Bryson DeChambeau Trains Golf's Mental Game with Neurofeedback
From his distinctive Hogan-style cap to his unusual single-plane swing, from his controversial putter to his single length irons, there’s little that’s conventional about Bryson DeChambeau.
But as much as golf’s favorite “mad scientist” may amuse and baffle the purists, there’s no doubting the success of his methods.
Still only 25, DeChambeau’s first two seasons on the PGA tour brought him five victories and more than $11 million in total prize money. In the 2018 season his scoring average of 69.64 placed him 13th in the official tour statistics, and he finished the year ranked 7th in the world overall.
So his unusual method of ball striking clearly works for him, but DeChambeau’s approach to golfs mental game is equally unconventional, and arguably just as important to his current success.
What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback. This is a well-established practice which uses real-time data about the body’s processes to enable individuals to learn to control aspects of their physical functioning, such as blood pressure and heart rate, of which they are normally unconscious.
Neurofeedback particularly uses data about brain activity to help treat many neurological conditions such as PTSD and sleep disorders.
But top athletes such as Bryson DeChambeau are becoming increasingly interested in the performance enhancing possibilities of the process.
Neurofeedback for Athletes
Every golfer knows that common emotions such as anxiety and self-doubt can play havoc with their games, making even the simplest shots seem almost impossible to execute.
And for the pros, learning to control these emotions is essential if they are to perform to their full potential under the competitive pressures of tournament golf.
The idea behind neurofeedback for athletes is that staying calm under pressure is not an innate talent that you either do or do not have, but a skill which can be learned like any other.
How it Works
Neurofeedback equipment provides the subject with a clear visual representation of the waves (electrical impulses) being generated within the brain; and also reveals immediately whether the frequency of the waves is too high, too low or just right.
As with other biofeedback systems, the visual information provided allows the subconscious mind to control and modify the biological process concerned, in this case brainwaves.
In practical terms this is done by making use of a simple pain/reward system. For example, a subject may be asked to listen to a favorite DVD while wearing EEG sensors. The DVD player is also connected to the EEG equipment and is set up to pause playback automatically if the frequency of the brainwaves moves outside a pre-determined target range.
Staying Calm Under Pressure
With repeated practice the subject will learn to maintain his brainwaves within that range, and experience a consequent reduction in feelings of anxiety and stress, what DeChambeau described in a recent press conference as a “parasympathetic state”.
The player believes that he has already been able to return himself to this state at times of stress during tournament rounds. And the NFL quarterback, Kirk Cousins and LPGA tour pro, Tracy Hanson, are just two of the many other elite athletes who have been using neurofeedback to optimize their performance.
Getting in “The Zone”
What athletes call “the zone”, that state of hyper-intense but relaxed concentration which gives to superlative but effortless performance, used to be an infrequent and elusive phenomenon.
The hope of DeChambeau and other practitioners is that neurofeedback may make it a much more common occurrence, and perhaps even their default mental state.