January 20, 2023
Have you been in the "Zone"?
Ever have one of those days where everything goes right and you shoot the best round of golf in your life? What made that round special? What were you thinking? What swing thought did you use to hit those shots? Was it your lucky pants, ball marker, or special ball? You got into a "Zone" and you were able to stay there without being distracted. Those moments are fleeting, but the feeling when you are there in the "Zone", becomes very real.
Dave Hill once told me that when he got into that "state", that he became "bullet proof" and there was nothing that he couldn't do. He didn't question how he got there or what it was, but he was going to use it to its' fullest potential. Wouldn't you like to know what is going through the brain of a Tiger Woods or a Jack Nicklaus when they are going down the stretch in the major tournament? The answer is so simple, but so hard to attain. The answer is "Calmness with singular focus". There is a task and their assignment is to execute the necessary steps to accomplish that goal. Nothing more! Their talent level was such that they were able to perform their given talent and not be hindered by outside distractions. Athletes often describe this state as being "Peaceful". This calmness means that all is right with your world and you can just do what you want to do with no outside judgement or pressure.
"When I play my best golf, I feel as if I'm in a fog - standing back watching the earth in orbit with a golf club in my hands." This is a quote from Mickey Wright, one of the best women golfers of all-time. The theme again is something a little surreal and mystical, like entering a "Twilight Zone". If there was a magic formula, then everyone would be doing it. Plenty of books have been written on this subject and sports psychologists instruct their athletes to maximize their talents through visualization, relaxation, role-playing, and meditation. Russian athletes for years have spent fifty percent of their training on mental rehearsals. Yet with all we know about it, few can attain a level of consistency approaching this Zen like state of athletic freedom.
Being in the "Zone" doesn't mean you suddenly become better than your given ability. But it does allow you to play up to your potential given ability. It was generally accepted that Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus were stronger mentally and were able to play up to their full potential more often than their contemporaries. Did they know the secret? Probably, but it didn't come by chance. It was worked on and perfected and when experienced, was fully utilized.
My main point in the article is for you to embrace and learn from the rare times that you find yourself in this ideal state. There are techniques and strategies you can use to make this "Zone" experience happen more often. It will take work and discipline. I wrote an essay a few years ago on "Flow", which is the portal to enter the "Zone". Go to www.earlsgolfblog.com, then go to the Library tab and go down to the 4/23/2021 article called Flow. This will give you a start to making your best days happen more often.
Happiness, contentment, pleasure, and knowing you did your best should be goals that you could walk away with after a round of golf. I would define that as being in the "Zone" of life.