top of page
  • Writer's pictureCarol Alford

Right Brain Vs Left Brain

How many of you like me sat up into the early hours at the weekend watching the USPGA golf? It was so exciting, I had to stay awake to discover who the eventual winner would be. Never before have I seen so many players in contention with the same score. I was willing Paul Casey to win, such a lovely golfer to watch and a true gent. He was so gracious in his interview complimenting Colin Morikawa on his first major win at the tender young age of 23! Later this week I found myself listening to an old podcast by Dr Rick Sessinghaus, who is Colin's coach. Having worked with Colin from the age of 8 he has developed his ability to play creatively.  Getting him to play several shots on the course from the same place, with different clubs, swing paths and shots, helped him to tap into his right brain.  Colin's objectives each time he plays, remain the same today, to play with creativity. Whereas most tour players listen to their caddy's suggestion on club selection, Colin will listen to his and then consider how to play the shot creatively. For example if his caddy JJ suggests its a 9-iron for the distance, Colin will consider which club feels the right one and may chose to play a 8-iron, gripping down and taking a shorter swing. Being able to have that freedom, working from his right side brain has proven to give him several wins in a very short space of time. So what is the right brain and how does it work? Imagine sitting at home watching the TV, when you hear a buzzing noise and see something zap past your face. You scan the room and spot the offending fly land on the back of the chair— what do you do? Typically you'll find a newspaper or magazine, roll it up and proceed to creep up on the pesky insect, reach back and take a mighty swing. SPLAT! What you have used here is the right side of your brain, the creative part. You didn't consider angle of attack, bending your arm, leaping up on your toes or shifting your weight from one leg to other - that would have been accessing your left brain. Instead you launched yourself at the fly, reacting to the movement and motor skills required using your right side brain.

Top athletes have developed how to tap into the right side to improve their performance.The right side of the brain controls many of the body's thought and actions. It focuses around judging the position of things in space, knowing body position, understanding and remembering things we do and see, putting bits of information together to make an entire picture, and it controls the left side of the body. It processes its information through feelings, symbols, images, imagination, philosophy, religion and creative thinking.

Whereas, the left side, the analytical side, controls thinking such as language, logic, critical thinking and reasoning. 

In golf, being reactive is not as natural as it is in other sports. That’s because the ball sits still and waits for the player to engage in action. This allows the left brain too much time for analysis. In sports like baseball or hockey, the left side of the brain is active, but not fully engaged. It is the right side that calls the muscles to fire and create the motion we need to contact the ball or puck. Our left side engages with the target and the right responds with the motion to send the ball to that destination. When the left side of the brain tries to cause this motion, it is not doing the job it’s built to do. That is the right side of the brain’s job, and we must become more reactive to play our best possible golf. The trouble here is that we have too much self-chatter due to the time we have to accomplish the task of hitting a golf ball.

How many times do you get over a shot and talk to your inner demons?

  • Don’t hit it in the woods

  • Stay out of the bunker

  • What would happen to my score if I hit it out of bounds?

Or have more mechanical conversations with yourself?

  • Keep your head down

  • Start back inside

  • Stop short of parallel

Many of us do this and the results are rarely favourable. We need to quieten the mind and let the subconscious do its job. That is the right side of the brain. We need to learn how to turn on the right side and turn off the left before we place the club behind the ball, and the best way to train this is through mental exercises. We can do these exercises right at home and take them to the range once we’re ready. Before long, the exercises will become second-nature, and you’ll be channeling your right brain naturally throughout a round of golf.

So let’s look at the first step toward turning on the right side of our brain and letting go of our conscious thoughts during our swing.

This exercise is much like meditation and needs to be done in a spot where you can get comfortable. Choose your favourite easy chair and settle in. Once you feel cozy, pick a point to focus on — maybe on the wall or floor. I like to place a ball mark on the floor and just focus all my attention on the mark. Inhale deep through your nose and blow the air out through your mouth. Focus on the sound of your breath and allow your eyes to only see the mark. Quieten your mind and if a thought passes through just let it. Don’t dwell on the thought, but concentrate on the mark. Be aware of any outside sounds that may be going on around you. That might be a car going by outside or one of your kids watching television in the next room. Try to focus only on the sound of your breath and let the other outside noise fall into the background This will take practice and this exercise should take about 5 minutes total.

Do this each day for 5 minutes and soon any outside distractions will disappear during the exercise. Five minutes will seem like a very long time at first, but with practice you will get use to it. Once you get good at it, take this same exercise to the range.

Once on the range, the exercise will only be for about 5 to 10 seconds. Do your pre-shot routine as normal — this engages the left side of the brain. Then focus on a point in front of the ball to engage the right side of your brain. If you want to place that same ball mark you used in your exercise at home, go right ahead. Focus on the mark and let your mind go to the place it was when all you heard was the sound of your own breathing. Once you get to this point, let the club swing and hold your finish until the ball lands. Once the ball lands, feel how relaxed your body and mind is. If the result is poor, there’s no need to worry. Let it go and move on to the next shot. This will help keep the mind quiet once it is time to hit the ball again.

In no time, you’ll be treating golf balls like flies, and you might just have a little fun while you’re at it.

Hope you found this blog interesting, if you would like to learn more about mental toughness please visit our website and get in touch. Drop me an email and let me know what you think, I would love to hear from you. Visit our website and check out our other blogs, there's something in there for everyone.

bottom of page