Stop Thinking Start Playing.
Golf Monthly|November 2021
We meet golf mind coach Andy Morrison, a man finding great success with his new approach to the mental game
MICHAEL WESTON, MICHAEL HARRIS

Quite how many books have been dedicated to the mental side of the game is anyone’s guess – safe to say it runs into the thousands. You might have one on your desk or bedside table; perhaps there’s even one in the smallest room in the house. And we’ve all watched videos and pored over articles in a bid to find the secret to having a stronger mental game.

Often we’re encouraged to find a preferred state, do a ‘thing’, or adopt a process, whereby what you do is supposed to allow you to take control and master what is seen as a critical element of golf. It might be a finely honed pre-shot routine; a positive affirmation to tell yourself before or after each shot; a dot on your glove to look at in order to get in ‘the zone’; a certain number of seconds or steps to allow yourself to be angry after hitting a poor shot... or simply an urging to ‘think positively!’

If whatever you do is working and you feel you are in control of your mental game, then we’re pleased to hear that – you may wish to stop reading this feature.

However, if you’ve tried all of the above (and more) and they haven't worked – at least not consistently, or at crucial times – then read on, because there might be another direction to look in. Not only could this have a profound impact on your golf game, but also on how you live your life.

In our quest to shoot lower scores, it’s understandable that we look for answers and experiment with different strategies and techniques. However, this is where it can get messy, as golf mind coach Andy Morrison explains, for the mind is like a snow globe and if you shake it… well, it gets stirred up.

Morrison was a county player, but, as he will admit himself, he did throw the odd club as his thinking got the better of him. He’d get anxious, too, and he stopped entering competitions because “it looked like anxiety and agitation came from competitive golf”. It would lead him to study hypnosis and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), something he devoted ten years of his life to. If he could give someone a strategy, he thought, they’d be able to control their state of mind. Then he discovered an altogether different theory, championed by, among others, philosopher Sydney Banks. It’s called the ‘inside-out’ model of understanding. In other words, it’s not possible for humans to change their state of mind via an outside technique. Compelling, yes, possible... not so sure.

“You’re never going to see things as clearly with more thought,” Morrison explains. “We all get caught up in our stories and believe them to be true, but if thoughts come and go naturally, do we really need to reach for a technique to make them go? This philosophy points to the nature of thought, rather than being fixated on the content of thinking, a distinction Morrison is keen to make clear.

Battling golf’s untruths

An example many of us will probably be able to relate to. You’re on the range ahead of the monthly medal and hitting the ball beautifully, thinking, ‘This is going to be a very good day.’ Or, there’s the time – maybe a more frequent occurrence – when you’re striking it really poorly. Then it’s, ‘Goodness, this is going to be an ugly round.’

“It’s not a truth,” explains Morrison. “We’ve all had rounds where we’ve hit it rubbish on the range and played well, and vice versa. It’s quite common for us to think this way. This is that gentle shaking of the snow globe continuously, and believing the snow to be true. The golf course is neutral but for our thinking about it.”

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