Dear Subscribers,

Have a Better Golf Game is going through some changes.  From here on in, it will be call Mind Mastery Golf.  Please look forward to my first blog sent from the new site.  Please let me know what you think.

Thanks,

Tony

Golf: The Ultimate Mind Test – Part V

Quiet Eyes – Quiet Mind

Research conclusively demonstrates the important connection between performance and attentional focus for both novices and experts.  The evidence is also mounting for the destructive nature unnecessary and unwanted eye movement exerts on performance.  Scientists describe the optimal performance state that resulted from this research as “Quiet Eyes – Quiet Mind.” So now, we are left with three important questions. What causes eye movement?  What is the connection between attentional focus and vision that creates this optimal performance state we call “Quiet Eyes – Quiet Mind?”  How can unnecessary eye movement and thoughts be eliminated?  Remember, trying to keep your eyes from moving by deliberately focusing your attention on the ball creates the possibility for becoming “ball bound.” Read Part III in this series.

A review of the Sports Vision literature shows that eye movement occurs because we either don’t control our thoughts, try not to think, or we think about things other than where our eyes are looking.  Many times, after a major performance disaster we don’t know what hit us.  We don’t know what happened, why it happened, or how we can fix it, so our thoughts run wild.  We may not even be aware of what we’re thinking.   To counter this, some experts have advised golfers “not to think.”  That’s impossible.  The only times our conscious mind is inactive are when we are sleeping or dead.  Neither is a good performance state.  Even though we “try not to think”, thoughts go through our head. While this may reduce the stress we’re under, research still shows that eye movement can occur that alters our mechanics and destroys our performance.  To understand this we must look at the Human Visual System.

Human vision is composed of two processes, Peripheral Vision and Central or Focusing VisionPeripheral Vision comprises 98-99% of what we see and is controlled by the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), which refers to those processes that are beyond human control or awareness and are said to be unconscious.  Peripheral Vision is designed to respond automatically to any stimulus and causes Transient Attention.

Transient Attention is an extremely rapid, engagement of attention to a new stimulus such as the sudden appearance of brake lights in the car ahead while driving in heavy traffic.  Transient Attention causes an involuntary reaction to the sudden change in the visual field.  For example, a swiftly moving object coming at you from your blind side causes you to flinch to avoid being hit by the object.  No thought is given to flinching.  You flinch without thinking as your eyes try to catch a glimpse of the moving object.  This is a survival instinct.

The same thing happens in golf.  If the mind is unfocused, the movement of the club causes the head to turn so the eyes can determine if that movement represents some danger.  It doesn’t but the unconscious mind doesn’t know that.  Any object of unknown origin moving in the peripheral field is deemed potentially dangerous by our survival system unconsciously triggering the Central Visual System to determine whether or not it poses a threat.  To an unfocused mind all moving objects are of unknown origin.  So your Central Vision follows the moving club instinctively.  Because your Peripheral Vision is so wide you still see the ball out of the corner of your target-side eye.  Fear produces the same effect.  If you fear hitting the ball in the water, your eyes move instinctively in response to your fear so you can see whether your fears are realized.  Guess where the ball goes? Splash!

The other visual process is referred to as Central or Focusing Vision.  Comprising about 1-2% of our visual field, Central Vision is used for things like reading or deliberately directing our attention to some object.  Where the mind goes, the eyes follow.  That is, our eyes (Central Vision) look where our mind tells us to look.  If you think about your back swing or use swing cues, your eyes are directed to look at what you’re thinking about – the club.  If you think about the ball, your mind tells your eyes to look at the ball.  If you think about ball flight, your thoughts tell you to look at where you think (or fear) the ball may go.  Since the ball leaves the club face at over 100 mph, it’s humanly impossible to time so the eyes either leave the ball too early or too late. Both create performance problems.   Most golfers think about a combination of these things so their eyes (Focusing Vision) alternate between their back swing, the ball, and ball flight.  As the swing lasts about 2 seconds, it means the eyes are darting back and forth during the swing like a tuning fork.  Not good for performance.  You may not be “trying” to move your eyes or realize that they’re moving.  They move anyway as they have been conditioned to move in response to your thoughts ever since you had the capacity to think.

If you learn how to fixate your eyes on the ball while directing your attention to a pre-selected distant target towards which you want the ball to fly or roll, you can use Transient Attention to cause your eyes to move instinctively from the ball to your target naturally at the appropriate time during the swing.  You don’t have to try to keep your eyes still.  You don’t have to try to time the movement of your eyes with impact.  You don’t have to try and look at your target.  It just happens.  However, since this is not something you do all the time during, it must be trained for the action to become natural and instinctive.  You can find drills in Target Oriented Golf:  Training the Eyes, Mind, and Body for Success (Book and Video).  You can purchase this through www.haveabettergolfgame.com, www.targetorientedgolf.com, or www.golfstateofmind.com.

There is one additional factor that interferes with Attentional Focus, alters mechanics, and destroys performance.  It was referred to earlier – Fear!  What fear is, how it affects attentional focus, mechanics, and performance was discussed in Part IV.  Be on the lookout for an announcement about the new name of Have a better Golf Game.  It will be called Mind Mastery Golf and will present The Mastery Golf Method of Instruction.  Until next time,  Happy Golfing.

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