By Dr. T. J. Tomasi, Keiser University College of Golf
Senior Faculty and Director of Research
The brain networks involved in making a golf swing are idling and ready to act long before your actual swing (i.e., the What, or mechanics) has been chosen, and all the brain is waiting for is the When (the GO Signal). This begs the question ‘what is the general nature of this internal trigger that sets the club in motion?’
In addition to external messages that bombard you from the outside world, there are internal messages from your subconscious where your emotions, beliefs, and skills are stored in special brain cells. These cells contain the techniques you have learned, which are waiting to be cued up as needed (e.g., a two-bounce wedge or a soft cut six-iron). Once your senses have gathered the specific information about the shot, all that remains is the GO Signal; but there is still the matter of tamping down the warnings (NO’s) before a GO can emerge.
Your subconscious communicates in signals, and, to play your best golf, you must recognize what these signals are trying to tell you. You may feel unsure or decisive, uneasy or calm, worried or confident, distressed or relaxed, annoyed or serene, etc. The ringmaster of your NO/GO system resides in your brain’s frontal lobe. It screens out the bogus warnings while identifying and evaluating those warnings that are based on legitimate concerns, such as a swirling wind, hazards, and difficult pin placements. Since you will not generate a GO while there are NO’s still unresolved, the key to playing your best golf is to become very skilled at turning NO’s into GO’s. Unfortunately, if you’re like most golfers, you receive NO Signals when you play but try to play through them – a cardinal mistake. Since you’re ignoring warnings from your own brain, you’re playing against yourself, and this is an exhausting way to play the game, because you fight yourself internally in a battle you’ll never win.
It’s Easy to Dislike NO Signals – but Don’t
It’s easy to dislike NO Signals and to treat them as an unwanted by-product of playing golf, but nothing could be farther from the truth. NO Signals are the emotional counterpart of a body-wide warning network that keeps you safe. Signals like pain and hunger may be uncomfortable, but, if they weren’t, we wouldn’t pay attention to them. In the same way, NO Signals, by their nature, must produce some measure of discomfort, a volume of perturbations sufficient to spur action.
NO’s come from a variety of sources. It could be a message that you’ve chosen the wrong plan, or it could be that you’re stressed-out and feeling jumpy. NO Signals come in bunches when the wind is blowing, or you have to work your way around hazards when your A and B games have deserted you. All golfers receive NO Signals but the better your plan, the fewer the NO’s you have to deal with. Here are two examples of NO’s:
The Doubt NO Signal
Your subconscious won’t let you try a shot you shouldn’t without broadcasting a Doubt NO Signal. This NO Signal is a distinct feeling that you’ve chosen the wrong shot plan. Doubt signals simply indicate that you’ve lost your final commitment and must reestablish it by presenting your subconscious with a better plan.
The Confusion NO Signal
Overall, your plan may be okay, but you can’t generate a GO Signal when your plan is based on insufficient information. If you don’t give it the data it needs, your brain sends you a Confusion NO Signal. Simply put, your brain won’t let you fire at a target when it doesn’t know where the target is. These often occur in windy conditions. For example, you’ve chosen a seven-iron, the perfect club to carry the bunker and land the ball near the hole. Just before you swing, you feel a gust of wind on your cheek. Confusion sets in – should you swing a little harder than you had planned, or should you change clubs? The only route to a GO Signal now is to back off and gather the information you’re missing.
The Takeaway: The key to maximizing your golf swing is to be able to recognize NO Signals and then turn the NO’s into GO’s.
If you’d like to study with Dr. Tomasi and other PGA Master Professionals, contact The College of Golf today.