How your body language could be costing you shots… and what you can do about it.

If I walked on to your course one day and found you coming up the 13th, would I be able to tell how well your round was going simply by reading your body language?

For the vast majority of golfers, the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’ – and yet the way we carry ourselves on the course is something most of us are totally oblivious to. I have often filmed slouching, shoe-gazing golfers, pro and amateur, during the walk between the shots and invariably they are amazed at what they see. “I can’t believe how bad it looks” is perhaps the most common response. The general tone is embarrassment that they are responding to something that is supposed to be fun in this manner.

Does bad body language matter?  Well, not necessarily. There are golfers out there who perform well despite looking like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders. If that’s you, go ahead and stay gloomy!  But the more likely scenario is that the round-shouldered, eyes-down, sole-scraping gait we know so well is compromising your performance.

Evidence for this isn’t just apocryphal. Social psychologist and Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy has proved how our posture can actually influence the chemicals our brain releases into our system. Slouching releases more cortisol, a stress hormone; a more expansive posture, with upright spine with the eyes looking upward, promotes higher levels of testosterone, a hormone that encourages a feeling of confidence and power.

A tendency to slouch as you walk can tend to creep into your address position and compromise your posture; but on top of this, shoe-gazing makes us more likely to reflect, accessing our inner thoughts and internalising all the things that have gone wrong. Thinking about what’s happened traps us in the past, and that’s going to contaminate our ability to see the next task clearly, and make our best effort on it.

So, what is good body language?

The best example of good body language I can give you is Bernhard Langer. The German takes the phrase ‘level-headed’ to a literal level, looking neither up nor down. He is not round-shouldered, neither is he puffing out his chest. Everything about him seems neutral and balanced, as if he is immune to the game’s triumphs and disasters. Going back to our original question, if you saw him walking down the 13th fairway you wouldn’t know if he was five under or five over.

Langer’s body language reinforces an unflappable attitude that stops him getting either too up or too down during a round of golf. Because of this, he is able to face the next shot with a total clarity of purpose. I believe this is a key part of how he remains competitive at the highest level well into his 50s.

If you feel your body language could be letting you down, follow this three-stage plan:

1. Ask one of your playing partners to use their phone to film you walking during the round, ideally late on and ideally without you being aware of it. This will give you a clear idea of what your body language says about you.
2. Commit to playing the next two rounds where your focus is not on the 10% of the time you are hitting the ball, but the 90% you are not. As you walk, strive for a balanced and neutral body language, one that would leave any observer in the dark about how well you are playing.
3. Allow yourself to be human. You can react to a bad shot. But follow Tiger’s example and keep your reaction to within 10 yards of the shot. Once you cross that line, focus on that neutral body language.

Follow these steps and you will gain a keener appreciation of the power of how you carry yourself between shots. And if your scores start to improve, you’ll also see just how much a simple slouch has been affecting your performance.

Share your thoughts, experiences with me on karlmorris@themindfactor.com

Hope you find this Monday’s Mind Factor Missive useful!