Golf Digest Videos

How Meditation Affects Your Golf Game

In this experiment, three golfers of different skill levels try a series of golf shots after meditating to see how meditation affects their golf game. A semi-pro, an amateur, and a casual golfer progress through five rounds -- driving off the tee, hitting with an iron, and putting on the green - first without meditation then meditating with each round of shots. Meditation Teacher and Founder of 1 Giant Mind, Jonni Pollard explains what's happening to each golfer.

Released on 8/23/2018

Credits

Starring: Jonni Pollard

Transcript

00:01
[Keely] My name is Keely, and I am a 5.3 index.
00:05
[Sam] My name is Sam, and I am a 12 handicap.
00:07
[Ben] My name is Ben.
00:08
Probably like a 20 handicap.
00:11
(upbeat music)
00:24
I'm Jonni Pollard.
00:25
I'm a meditation teacher, and a personal mentor.
00:30
I often hear that golfers proclaim to be
00:33
primarily a mental game,
00:35
and that's not entirely true.
00:37
It's a mind body game.
00:38
What we're tending to do is ignore
00:40
the way in which the body affects the mind.
00:42
So I started playing when I was probably four years old.
00:45
I didn't really take it super seriously
00:47
until I was in high school,
00:48
and then I played in college.
00:50
The more I hit, the more comfortable I'm getting
00:52
with all these people and cameras around though.
00:55
[Sam] I've been a golfer for about two decades.
00:58
I have kids who now play,
00:59
that I play in the heart of the season.
01:01
You know, once a week, twice a week sometimes.
01:03
[Ben] I played with my grandfather growing up,
01:05
and my dad and my brothers.
01:06
I don't really play too much anymore.
01:08
Probably once or twice a year.
01:11
I said to my wife, I think meditation would be good for me
01:13
because I run pretty hot during the day,
01:15
and she said, No, you run hot all the time.
01:18
(upbeat music)
01:26
So I have a little bit
01:26
of personal experience with meditation.
01:27
I've tried it a few times,
01:29
maybe three or four times in my entire life.
01:31
I think I will slow down and calm down a little bit.
01:34
I think that's what I'm expecting to have happen.
01:45
Meditating's probably gonna be pretty hard,
01:47
just because I haven't done it in so long.
01:50
I got into it a little bit in college.
01:52
I think I'm gonna be bad at meditating, basically.
02:03
[Sam] Meditation to me feels like a long tail endeavor.
02:06
So it's not necessarily something
02:08
that is gonna yield immediate benefits,
02:11
10 minutes, 20 minutes after you do it,
02:13
but over a period of time,
02:14
it feels like it's something
02:15
that can have real benefits.
02:21
So far the day is going pretty well.
02:23
I definitely didn't hit my driver well,
02:25
but that's kind of been the story of my season,
02:27
so that's fine.
02:29
When I was hitting the iron shots,
02:31
I felt like I was doing well,
02:32
and my thought was, okay, don't screw this up,
02:34
you're doing pretty well.
02:35
So far I think the day is going pretty well,
02:37
aside from the putting,
02:39
and the chipping, and the driving.
02:43
Yeah, it's kind of consistent with how I play golf.
02:45
It's really inconsistent.
02:47
It's a little weird out here.
02:48
There's 10 or 12 people, and there's four cameras.
02:53
I'm not comfortable.
02:56
Hi guys.
02:57
My name's Jonni, it's great to meet you.
02:59
I have the great pleasure of teaching you
03:01
a series of mental processes today.
03:03
Get comfortable, you all look pretty comfortable there.
03:05
And just close your eyes.
03:09
(light music)
03:17
Most people have normalized a high level
03:20
of anxiety in the background of their experience,
03:23
and so when they meditate,
03:24
the contrast of that experience is really pronounced.
03:28
I use a very simple technique
03:30
of coordinating their awareness of their mind,
03:34
with the natural function of the body,
03:35
which is to breathe,
03:37
and allowing them the time to become really,
03:40
really aware of the subtle rise and fall
03:44
of the breath that happens by itself.
03:46
The exercise is to step up to the ball,
03:49
and to the best of their ability,
03:51
just let go of any attachment
03:54
to what happens when they swing at the ball.
03:56
And whenever you're ready,
03:57
just very slowly open your eyes.
04:01
Wonderful, great, and how do you feel now?
04:03
I feel good.
04:04
I feel good.
04:04
I feel a little more centered.
04:06
A little less distracted, probably.
04:09
I feel really relaxed.
04:11
My back muscles were kind of tight,
04:12
and now I feel much more less tense.
04:20
Meditation has its origins in the East.
04:23
In the modern context, what we're seeing is
04:25
bits and pieces of traditional practices,
04:28
repurposed in a modern format,
04:30
to be palatable to a contemporary need,
04:33
which is, help me with my stress.
04:35
What we're doing is just removing something
04:36
that's obstructing our natural health, vitality,
04:39
and capability.
04:46
One of the things that I always do,
04:47
is start off by asking them why they actually play.
04:52
When we break it down, the answer is always
04:53
because I actually just really love the outdoors,
04:57
observing myself progress.
04:59
If I do a great swing, it feels amazing.
05:02
And observing myself just getting better,
05:04
and better, and better.
05:12
So with our three golfers today,
05:14
I've done the same thing.
05:15
I've asked them, why do you play?
05:17
And they've all expressed that,
05:19
because they just get a lot of joy from it
05:22
when they play well.
05:30
The thing that I learned most
05:31
in the first round from Jonni,
05:33
was just forgetting about my failures,
05:34
and not getting as frustrated with myself.
05:36
And just trying it again, rather than letting those failures
05:39
or frustrations kind of build on each other.
05:42
Whether I performed better or not,
05:45
in some ways I did not,
05:46
I felt in a better position to perform.
05:50
I feel like I'm less distracted
05:52
than I was at the start of the day
05:54
by outside elements, and feel like I'm more here
05:56
and probably in the moment.
05:58
It felt reactive.
06:00
I felt like that athletic moment
06:03
came with so much less pressure, because I wasn't acting.
06:07
I was just reacting to that moment of breath.
06:09
I am looking forward to the next round of meditation,
06:12
because I'm in this really chill mindset right now,
06:17
and I'm enjoying it, so let's keep it rolling.
06:21
(light music)
06:23
Close your eyes, and I want you to take
06:25
a nice deep breath into your belly.
06:27
In the second meditation,
06:28
we iterate very subtly on the first.
06:31
We're applying the same technique
06:33
of allowing the mind to connect
06:35
with the natural rise and fall of the breath.
06:37
I introduce the idea of completely letting go.
06:41
It's a deeper expression
06:43
of not being attached to an outcome,
06:45
and this is more of an exercise,
06:46
rather than a strategy of how to play a game.
06:48
And so the instruction is,
06:49
just to stay connected to the present moment,
06:52
with no attachment to outcome.
06:54
Just keep your eyes on the ball, and let it go.
06:57
So whenever you're ready, very gently open your eyes.
07:08
Golfers develop rituals in terms
07:11
of the way in which they step to a ball.
07:13
We've got all these little kind of idiosynchricities.
07:16
You know, the little hat thing, and the little arm thing,
07:17
and the reshuffling of our grip,
07:19
and the little shoulder shuffle,
07:21
or whatever it is.
07:23
I have no idea where these are going.
07:24
It's really an exercise to get some insight
07:27
about how rigidly attached you are to outcomes.
07:38
In this process, what I'm challenging these guys to do is,
07:42
to let go of even that,
07:44
and just to step up, and see if they can just
07:48
spontaneously access their natural swing,
07:51
just by virtue of being relaxed,
07:53
and it was very interesting to watch
07:55
the different reactions and responses to that.
07:57
Do you feel frustrated?
07:59
I do.
08:00
[Jonni] Great.
08:01
(laughter)
08:07
When we're in a hight state of stress,
08:09
and we're experiencing what is referred to
08:10
as the fight or flight response,
08:12
we experience high levels of cortisol, stress chemistry,
08:15
that cause the heart rate to increase,
08:17
cause us to have to draw in more oxygen.
08:20
The ability to just be with a ball,
08:22
and swing at it beautifully,
08:24
is gonna be quite difficult.
08:27
On the driving this round,
08:29
I thought I did pretty well.
08:31
I think I had my worst shot of the day,
08:32
and my best shot of the day,
08:33
within a couple shots of each other.
08:35
On the iron play, I have no idea what happened.
08:39
It's been pretty consistent all day.
08:41
I can't get the ball off the ground.
08:42
And it was frustrating for me
08:43
to not be able to look up,
08:46
but knowing it was awful nonetheless.
08:48
After this last round of meditation,
08:50
I felt like a little drunk,
08:52
which was always a fun feeling,
08:57
but not one that you expect after just meditating
08:59
for five minutes.
09:00
I think there's literally chemical stuff going on.
09:04
Usually when I become frustrated it sticks with me,
09:06
and I do feel it, but it doesn't go away.
09:09
And I think consciously being aware of it,
09:12
and being like, okay, I am frustrated,
09:13
and then consciously sort of letting it go
09:15
and accepting it, it avoids the building up
09:18
of frustration over time.
09:22
First tee jitters are definitely a physical thing for me.
09:24
It's just a full body kind of shake,
09:27
like a weird vibration, which is a horrible feeling,
09:30
because you wanna be still over the golf ball.
09:34
If I have too many negative thoughts in my head,
09:36
I'm probably just thinking too much.
09:38
Everything's a little quick,
09:39
everything's a little hurried,
09:40
I'm probably not breathing.
09:41
In any given moment, each and every one of us
09:43
has an internal monologue taking place.
09:46
It's been a long held ancient understanding
09:49
that the root of our suffering
09:51
is the hyperidentification with our thinking as the self.
09:56
What's going through my head on the first tee
09:57
is I just wanna hit it straight.
09:59
Once that happens, I start thinking about technique,
10:01
and I start thinking about what I need to do,
10:03
and it's all too much going on.
10:05
I think it's just a lack of confidence in my swing.
10:08
[Jonni] Whenever you're ready,
10:09
just very slowly open your eyes.
10:13
I think it might be just because I'm tired,
10:15
but I was following thoughts for longer,
10:18
and then I was kind of trying to force it out.
10:22
When you find yourself overwhelmed
10:24
by negative thoughts that could negate a nice, even swing,
10:29
is just to move your attention back into the body.
10:32
In this exercise, I proposed that they alternate
10:35
between swinging as hard as they possibly can at the ball.
10:39
Using force, just whappa,
10:42
whilst maintaining the best form they can.
10:44
And then in the second swing,
10:46
to go at it with a kind of effortless, natural connection.
10:52
And sometimes, trying harder,
10:53
as in exerting more force, can be counterproductive
10:57
to the desired outcome.
10:59
And we've been doing this over and over again,
11:00
and you've all reported, regardless of the outcome,
11:03
you felt great about it,
11:05
and we haven't perpetuated a cycle of frustration.
11:09
There was a moment of course that you had,
11:10
but it's great that that was sort of revealed to you,
11:12
because that reveals to you where the work needs to be done.
11:15
When we abandon force, to access that deeper power,
11:18
we're putting ourselves in a position
11:20
where we're more capable
11:22
of taking the moment as it comes,
11:24
rolling with the bad swings,
11:25
not letting it overcome our natural ability
11:28
to remain present, and to continue enjoying the process.
11:37
[Ben] Jonni presented the idea of this force versus power,
11:39
like 100% versus 75%.
11:41
It was a good exercise for driving I think especially.
11:44
Try to be as smooth as possible,
11:45
and just kind of contain yourself.
11:46
You may lose 10 yards on your distance,
11:48
but often the results are way more consistent.
11:55
[Keely] With the irons, I think I actually did better
11:57
with swinging as hard as I could,
11:59
and I think that more was just highlighting a swing flaw
12:02
than anything else.
12:03
I think there's that kind of sweet spot,
12:05
of not being indifferent,
12:06
and you want certain outcomes,
12:07
but not trying too hard.
12:09
That can work against you.
12:24
In the putting, I don't know what happened.
12:25
I think maybe it was a long day.
12:29
But I didn't do so hot on the last round of putting.
12:38
The things that have been stressing me
12:39
the last few weeks, or maybe the last few months,
12:41
those things do feel a little bit more okay.
12:44
It's a great feeling, because it's very easy
12:46
to get wrapped up in a million things in your head,
12:49
but when your realize that the only thing
12:50
you're supposed to be doing right now is this,
12:51
it's actually kind of liberating.
12:53
One of the things I love about golf
12:55
is that it demands present moment attention.
12:59
It marries so beautifully with meditation,
13:01
because that's also the desired outcome, meditation.
13:04
They're two activities that are about
13:07
refining capability with quality of attention.
13:11
Well I think it changed the way I approach my shots,
13:13
and I think it changed the way I reacted to them.
13:16
I think it did kind of just free me up,
13:18
and detach me enough to be able to hit some better shots
13:23
than I probably would have otherwise.
13:25
[Jonni] In order to truly get the benefits of meditation,
13:27
it requires a daily practice, over a period of time.
13:30
Damn it!
13:32
(laughter)
13:33
I'm just kidding.
13:33
You will experience immediate benefit
13:35
if you practice it once, now,
13:36
but the benefits that you'll experience
13:38
as a result of doing it every day is exponential.
13:41
That first session we went into the meditation,
13:43
I was pretty self conscious, and aware
13:45
of the cameras, and aware of people watching,
13:48
and I really wasn't sure what was gonna happen.
13:49
And within 45 seconds to a minute,
13:51
Jonni had sort of suppressed all of that.
13:54
I ended up talking a lot about
13:56
how much I get stressed out
13:58
about other peoples' expectations,
14:02
and the positive spin on that,
14:03
is that I was able to let go of it pretty quickly,
14:06
in our little meditation bubble.
14:08
So, hopefully I can just kind of transplant the bubble
14:12
to every other time I play golf.
14:14
Given just how much noise there is in our lives,
14:18
to have that ability to sort of clear that out
14:20
for a few minutes every day,
14:22
would be something that I really would welcome.
14:25
(light music)
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