News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 6, 2012

ON AND OFF THE COURSE: Golf from the wrong side of the brain

JENNIFER MYERS
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Imagine this scenario: a woman, small in stature (possibly freckled), walks into a hospital emergency room and says, “I have an emergency, I need a doctor quickly!” The admitting nurse, ever trying to be helpful, asks what the emergency is.

“I have a terrible case of the shanks, and a tee time in an hour!” says the little lady.

Luckily, the doctor on duty at the time also happens to be an avid golfer, and knows what to do. “Call the neurologist, stat!” he orders.

In a flash, in comes Super Neuro-Doctor, dressed in surgical garb and paper footies, ready to serve and protect, as only he can. “What’s the problem?”, he asks?

“It’s my golf game,” she says, “I’ve got a bad case of the shanks!”

“Ah! I know the problem! Your frontal lobes are taking over where your cerebellum ought to be working!”

It might sound like a scene from a bad soap opera, or more likely a comedy, but it’s not really so far from the truth. I have never had to think too much about my golf game. I just got up and hit the ball, and some sort of natural ability took over. Over the last couple of years though, I’ve been playing more tennis than golf, and that’s when the problem of the shank started to rear its’ ugly head. I don’t know the technical term for it, but I think my muscle memory got confused!

I went to the practice range to try to get rid of the problem. At the range there were other weary souls who either had gone through the same problem, or were currently working on it too. The advice I got out there varied from “play one of your sports left-handed” to “Bud Light.”

The left-handed idea wasn’t too bad a thought, because I am ambidextrous, but it would be almost like starting all over again. I didn’t have time for that.

What I ended up doing instead, was getting online and doing some research. I found a very interesting website called, “golfpsych.com” with a blog by Dr. Deborah Graham titled, “Your Left Brain is a Lousy Golfer.”

Dr. Graham explains that we use our left brain for math, logic, accounting, etc., and our right brain for art, music, imagination and creativity. She says, “… the left brain is clumsy and un-athletic while right brain is where the ‘natural athletes’ operate best.”

She goes on to say that you need your left brain to analyze the situation (distance, wind, etc.), but you need for your left brain to shut off once you take your stance over the ball, and let your right brain take over. That made total sense to me, and also explained why I had been struggling so much. I was over-thinking it. And when I’d fail once, I’d get scared, and get my timing off completely. It was a vicious circle.

What helped me a lot was playing a few rounds by myself, walking with tunes playing on my IPhone, keeping my right brain engaged. Being relaxed and getting over my fear was probably the biggest part of what helped. There’s no guarantee that the shanks won’t come back, or that some other problem might arise, but I know that the answer is not in thinking my way through it. Thinking is probably what caused the problem in the first place! Think before you speak, but don’t think before you swing a golf club! Empty your head and let your muscle memory take over.

Quote of the Day: “The most advanced medical brains in the universe have yet to discover a way for a man to relax himself, and looking at a golf ball is not the cure.” — Milton Gross, writer.



 Jennnifer Myers can be reached by e-mail at

jfmyers@xsthe.net.