How to Learn Golf while You Sleep

by Dr. T. J. Tomasi
Keiser University College of Golf Senior Faculty and Director of Research

TJ Tomasi

Ben Hogan was not one to waste time, even while he slept. He told of a recurring dream where he made 17 holes-in-one in a row, and then, off the 18th tee, he rimmed the cup.

Hogan used his sleeping hours to cement his expertise. He would carefully review his day’s play and plan his next round just before he fell asleep.

Per usual, Hogan was on to something, according to Jessica Payne, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School, who says that one purpose of sleep is to consolidate the day’s learning and save information in long-term memory that might be useful in the future.

Jan Born, Ph.D., of the University of Lubeck in Germany, has proved that the brain decides what to keep and what to forget during sleep: “Our results show that memory consolidation during sleep involves a basic selection process that determines which of the many pieces of the day’s information is sent to long-term storage.

Our findings also indicate that information relevant for future demands is selected foremost for storage.”

The key to improving your golf is a special platform called “sleep learning,” where you tag information for attention before you go to sleep.

Your time asleep can be pre-programmed to solve specific golf problems, and you can’t make learning the golf swing any easier than that!

The tagging process works this way:

1. Identify the problem you need to solve.

2. Break it down into its three or four basic elements.

3. Describe each element as clearly as you can in one or two sentences on a piece of paper.

4. Put the note by your bed and read it just before you go to sleep.

5. Use FIFA, “full intention, full attention,” which are the two key essentials of tagging information. Full intention tells the brain why information is important. This should be described in the note. Next, you must convince your sleep brain to give the problem full attention, and you can do this by using what I call the 14-night note system. The brain assumes that if you repeat something using a schedule, it’s important, so it’s given full attention during dream problem-solving.

While you’re using the 14-night note system, don’t try to solve the problem, just read it to yourself each night using FIFA.

At this point, you’re tagging the problem for sleep learning, not solving it while you’re awake. It takes about 14 nights for the note system to work.

Here’s an example of what a note system note might look like to learn a new takeaway:

“A good takeaway sets up a good impact” (tags the full intention). “When my hands are just past my rear foot, my lead arm should be at a 45-degree angle with the ground with:

(1) my shaft parallel with the target line;

(2) the toe of the club pointed to the sky;

(3) my hands and clubhead at the same height.

A good takeaway sets up a good impact.” Adding a picture is also good for dreaming about the takeaway.

Here are some additional odds and ends about the relationship of your sleep patterns and your golf game:


Studies show that babies learn while they sleep.

Researchers from Finland, using a technique that records mental activity associated with the brain’s learning center, found that babies can distinguish sounds they have been taught while asleep.


In adults, part of the brain stays alert while sleeping as it performs its main function — problem solving.

Using a tone followed by an odor, Dr. Noam Sobel of Weizmann Institute in Israel conditioned sleeping subjects to connect an auditory event with an olfactory event. How did he know it worked?

The two events were linked through repetition during sleep. The next morning, absent any conscious memory of the tone/odor experience, the subjects were exposed to the tone without the odor and began sniffing the air in expectation, proving that they had learned while they slept.


As a golfer, what can you learn from knowing the structure of the benzene molecule?

Not much, but what’s interesting is how that structure was discovered.

The first to formulate the benzene ring structure was the German chemist Friedrich August Kekule von Stradonitz, in 1862.

In a dream state, he imagined a snake with its tail in its mouth.

The image suggested a ring figure that proved to be the structure of the benzene molecule, an important discovery in organic chemistry.


Dreaming worked for Kekule and for Jack Nicklaus who once dreamed himself out of a long slump.

One day, he suddenly got back his championship form, and a reporter asked him what he had done to turn it around.

Nicklaus replied: “I’ve been trying everything to find out what has been wrong. It was getting to the place where I figured a 76 was a pretty good round. But last Wednesday night I had a dream about my golf swing. I was hitting them pretty good in the dream and all at once I realized I wasn’t holding the club the way I’ve actually been holding it lately.”

Just as Kekule did, Jack listened to his dream, changed his grip and shot 68, 65 in his next two rounds to get his game back on track.

And finally there is sleep apnea, a disorder in which you stop breathing while you sleep so it isn’t something to fool around with.

It can harm you physically and it can harm your golf game, too, according to Dr. Marc Benton of Atlantic Sleep and Pulmonary Associates in New Jersey.

He studied golfers with sleep apnea and reported that when you don’t get a good night’s sleep, it’s hard to play decent golf the next day.

In a testament to how crazy some people are about golf, the doctors found it much easier to persuade sleep disorder patients to follow their treatment when they knew it would help their game.

Dr. Benton said: “The possibility of improving one’s ability to play golf appears to have been a significant motivation to improve treatment compliance.”

What is this strange hold that golf has over its devotees? Tell a patient that a protocol can save his life, and he might follow it.

Tell him it will improve his golf, and he’s sure to follow it.

If you enjoyed this golf tip, here’s how you can get even more. Contact Keiser University College of Golf about a golf degree.