|Our brain is inherently lazy. It wants to be efficient. It wants to be efficient to conserve energy. This conservation limits our ability to be creative. However, creativity is required to play the game of golf and creativity can actually improve golf performance.
- relating to or involving the use of the imagination or original ideas to create something:
change unleashes people's creative energy
- having good imagination or original ideas:
a creative team of designers
Steve Berns in his book, Iconoclast, provides a solid argument for the need to make conscious efforts to stimulate the brain to operate outside of its usual habits. Similarly, Edward De Bono’s book How to have creative ideas takes you through how to develop more creativity in your life. Given the success of these two authors, their advice is definitely worth considering for your golf game.
The brain’s neurons and neural networks have the capacity to change their connections and behaviour in response to new information, sensory stimulation, or development. This capacity is referred to as neuroplasticity. There are numerous theories on the brain’s plasticity but one that is worth considering is that the areas of the brain that we use for imagination and perception appear to be the most plastic regions. The plasticity of the cognitive functions in these areas does tend to decline from around the age of thirty, however continually challenging these areas will ensure your creativity doesn’t decline as you age. It is not unusual for many people to stop using their imagination in primary school, partly due to the nature of modern education systems and perhaps because of the pursuit of other interests that do not press the creative areas of your brain.
To develop creativity, Steve Berns suggests experiencing novel situations and encouraging your brain to imagine new possibilities for the future. These two suggestions force the brain to experience new and potentially improved ways of experiencing life and keep developing the neural networks.
If this advice is taken to the world of improving golf performance, it is helpful to literally put yourself in novel situations to promote the laying down of new neural pathways. For example, try to imagine how you will perform in upcoming rounds with emphasis on creating new images in your mind (rather than relying on existing images). Imagine yourself performing in upcoming rounds on courses that you haven’t played before with all of the details in your mind’s eye. Use your imagination just like you did when you were a child!
Another practical example would be to ensure you are mixing up what and how you practice - this will ensure your brain is engaged in what you are doing and is not bored or ‘switched off’. This will also help you to practice the mental habits that you want to employ while you are playing a round of golf.
Examples of Earl Woods being creative when preparing Tiger for the professional golf tour include walking on Tiger’s line, making noises while Tiger was mid-swing, cheating etc. These examples are a far cry from up to 10 hours on the driving range, mindlessly raking ball after ball. Earl was being creative. He was also forcing Tiger to imagine every future possibility and how he was going to deal with them.
To take some tips out of Earl’s book, you are encouraged to think of drills and activities that will help you feel comfortable when you experience specific situations in a competitive round. Most of the time this means that you should be creating uncomfortable and unfamiliar circumstances in your practice to expand your brain’s repertoire of familiar experiences.
How does creativity help golf performance?
By creative I don’t necessarily mean that we have to be artistic, it is simply thinking outside of what you normally do to ensure that the brain is open to improvements and forward progress. Creativity means that you are being innovative when it comes to golf performance.
Camine Gallo’s latest book about Steve Jobs, The innovation secrets of Steve Jobs, defines innovation as a new way of doing things that results in positive change. This definition is extremely helpful for reviewing your practice and thus preparation for competitive golf.
Simple ways to be creative...
- Practice on different ranges, short game areas, and on different courses.
- Play with different people - those who play at a higher, equal or lower level; fast and slow players; talkative and quiet players.
- Test yourself under pressure by creating games with outcomes; play these games by yourself as well as with other players.
- Play a particular course on the range. Pretend to be on the course. It is like playing ‘dress ups’ like we did we were young.
- Incorporate your ‘game’ behaviours whenever you practice - this includes routines, breaks between shots, and your general on-course demeanor (i.e., your ‘A Game’).
- Teach yourself to deal with ‘good’ and ‘bad’ shots by activities such as two ball, best ball or two ball, worst ball.
- Given the debilitating effects of anxiety, try running between shots in your practice rounds to learn how to lower your heart rate prior to executing your shot. This physical activity mimics the effect of stress on your body’s physiology and will help you become more effective at managing your body’s physiology during competitive rounds.
Humans are typically very creative when we are young... I guess as life becomes more complicated creativity goes down on the priority list to save energy, particularly when there are so many other things to spend time and effort on.
In nearly every article I write, I emphasise the importance of using your practice to train your brain. Being creative with your practice helps you to optimise the time that you spend practising your game. Remember, that practice should be preparing you to compete. Golf is a game that involves strategy which undoubtedly involves several levels of creativity.
Mental Notes has lots of ways to help you to be more creative. Contact us via facebook or email to share the ways that you have been creative in your golf practice. Sharing of ideas will help us all continue to keep our brain working hard and limit its laziness!