Go Signals - Play Your Best Golf
In order to play your best on any given day you need to be able to use your brain correctly on the golf course. This means you need to receive the “Go Signal”. You need to be able to identify the “No Signals” and turn them into “Go’s”. As Dr. TJ Tomasi explains in his book, The 30-Second Golf Swing, “your brain is in constant communication with you”. Many people don’t realize it but your body is constantly sending you external messages such as reminders, cues, warnings and encouragement and you react to them in certain ways depending on the situation.
Alternatively, you also receive messages from your subconscious telling you what you can and cannot do. Dr. Tomasi also explains that in your subconscious is where all of your emotions, beliefs, memories, and skills are stored. It has the ability to help you make choices, aka a gut feeling.
When you are on the golf course, your brain is receiving a number of signals and you must be able to recognize not only what signals they are but if they are positive or negative and how you can turn the negative ones into positive ones.
No signals are ones such as feeling stressed, not being committed to the yardage, negative self talk, rushing, being indecisive and doubtful, tension, feeling uneasy, thinking of what your playing partners think of you, or being annoyed. Positive signals or “Go Signals” are ones that make you feel confident, calm, decisive, and committed to hit the shot.
All golfers receive no signals and getting into a habit of ignoring them can be detrimental to your game and mentally exhausting. By doing so, you are in a battle with your internal self. Your conscious mind wants to act and your body and subconscious mind are basically telling you stop and reconfigure an element of the shot, therefore the two conflict and you receive a “No Signal”. When the two conflict, you feel indecisive, rushed, added tension, and not committed. This is the key moment in your pre-shot routine. At this juncture, you MUST step back and recalculate or adjust one of the elements (wind, club selection, rehearsal swing didn’t feel right, switch target). Once you have done this, you have created permission. Permission is the key to receiving the “Go”. You can now step over the commitment line and into your setup and then hit the shot.
In order to receive the “Go”, don’t focus on where the danger is and where you don’t want to miss but rather, focus your mind on what you want to. It is good to be aware of the danger that lurks but do not let your mind stray away from what you want to accomplish. If you have any doubt about your ability to hit the shot, without focusing on what you want to do, that doubt will help cause failure to happen. Your expectation of failure actually leads to failure. For example, you are on the tee of a dog-leg right par 4 with water all down the right side. Instead of your first thought being, “Don’t go right!” or “Watch out for the water”, pick the smallest possible target and tell yourself, “This is where I am going to hit it”. Your brain will have a much easier time focusing when you pick the smallest possible target, such as a tree limb sticking out, the left corner of a cloud in the sky, or the left window panel of the house in the background. Don’t even look at the water. Stay focused on the target. Continually have positive self-talk and say out loud in your head, “This is what I’m going to do” (describe the shot in detail). Using decisive words and phrases like this helps you earn the "Go" and 100% commitment. Take phrases and words out of your vocabulary like:
“Ok, I’m probably going to aim over here” (Why not definitely??)
I guess I’ll hit it towards the green” (You guess? Just do it)
My all time favorite, “ I’m just going to aim down the right side
and hit a draw”. (What is your target? How much will it curve?
What is the trajectory? Where will it carry? How much will it roll? Etc…)
You see how general these words/phrases are?
On the driving range, develop a sound pre-shot routine and post-shot routine. During your routine, be especially aware of your emotions before you step over the commitment line. Having control of your emotions is critical in playing your best. Taking a slow deep breath can help you manage your emotions, think rationally and logically, and stay relaxed. Are you receiving any “No’s”? If you are, go through the steps mentioned above and do not step over the commitment line until you are 100% ready. You have to recalculate and adjust the specific element that caused the no signal and this will help train your brain to receive the “Go”.
A great way to re-commit and feel better about the shot is to take a slow deep breath from the bottom of your stomach. Inhale through your nose for 10 seconds letting your stomach fill with air and exhale through your mouth for 10 seconds releasing the air. Breathing is key to calming your subconscious mind and allowing you to focus clearly.
After the shot, if you ignored the “No”, write down what the no signal was and keep track of them so you know which ones reoccur. If you were successful, remember the feeling of the shot, how it sounded, how it looked in the air, how it reacted when it landed, and see yourself doing it successfully. This creates “tracks of excellence” which you can use in the future when you need to hit a shot on the course. You can pull this from your memory bank and use it to receive the go signal and commitment because you have performed it successfully in the past. If you hit a poor shot, accept it and move on. You cannot change what happened in the past. All you can do is control the present and manage your emotions.
So the conclusion is to be aware of the no signals that occur, why they occur, don't ignore them, train your brain to turn them into “Go’s”, and practice your mental game so you can run your brain and not let the elements run you. You can only control what you do by managing your emotions and reactions to situations that occur during a round of golf. Take control of your game and turn your mental game into your strength and I guarantee you will shave strokes off of your handicap.
Tomasi, TJ. The 30-Second Golf Swing. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.