Improve your GOLF
- • Prevent Injury
- • Improve golf swing technique
- • Improve Posture
- • Learn how to always play your A-game
- • Make golf easy
The Beautiful Game – Improved with The Alexander Technique!
Once the passion for golf begins it is impossible to relinquish. Equally difficult to know is quite what it is about golf that hooks us so much in the first place. Is it the superb landscapes? Every golf course seems to have something memorable about the design whether it is the fine cut grass of the snooker table like greens or the beauty of the fairway stretched out between an array of colourful trees or perhaps the wildlife that dares to exist even though the threat of a golf ball in the face is very real. If you live in a city escaping to these green spaces is surely a big attraction and then there is the game itself. What testosterone led boy or girl can resist the mighty driver whacking the tiny golf ball, with the power of giants, into space and seeing it sprout wings to land two hundred odd yards away in the perfect position, with only a gentle chip onto a polished green to finish? Then the total calming down of the hyped-up system as we almost meditate our way to putting the ball gently in the hole. The challenge of doing this better and better every time we play is as addictive to the golfer as alcohol or drugs to the addict.
The Golf Club
Arriving at the club to meet my golf coach one fine Friday morning I was struck by how much like a madhouse the golf club can be. All these funny faces peering at me as if to say, ‘oh you’re here too, isn’t it good?’ That gleeful smile, that silly grin, I don’t remember from anywhere else.
So why is it I so often hear that terrible phrase, ‘A good walk ruined’? Why as I walk around the course do I see a stormy sea of irascible faces, dimmed by the disappointment of too many hooked drives, missed greens and terrifying three-putts? So many glum faces whose buzz in the clubhouse has turned to a wry smile?
It is surely because the emphasis has been tilted away from the blissful state of enjoyment of the game. We turn it into a disdainful results-orientated display of impetuous childlike frustration. In order to return to that sense of innocence, that open, inquisitive, passion for just playing the game, which of course will garner much better results, what are we to do?
A prophet once said, ‘if we are to live well and righteously we must learn from the children’. They are innocent, open, and inquisitive; they have a great passion for playing all games. Let’s be honest even children can be ruined by being too competitive, but the prophet had it right, we have become cynical. We have forgotten the child within, who is happy to learn and keep trying.
What actually happens from a practical point of view, throughout our adult years, is that every blow, every stress, everything we learn that doesn’t quite turn out how we dreamed, creates muscular tension and mental tension. This eats away at our form, undermines not only our enjoyment of the game, but our skill.
So what to do about it? Using the Alexander Technique we slowly chip away at the habitual muscular tension, we remind ourselves constantly to stop and think before we act. We are all familiar with the need for particular swing thoughts but what if we had thoughts that could keep us focused in the right way, thoughts that could keep us on track, with our posture, with our process and keep us thinking efficiently. As an example as I have been typing I have collapsed, literally allowed a terrible curve into my spine. As an Alexander Teacher it isn’t long before I become aware of this and immediately correct it. What if we could realise we were just about to take a swing and stop because we knew we weren’t quite right? That is exactly what happens. We are able to stop and rethink instantly what we are doing. We can release the tension and start to think clearly. It is about posture and the average club golfer can be frighteningly poor in this department, but as you are beginning to see, it is very much more about the thinking.
Working with a pro golfer recently I noticed that just before he took his swing he tensed up completely. He pushed his bottom lip forward and attacked the shot with a tension that probably was brought about by the learning process which is often fraught with anxiety. This anxiety stays with us until we remove it from the muscles and the mind. We bring to the present, the emotional memories (muscle memories) of the past. The realisation of this for the golfer has been profound. When we tighten up anywhere in the structure we lose focus, we lose ground, the tension absorbs vital energy and really undermines form. This is true of any activity whether playing an instrument or giving a talk, the same principles apply. When it comes to the average club golfer the difference is far greater as this information has not been available. Using the Alexander Technique in this way the jump in handicap is amazing because we don’t have to improve at golf technically, we are simply improving the way we use ourselves and that is more helpful in the long run.
Our coaching experiences can also be badly affected by tension. When we are learning there is actually quite a big fear reflex going on. Will we understand what we are being told? Can we do it? Am I stupid? These underlying fears are the very thing that we try to address in the Alexander Technique. Fear exists in the mind, but that translates into a lot of unnecessary tension in the muscles. Shift the tension and clear the mind for learning.
“Alexander established not only the beginnings of a far reaching science of the apparently involuntary movements we call reflexes, but a technique of correction and self-control which forms a substantial addition to our very slender resources in personal education.” – George Bernard Shaw, playwright
With better use we are able to respond to what is being taught more efficiently.
“It (the Alexander Technique) bares the same relation to education that education itself bears to all other activities.” – Professor John Dewey, philosopher and educationalist.
We often talk about end gaining; this is the same as putting too much expectation on a thing. We get frustrated. We want a particular outcome no matter the cost and the cost is often our results and wellbeing- the enjoyment. In sport we can also talk about being results orientated.
Let’s explore an example; you just hit your driver with a slice, the ball lands on the other side of the trees, the lie is good but your choices aren’t. You either hit the ball 20 yards onto the fairway and back in play or you go for an amazing hero shot through seven trees with a two foot gap at most, but this gets you within 120 yards to the green. We know what we should do, but being results orientated we attempt the impossible and achieve the worst possible result.
As we practise the Alexander Technique we learn to control these urges by working to keep our body calm and aligned. As we develop our use we also prevent injury as we are playing in a very physically aware state.
Habit is what really interferes with the way we play. How do we change habit quickly and efficiently.? The answer is that actually most people don’t. The average club golfer continues to play in exactly the same way. We try to achieve different results by doing the same thing. Madness. The problem is a fear of change. Alexander Technique makes changes subtle, incremental. Those who would change too quickly lose more than they gain. Like the pro golfers who change their swing technique only to return to it after a bad season.
The main reason that habits are difficult to change is because they are embedded physically as well as mentally but we are ill prepared to change either the physical or mental habits. How do we approach changing habits in this way?
The hands on work of the Alexander teacher guides the pupil into a new understanding of the way the body feels in action. It is often frustrating for a golf coach to demonstrate an important aspect of his work to a client, only for the client to be unable to repeat it due to fixed habits of movement. The Alexander learning enables a freer use of the body which empowers the client to learn faster and understand better what is required both physically and mentally.
I am currently working with successful coach and professional golfer James Taverner and will write more on this subject as our work continues.
‘I got out onto the course after my Alexander Technique lesson and I just felt fantastic’
If you would like to book a Coaching session with James James Taverner
If you would like to book a session www.alexandertechnique.tv
Copyright Nick Chapman Aug 2015