times from behind, then from the right a few times, a few times from the left and then overhead. Once you have a solid perspective of how you look with perfect body mechanics, go to:

  • Step (2) - Keeping your eyes closed, imagine stepping into your body on the screen. Imagine being focused, relaxed, rehearsing set up, swing, and follow through; executing and feeling the perfect swing mechanics…. Do this 15 or 20 times, taking a slightly deeper breath than normal between each rehearsal.

Note: In both (1) and (2) it would be beneficial to imagine good distance, trajectory and placement of your drive (roll, speed and holing out your putt; etc.).

It will take only a few minutes to do this exercise. Do it a few days or times after a beneficial lesson and you’ll be surprised at how well your improved body mechanics will be grooved. Guaranteed!!!

Regards,
Nick Rosa


Dear Nick,

I am currently a student and a good single figure golfer who is interested in the possibility of a career in sports psychology and I wonder what would be the best way of getting into this area.

Dear Paul:

Sport psychology! It’s an exciting and fulfilling field!

Before answering your question, let me make a distinction between a “sport psychologist” and a “sport psychology consultant”. To be considered a sport psychologist, individuals must meet American Psychological Association (APA) - Division 47 (Exercise and Sport Psychology Division) criteria –which includes doctoral level training in exercise science and kinesiology as well as experience working with individual athletes teams and coaches. Prerequisite undergraduate training is typically in physical education or psychology. You can get specific details by going to the APA – Division 47 site: http://www.psyc.unt.edu/apadiv47/ and clicking on “Becoming a Sport Psychologist”.

Using the above stated criteria, the Association for the Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology (AAASP) provides the U. S. Olympic Committee with a list of sport psychologists considered qualified to work with Olympic athletes. The AAASP web site is: http://www.aaasponline.org.

Pragmatically speaking, like a “personal trainer”, regardless of educational training and experience, anyone can offer services as a “sport psychology consultant”. If the athletic or golf community consider your psychological services of value, you can offer them under the umbrella of a sport psychology consultant. You can legally call yourself and advertise as “sport psychology consultant”, “psychological consultant”, “performance enhancement specialist”, etc. but not a “psychologist”.

Ethically speaking, if or when, in good conscience, you consider yourself qualified by way of training and experience to counsel and help athletes, teams, and coaches perform better in athletics and/or life, you can hold yourself out to be a sport psychology consultant. I teach and supervise master’s level, applied counseling psychology, students at Villanova University. Students exit our program with excellent counseling and consulting skills. Their counseling skills range from Cognitive-Behavioral and Gestalt to Brief Strategic which includes Ericksonian Hypnosis and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). The have earned a master’s degree in counseling and human relations and are eligible to be licensed as counselors. Some of our students have done their internships in athletic venues and have gone on to function successfully as sport psychology consultants. I consider these students to be exceptionally well equipped by way of training and experience to ethically hold themselves out to be qualified sport psychology consultants.

I‘m a sport psychology consultant not a sport psychologist. Briefly, my background is a B.A. in psychology, an M.A. in school psychology and a Ph.D. in Psychological Services. I’m a licensed psychologist in the state of Pennsylvania.

In my graduate work I did not take courses in exercise science, physiology nor kinesiology. Accordingly, I don’t meet the criteria set forth by the AAASP. Instead I took more courses in applied individual, family and group counseling, hypnosis and brief strategic therapy and did an APA approved internship in clinical/counseling psychology.

I’m glad I did.

I got into sport consulting visa my private counseling/psychotherapy practice. Practicing just outside of Philadelphia since 1969, professional and collegiate athletes have been referred to me for individual or family counseling. Discovering that I utilized hypnosis (and later Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and have an interest in sports, some athletes began to request that I work with them on their athletic performance.

Moreover, I was invited to serve as a psychological consultant to the Athletic Department which I’ve done for a number of years. Today, outside the university, the majority of my time is spent in my private practice working with athletes, particularly golfers.

Bottom line Paul, you can go the AAASP route, take a similar route as do our students or a route similar to mine. If you’re not sure which route to take, consider looking into a master’s program like the Springfield College Sport Psychology Program. It is more counseling oriented than most, integrating counseling skills (a very important factor, in my view) with exercise science and physiology.

Thanks for your inquiry,
Dr. Nick

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