Winter is a great time to banish the demons of an unconscious mind on the golf course, explains our resident mind coach

We like to think we are all fully in charge of what we do, that we make decisions based on logic and rational thinking and that other people don’t have too much influence on us. Perhaps we need to think again.

I had a wonderful conversation recently on my podcast ‘The Brain Booster’ with a gentleman called Joel Weinberger who has written a book titled very simply, ‘The Unconscious’.

It was clear from speaking with Dr Weinberger that so much of our daily lives are run on auto pilot with our unconscious minds being constantly ‘primed’ to behave in certain ways. He went on to cite many social psychological experiments that have been done over the years but one in particular was fascinating.

A group of students were given a series of sentences they had to unscramble. What they didn’t know was that these sentences contained words suggesting the effects of ageing. Words like ‘deterioration’, ‘slower’, ‘posture’ and the like.

They rearranged the sentences to make sense using these words and thought that was it. But the experiment had actually just begun.

The students were then filmed walking out of the building and the results were dramatic. They walked slower, their posture dropped, they looked down at the ground – they looked and behaved like an older version of themselves.

What the experiment highlighted was how the words relating to getting older had subconsciously ‘primed’ the students to behave in a certain way for a short period of time.

Our environment and the people we interact with are constantly having an effect at the unconscious level. This phenomenon runs an awful lot more of our lives than we could possibly imagine.

So how does this relate to your golf? Well, potentially in an enormous way.

Think about the course you play most regularly. On some holes you’ll step onto the tee and feel great. Others you just know it’s not going to feel right. This is the environment triggering a response based on past events, a lot of which probably has to do with your natural ball flight.

Go through your course hole-by-hole and ask yourself the question: ‘How does this hole make me feel?’

It’s a very interesting experiment and you’ll notice some distinct patterns and habits based on your unconscious reactions. You can probably bet a decent amount of money that many golfers from many clubs will consistently have their score ruined by a few particular holes on a regular basis.

We can either ignore this and keep hitting balls on the range and hope these feelings go away when we step on those tees (they won’t) or we can do something about it.

The winter time is the perfect opportunity to get out and banish some of those demons when it’s a little quieter. See what you can do to change those automatic unconscious reactions to a specific environmental trigger. Go to those holes and explore what the feelings of discomfort are telling you.

What is it about the shape of the hole that creates the feeling? What could you do differently? How could you look at it with fresh eyes? Could you use a totally different strategy?

It’s something virtually no golfers do. We keep letting the environment trigger our behaviour just as the words regarding ageing triggered the students.

Be one of the few that does something about it and be ready to feel different when you play next year. We ignore the effects of our unconscious mind in so many areas of our lives yet, when we understand a little more about how it works, we can move in different and more productive directions.

The Lost Art series of books, by Karl Morris and Gary Nicol, is available from the Lost Art of Golf website.