The 5 inch golf course
The 5 inch golf course
By Mary Doyle
February 14, 2020
In the famous words of the great Bobby Jones; “ Competitive golf is a played mainly on a five inch course, the space between your ears”. As the Augusta National Founder has pointed out, to enjoy golf, or to play golf well, a player must pay attention to what’s happening on the inside.
A lot of players, myself included, seem to struggle from time to time with transferring their ‘range game’ onto the course. Whether it’s decision making, setting your intention, or just knowing when to quieten the dialogue in your mind, every player must practice or build their mental skills – just like the practice you need to put in on the range to build a solid technique.
Since the nature of the game gives players a lot of time to think, it can be difficult to distinguish when and how to turn off the decision making part of the brain in exchange for the more creative side that allows players to compete at a high level.
An approach that I have found useful is called the ‘think box, play box’, created by Vision54 founders, Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott. Essentially this concept, breaks a player’s pre-shot routine into two halves. The first half (think box), happens behind the ball and is where all the decision-making happens. The second half (play box) starts just when the player is stepping into their shot. The idea is that the player creates a clear picture of what their intention is for the shot in the think box, and when they step into the play box they enter a more creative frame of mind. During the play box a player should have no more than one swing thought or feeling they are going to use. The purpose of the play box is to heighten the engagement a player has with their target; they’re not second guessing their decision or trying to fix their swing.
This is a very simplistic summary of what this technique is about, but in its essence, the idea is to become aware of the different types of inner experiences a player engages with on the course. Nilsson and Marriott sum this up beautifully with the words; “To play good golf, you need to balance thinking and sensory awareness”. The book that this quote is from, and probably the best golf related book I have ever read, is called “Be a player”, and it’s worth the read if you are looking to perform better on the course. It could be argued that the mental side of the game is one of the more difficult areas of golf to work on, and it can help to chat to a PGA Professional about your own obstacles or even an on-course lesson could help lower your scores dramatically.
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