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Sports Psychology Hypnosis And Golf: Three Case Histories

Posted by: Dr. Granat on October 13, 2009

Here is a copy of an article which I wrote for a British Journal called The Annual Review Of Golf Coaching.

Quite a few famous coaches and psychologists appear in this publication.


Sport Psychology, Hypnosis and Golf:

A Commentary

Jay Granat, 1060 Main St., Suite 307,

River Edge, NJ 07661, USA



Simon Jenkins has written a thorough and comprehensive review on the use of

hypnosis with golfers outlining many of the historical, ethical and clinical issues. He

also does a fine job of addressing some of the fears and misconceptions associated

with hypnosis and self-hypnosis.

I would like to add a few additional comments about the use of hypnosis with

golfers. Specifically, I would like to outline a few case examples as a way of showing

how hypnosis is employed clinically and how it can be used to help golfers to perform

well during competition. I have counseled thousands of golfers and there are many

cases I could present in this article. I am selecting just a handful which illustrate how

hypnosis and hypnotic techniques are incorporated into the counseling process and

the coaching relationship.

I believe it is important to understand that effective hypnosis and hypnotherapy do

not take place in a vacuum. That is, when it is used wisely and intelligently, it is

frequently combined with other aspects of psychotherapy and the counseling process.


I utilize hypnosis with golfers and with athletes from virtually every sport imaginable.

Hypnosis can be used to build confidence, manage stress, improve focus, clarify

goals, better relationships, obtain insight, improve motivation, and manage pain.

These are very important matters for the golfer-athlete. For example, recently a

golfer who came to see me, because he found himself becoming quite tense when he

played golf.

Some therapists or hypnotists might have simple taught this man a self-hypnotic

technique which could promote increased relaxation. While there is nothing wrong

with this idea, I believe it is important to learn as much as possible about the etiology

of a person’s anxiety. While taking a history from this man, he explained to me that

he is most tense when he competes against his regular playing partner who happens

to be his older brother. We discussed the nature and history of their competitiveness

and their sibling rivalry. Apparently, my client felt that he could never beat his “big

brother” at golf or for that matter at anything. I explained how hypnosis might be


helpful to this man. He agreed to try a hypnotic exercise. I helped him into a

comfortable trance and suggested that imagine that he was the older brother. He

enjoyed being in this powerful role very much. He loved the hypnotic experience very

much and he went on to beat his brother by five strokes the next time they played with

one another. He called me on Monday morning to share the big news about his victory

with me.



Hypnosis can also be easily integrated with supportive counseling, insight oriented

therapy, behavioral therapy, gestalt therapy, psychoanalysis, dream work,

psychodrama and cognitive-behavioral therapy. The literature contains many

examples and illustrations of how hypnosis is used by therapists with a wide range of


I frequently develop hypnotic trances in which golfers can mentally recreate good

rounds and bad rounds in my office. I use hypnosis to help them to become deeply

aware of what playing well feels like and what playing poorly feels like for them. I

sometimes combine this hypnotic experience with a technique from Gestalt therapy

and psychodrama known as the “double chair.” This two-chair method is a way of

helping people to get in touch with two sides of themselves. For example, it can help

a golfer to learn about his psychological strengths and his weaknesses.

It can also be used to help a person resolve conflicts or ambivalent feelings. For

instance, it could be helpful in treating a golfer who wants to be successful, but has

some underlying fear of being successful. While in a hypnotic trance, I frequently

have golfers move from the positive chair to the negative chair. Again, this helps the

athlete to learn more about what drives each kind of performance on the course.

Frequently, this method helps the client to learn an important but subtle difference

between feeling good and performing well and feeling poorly and performing poorly.

As one golfer noted after trying the double-chair exercise:

smile helps me to feel more comfortable and play better. Prior to this hypnosis, I

mistakenly believed that I had to be serious to be in control and play my best. I will

bring a little levity with me the next time I compete.”

“I never realized that a



In addition to working with the golfer by himself or herself, I frequently include

parents, coaches, agents, caddies, managers, spouses and significant others in the

process. They are the athlete’s support system. And sometimes, I lead this support

system through a group exercise which is a combination of hypnosis, and guided

imagery. This can be quite powerful since it can help everyone to discover interesting

ideas and it can help all the key people to get on the same page as the golfer.

In some instances, I have hypnotized both the golfer and his or her caddie in order

to prepare them for an upcoming event. Recently, after a placing a golfer and his

caddie into a trance, the caddie and the golfer told me in great detail a lot about their

goals, and their dreams and how they felt their lives might change if they were

successful in their sport. This conversation gave us all some insight into what was

192 Annual Review of Golf Coaching 2009

motivating this duo.

In my view, when a caddie and golfer are functioning as a team, they enter a rather

special shared mental space. Some therapists would say they move into a shared

trance state or a joint hypnotic state. Knowing how to get into this kind of state of

mind can help the duo to improve the synergy between them and to learn how to

perform to their full potential more often.


While some golfers can benefit from being hypnotized or learning self-hypnosis,

many golfers will find it exceedingly helpful to work with a therapist who can, when

necessary, integrate hypnosis into the counseling and coaching process.

Editor’s Note

Gurus. He is the author of



: Jay P. Granat, Ph.D. is a Psychotherapist and is the Founder ofGolf Digest named him one of America’s Top Ten MentalHow to Lower Your Golf Score with Sport Psychology and.

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