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Peak Performance Psychology

P-3 for Golfers:
Observing “The New Golf Psychology” in Action

by Nick Rosa, Ph.D

The current article was prompted by numerous requests for more information about three innovative techniques described in the article An Introduction to P3 - A New Golf Psychology.” Now, you can accompany a visitor to our facility and observe the application of the three techniques: the Slump Neutralizer, Personal Trigger, and Environmental Trigger. Your observation will promote both an understanding of how the techniques are administered and how golfers benefit from them.

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Bob, a local PGA teaching professional, was considering having his club host a golf psychology workshop. What he had read and heard about the P3 system and techniques made sense to him. However, before recommending the workshop to his board, he wanted to develop a first-hand appreciation of the techniques. Offered the option of scheduling a session for himself or coming in to observe the techniques being administered to golfers, he chose the latter.

A Visit to Our Facility

Bob arrives at the university training center and is greeted by an escort. She tells him that the golfers agreed to being observed. They, also, agreed to compare their play and scores in the three rounds of golf prior to this session with those in the following three rounds and to report the results to us.

While being escorted to the first observation room, Bob is informed that he would be observing the techniques being administered to two golfers. The first golfer is working to restore his putting proficiency and the second to cure a driving problem.

At the first station Bob dons a set of earphones and peers through a two-way observation mirror. He recognizes a senior, PGA, touring professional. Across from the golfer sits a middle-aged psychologist saying, “Please, continue to keep your eyes closed. This time I’m going to ask you to imagine running a videotape of the event backwards. O.K., run the imaginary picture of yourself five putting the 15th backwards, in color and 20 to 30 times faster, now.”

Next the practitioner says “In a moment I’m going to ask you to transport yourself into the imaginary video and experience it backwards just as fast, moving in reverse very, very, fast. Enact the 15th hole in reverse very rapidly just the way you imagined it running backwards. O.K., transport yourself on to the 15th green, the ball comes back to you out of the cup, then your four missed attempts return, et cetera very, very fast. Do it now!. … O.K. do it again, this time even faster! … Once more…. Good, now open your eyes.”

“Now close your eyes and think about triple bogeying the 15th. like you did before we did the Slump Neutralizer exercise… O.K., tell me how you think and feel differently now.” The golfer closes his eyes, ponders, then opens his eyes exclaiming, “Wow! I can’t believe it! I can think about it and still feel relaxed. Now I don’t have that tightness in my gut and my breathing feels normal.

The escort indicates that the golfer’s putting had been excellent until he triple bogeyed the 15th hole in a recent tournament and that the Slump Neutralizer technique is designed to neutralize the negative thoughts and feelings resulting from such a negative event. Bob indicates that he recognized this as the same technique that was advocated in the “Greg Norman & The 1997 Masters:…” and “Visual Reversal” articles.

At the next observation station Bob see a young man who is identified as a local amateur golfer with great potential. The escort reports that this golfer has a lot of power off the tee but has a tendency to hook his shots. Reportedly this golfer is able to consistently drive with power and accuracy on the practice range but not on the golf course.

The golfer has his eyes closed and is sitting comfortably in a contour chair. The escort indicates that the Slump Neutralizer, typically the first technique in the series, was already administered to this golfer. She reveals that the golfer, who is in a relaxed state, is now being guided through the second technique, the Personal Trigger. Bob is told that as a result of this technique, the golfer will be able to trigger whatever feelings or attitudes necessary to drive the ball consistently well on the golf course.

This golfer is being prompted, “Imagine times when you were relaxed and confident, driving the ball with power, right down the middle. Then pick the best time, either in competition or on the practice range, when you were driving the ball exceptionally well. Take your time and nod when you’ve decided.”

The golfer nods and he is instructed, “Now, transport yourself into that experience and as you look around, tune in to the sounds, and feel the driver in your hand, notice your inner feelings… Now, make a light fist with your right hand until I say release…”

Bob asks why the golfer was instructed to make a fist. The escort responds by asking Bob if he had noticed that the golfer was taking a slow deep breath just prior to being instructed to make a fist. Bob agrees that he had. The escort explains that the deep breath, slight smile, and other cues indicated that the golfer was in the process of re-experiencing being relaxed and confident in his swing; what the young golfer called “being in a zone”.

The escort explains, that before going on, this step will be repeated to strengthen the association between making a fist and whatever positive mental pictures, confident self-talk, relaxation, respiratory, bio-chemical and other changes that comprise this golfer’s “zone.” Solidifying this association will empower this golfer to be in a “zone” by simply making a fist, be it in the tee box or anywhere or at anytime on the golf course.

After repeating this step three times, the psychologist prompts, “Test your trigger by making a fist and check to make sure it triggers your ‘being in a zone’. The golfer nods affirmatively.

The psychologist proceeds, “Now, I’ll be guiding you through the Environmental Trigger technique. Thereafter, when you are on the on the golf course, what you typically see and touch in the tee box will become automatic triggers for ‘being in a zone’.”

The golfer, has his eyes closed and appears very relaxed, is being asked to, “Make a fist again to trigger ‘being in a zone…’ Now, imagine yourself in future competition, in the tee box, driving with power and accuracy…” Subsequently, while continuing to make a fist, the golfer is instructed to transport himself into the future scene and associate his zoned mental attitude and feelings with seeing the fairway, tee box, teed up ball, target, … and feeling the grip of his driver, the kinetics of teeing up the ball, his pre-swing movements, standing over the ball, his take away and address. This process is repeated a few times before the golfer is asked to open his eyes.

After the golfer stands and stretches, the psychologist hands him a driver, tee, and golf balls, inviting the young man to accompany him outside to a nearby tee box. There, the golfer is instructed to “tee up the ball, go through your pre-swing routine, stand over the ball, pick a target and address the ball…” After doing so three times, the golfer smiles and reports, “I have a strong sense of being in a zone. I feel confident and loose throughout.”

“Tell me more about how you experience your confidence and looseness,” prompts the psychologist. “My muscles are relaxed, particularly my neck and shoulders, my breathing is slow and easy and my swing feels fluid and natural.” The practitioner also asks the golfer what thoughts and mental pictures just occurred. “I just know that I’m going to ‘drive e the ball with power and accuracy.’ And, I have a mental picture of the straight flight of the ball and hitting the target.”

From having talked to golfers who used the system, Bob knows that these results do carry over to the golf course and to competition. However, he had not realized that the whole session would take so little time; approximately 90 minutes.

How did the two golfers do? Both improved their post-session scores. The senior came out of his putting slump, chopping 10 strokes off his game. However, more pertinent is shaving an average of 4 putts per round when comparing his post-session rounds with his best three rounds ever. - And, by driving consistently better, the young golfer took 7 strokes off his game.

You may be asking yourself, as many golfers have asked me, “If all this stuff is so great, why haven’t I heard of it before and why aren’t more golf psychologists using it?”

There are a number of reasons:

    (1) The P3 system and its techniques are rooted in a psycho-technology called Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) which has been around for less than 30 years and it takes 40 to 50 years for new psychological procedures and techniques to filter down into general usage by psychologists.

    (2) Accordingly, NLP training is not included in the majority of graduate school curriculums.

    (3) Little has written been about the application of NLP to golf.

    (4) As a result, many sport / golf psychologists continue to use traditional, and in this author’s opinion, less effective, cognitive and behavioral methods

Oh yes, what about Bob? He bought two of our tapes and knocked 6 strokes off his game. And, he did a great job in promoting and hosting the workshop at his golf club. Over 100 members attended and are playing better golf as a result.

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