Apr 05, 2024

6 Myths About Golf Performance with Dr. Raymond Pryor

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Tori talks with Raymond Prior, author of the book Golf Beneath the Surface: The New Science of Golf Psychology. The discussion aims to understand how our thoughts and feelings can affect how we play golf. They break down six common misunderstandings about golf performance and discuss how being aware of the present moment, having strong determination, and our instincts can impact our choices while playing.

Why Raymond wrote Golf Beneath the Surface

Raymond wrote the book because it was a long-standing project he finally had time for during the pandemic. He wanted to challenge outdated golf psychology and provide up-to-date knowledge about the human brain and psychology. The book is for golfers of all skill levels, helping them enjoy the game more and play with freedom. It has received positive feedback from high-handicap players and professional tour players for its unique perspective on experience mechanics and debunking misconceptions.

6 Myths About Golf Performance:

A little bit of anxiety is a good thing

A little anxiety is not beneficial for thriving. Anxiety is disruptive and often confused with stress and nerves. Stress can be challenging but not necessarily bad, while nerves activate our sympathetic nervous system, making us alert and athletic. However, anxiety involves worrying about the future, leading to constant multitasking and undermining our focus on the task at hand. It disrupts our physical skills and decision-making abilities. Anxiety is fear-based arousal, distinct from positive arousal or nervousness. Adrenaline alone does not feel good; the tension and worry associated with anxiety come from it. Anxiety prioritizes the future, while we perform better when fully present and focused.

Navigating a healthy desire for a desired outcome

In a thriving setting, it's important to differentiate between needs and wants, as our brain processes them differently. Needs become a priority due to survival instincts, while wants represent desired outcomes. To move towards our desires, prioritizing the present moment is crucial. Anxiety arises when we convince ourselves we need something, seeking certainty in an uncertain future. Trying to relax during anxiety can worsen the situation by emphasizing the gap between our current and desired states. The opposite of anxiety is being present, which allows us to thrive.


Using willpower to change and perform better

Using willpower to improve performance is outdated. Willpower is not a reliable resource and easily depletes. Awareness and understanding of cause and effect are more effective. Our brain prioritizes sensory experiences, but focusing on underlying motivations brings meaningful change. Willpower cannot override ingrained habits. Grit involves passion and persistence toward long-term goals. It is based on a growth mindset and the belief in improvement. Staying engaged and aware allows us to navigate challenges effectively.

Controlling focus with distraction

Distraction techniques in golf, like changing grips or performing math calculations, are based on outdated neurology. The idea of the left brain versus the right brain is not accurate. These techniques divert attention from fearing undesirable outcomes, but our brains are designed to detect distractions. They are short-lived and ultimately ineffective. Changing putters or grips repeatedly is a symptom of not addressing the root cause. Instead of relying on distractions, being present, engaged, and accepting of all outcomes is the key to performing well. Distractions do not eliminate the underlying issue and can diminish enjoyment. Flow state, characterized by immersion in the task with acceptance, is more enjoyable and productive. Distractions move us further away from this optimal state.

Perception is reality

Perception often differs from reality, causing unnecessary suffering in golf and life. Our brains rely on perception to process overwhelming information. However, perception is subjective and triggers emotional responses. It's crucial to differentiate between subjective feelings and objective reality. By shifting to objective observation, resilience improves. Though we naturally have subjective perceptions, understanding our beliefs and thoughts helps distinguish what we add to the situation. Beliefs like needing to play perfectly are subjective perceptions while winning requires objective performance. Removing self-imposed constraints enhances performance in a flow state unaffected by subjective assessments.

Just fake till you make it


"Faking it till you make it" doesn't build genuine confidence. Authenticity is the key to true confidence. Pretending to be confident undermines our efforts. Faking confidence seeks comfort and certainty, but golf involves discomfort and uncertainty. In-authenticity erodes confidence and affects mental health. Living a fake life leads to unhappiness. Confidence requires alignment between our projected self and authentic self. Acting confident doesn't lead to genuine confidence. It erodes confidence slowly or collapses under pressure. Authenticity is essential for sustainable and stable confidence.

Success requires a choke-hold on goals

Goals are important, but having a choke hold on them is counterproductive. Being overly attached to goals disrupts our present performance. It hinders our ability to be present, leads to inconsistent effort, and makes us risk-averse. Confidence becomes unstable when we focus on protecting our goals instead of pursuing them. Taking risks and accepting uncertainty are necessary for meaningful pursuits. Trusting the process and committing to the best actions brings progress. Linear progress is rare, but staying committed and present yields the fastest path to success.


In conclusion, debunking golf psychology myths is crucial for better performance. Myths like anxiety being beneficial, faking confidence, and rigid goal-holding hinder our progress. Instead, we should focus on being present, cultivating genuine confidence, and embracing a growth mindset. We can enjoy the game and improve our results by letting go of rigid goals and embracing the process.

Additionally, we can tap into our full potential on the course by debunking these myths and embracing a more balanced and effective approach to golf psychology. Let us redefine our mindset, prioritize presence and authenticity, and develop a healthier relationship with goals. These insights allow us to navigate the game with greater success, fulfillment, and enjoyment.

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