DOWN through many, many years of top competition whenever I was put 'under the hammer' on the golf course it was a toss up whether my long shots became dramatically better or dramatically worse.
On the greens, however, my putting nearly always got better. Was it because I was more confident and sure of myself when putting? Or, was it because I was lucky enough to hole a few vital putts early in my golf career that gave me confidence and took some of the 'fear' away? Or, was it because the hole is a small target that enabled me to become more focused?
By concentrating on the exact piece of grass I wanted my ball to pass over, and only that, had I 'accidentally' stumbled' on a means of dealing with pressure without knowing it?
One of the best golf coaches in the world today, Nick Bradley, told me about another Ivan (Lendl), the tennis star, who 'forced out of body experiences' by pretending to be a commentator on what precisely he was doing at any given time.
For example: 'Ivan is now wiping his face with a towel. Ivan is now having a drink of water.' By so doing, he stopped the self-criticism and harsh introspectiveness that impedes us all, if we let it.
Dumbing down what was going on in his mind and downgrading it to the mundane reduces the impact of pressure enormously. It's a mental trick to make sure that pressure doesn't cause havoc.
Lendl trained his mind to accept pressure and deal with it consciously through simple mental games. 'Welcome pressure.' Lendl says. 'It means you are contending. Ignoring doesn't work. Everyone feels pressure. To deal with it you have to find ways to 'trick' your subconscious mind."
The greatest asset of the greatest golfer the world has seen, Jack Nicklaus, was his mental capacity. To be a winner at golf you have to be more than a good ball striker and good putter. You have to play smart too.
The better golfer relies more on mental skills as opposed to physical ones to give him a winning edge than is understood. An average ball striker with a sharp mental game will, time after time, defeat a superior ball striker with a bad attitude or a sloppy mental approach.
The difference between one golfer and another often comes down to intangibles such as the quality of the 'activity' between their ears. If you have trouble focusing and find that you consistently make bad tactical decisions or suffer from a lack of confidence on the golf course - fear not!
A company in Limerick named CogniGolf, founded by Entrepreneur and Cognitive Psychologist, Sean Hogan, is busy developing a phone app that he says will help golfers to train areas of the brain that are used in the game of golf.
Hogan says: "Golf is often cited as the perfect example of a sport where mental performance is more important to the result than physical skill.
“The brain is like a muscle and it can be trained to perform more effectively in golf situations. We are developing practical training exercises that allow golfers to improve their golf brain."
“Top coaches and professionals were recruited to help with the research that is aimed at addressing focusing issues, concentration, how to ignore inevitable distractions, shot selection, reading greens, making informed and correct course management decisions and managing stress.
“Our programme has benefitted from inputs from neuroscientists, cognitive psychologists and mental coaches with a specific golf background namely: Dr. Liam Hennessy, coach and fitness advisor to Padraig Harrington, leading biomechanics coach and international golfer,
Robbie Cannon (who is part of Shane Lowry's background team and Jude O'Reilly, former Tour Caddie and Golf Mental Skills Coach. Hogan's third level education began at Waterford Institute of Technology from where he graduated with a degree in Pyschology.
His undergraduate thesis formed the basis for CognGolf. While completing his Masters Degree in Bristol more structure was put into the concept.
A stint as Head of Marketing at one of the world's top, private sports institutes, Setanta College, provided him with enough experience and the financial backing to be able to launch CogniGolf as a business idea capable of standing on its own.
"Bringing added value to the work I do, rather than any desire to be my own boss, is what drives me." Says Hogan, who grew up in Raheen, Limerick and still lives and works in the Treaty City.
The CogniGolf programme is currently available in test mode, which will avoid spending years building features that the market may not want. Feedback from the early adopters is always a vital part of the development process.
"Bearing in mind that one's main obstacles in golf and in business come from within and if one can gets out of one's own way, one usually gets to where one wants to be.
The next 12-months will be spent in a semi-launched state, collecting feedback and implementing changes while continuing with the fund-raising necessary to place a new organic product like ours in the global marketplace." Says Hogan.
CogniGolf is definitely something worth keeping an eye on. If you want to know more pay a visit the website: http://www.cognigolf.com
Words of the Wise
The game of golf is so mental that if you don't have everything in the right order, it's impossible to win golf tournaments - Jason Day