Avid golfers have heard of accomplished players finding "the zone."
That's when course records fall and major championships are won.
But the zone is not a place visited only by professionals and top amateurs. Most of you have experienced this yourselves, whether you realize it or not.
Finding the zone may have helped you secure some greenbacks from your golfing buddies. And that can be nearly as nice as being fitted for a green jacket.
When in the zone, your mind is free of swing thoughts. You are not easily distracted by your surroundings. The bad shots don't bother you as much as they normally would and you start to expect good shots instead of hoping for them.
Your senses are at a heightened state and the game seems easier than before. Your ability to focus on the task at hand is better than ever.
These are all characteristics of playing in "the zone."
Personally, I've achieved this trance-like state of mind only about a dozen or so times.
My most vivid memory of finding the zone was during a mini-tour event in Florida. After going five-under par through seven holes, my swing was on auto-pilot.
Then the realization struck - this could potentially be a very low round. That kind of thought process was a one-way ticket out of the zone.
Following a string of pars, relaxation set in and I managed to shoot a course-record 63. Still, that score could have been lower if I'd been able to stay in the zone a bit longer.
Finding the zone is not something that you can make happen. You have to allow it to happen. Even the best players in the world say, "Today, I'm going to get in 'the zone' so I can play my absolute best." It doesn't work that way and they know it.
You can, however, do your part to increase your chances of getting in "the zone."
Preparation and trust are two key words that come to mind.
Allow yourself ample time to warm-up before you go out to play. If you are short on time and are having to hurry to the first tee, you will have a hard time settling down and feeling relaxed.
When it's time to play, identify your target, make your club selection, and trust your swing. Focus on the present, the shot at hand. You can't change the past and you don't want to get ahead of yourself. Many golfers think too much, try too hard, and invariably get in their own way.
Importantly, don't try to do the impossible, because your mind won't let you. Attempting high-percentage shots increases confidence, and that can lead you to the zone. Then you can go for broke.
The 1996 Masters Tournament may mostly be remembered for Greg Norman's collapse, but don't forget how Nick Faldo earned the title. Instead of firing at every flag in hopes of a Sunday miracle, Faldo played methodical golf, found the zone and fired a final-round 67 to win.
The next time you play, let your instincts take over and allow yourself to play your best. Even if your experience in "the zone" is short-lived and only lasts a few holes, you will see the positive effect that it has on your game and you will get to experience a very special feeling that is not reserved to professionals only.
Gregg Hemann is the Tournament Director/Teaching Professional at The Club at Jones Creek. He is a PGA member of the Georgia Section, and has won five section events, including the Match Play Championship in 1992 and '95, and the 2001 North Chapter Championship.
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