x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Get into the swing of things

Frustrated by your golf - or your life? Martin Robinson says it may simply be all the negative thoughts holding you back.

Golf trainer and PGA pro Martin Robinson teaches a course on neuro linguistic programming for golfers. Sarah Dea / The National
Golf trainer and PGA pro Martin Robinson teaches a course on neuro linguistic programming for golfers. Sarah Dea / The National

While golf may purport to be a relaxing experience, anyone who regularly hacks that small, dimpled ball around a course will attest it can be incredibly exasperating.

However, while some may blame their dearth of talent for this constant vexation, according to the golf instructor Martin Robinson, it's mostly in the mind.

As well as being a Professional Golfers' Association registered coach, Robinson is also an accredited master practitioner in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). This is a form of psychology that claims to be able to teach mental techniques to alter players' states of mind, hence improving performance. Robinson now incorporates NLP into his teaching, as well as running regular workshops. We met him to find out more.

How did you get into the mind-training business?

It all began when I found out that I couldn't present my best performance in golf during the most competitive, intense times. When I played a competition, that's when my game deserted me the most.

So it was not my ability that was holding me back, it was what was going on in my brain. I embarked on this NLP course and qualified as an NLP master practitioner and this really helped me to take the game to the next level.

Why is NLP so useful to golf players?

Golf allows a great platform to work on the mental side of coaching, much more than any other sport really, because it's just you and a ball. There are no other teams, you can't rely on your teammates and so the mental pressures are extreme. That's why [in golf] you see some of the greatest meltdowns in sport.

But can NLP really improve golfing ability and prevent these meltdowns?

Definitely. [NLP] is a very practical form of psychology that's about controlling your state through imagery; thinking about what you want to happen.

In a golfing environment, seeing what you want to happen as you do it will give your muscles a better chance of completing that action. Also, if you're pessimistic about your chances, you're more likely to hit a bad shot. Then, you'll probably think to yourself: "I knew I was going to do that." People with a poor mindset will often picture in their minds what could go wrong. This is known in NLP as your ITV.

Your ITV?

This stands for Internal Television. Basically, every thought we make is like a movie in the front of your mind. The movies you see in your head affect your state [of mind]. Controlling your state is done with the movies that you watch. Every time some golfers step up to the ball, it's like they're seeing a disaster movie running through their minds. This affects their performance in a negative manner.

That's all well and good for golfers, but can it help those who don't play the sport?

Of course. Take fear of flying. People with this phobia, they will see a disaster movie before they get on a plane, to the point they're too afraid to fly. We also do things badly or are afraid to do things when we're worrying about the results.

This is a reason why [football] players miss penalties or golfers miss shots. Basically, it's fear and they're thinking about the consequences. Once you can get over this, you'll be amazed at how your performance improves.

Robinson will be holding a 90-minute NLP workshop from 7pm on Sunday at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, costing Dh50 per person. Email him at mrobinson@adgolfclub.com or call 02 558 8990 for more information