24. The Zone as a formular

The Zone is a mental state of mind where you are so concentrated and focused on your activity that distractions around you disappear. The Zone is like total immersion. There is no distraction, the only thing in the world is golf and you get amazing results. 

Being in flow is nearly the same but the time span is short. You can experience flow in flash, and you can experience flow many times over a period. The Zone, however, is a state of mind you experience over a time span such as an entire round of golf. 

Golfers say, “I was in the Zone”, when they played a round extremely well compared to a normal day at the golf course. 

Maybe you experienced the Zone yourself or maybe you saw somebody do a round of golf while in the Zone and shooting a phenomenal score. 

One thing is being in the Zone for an entire round of golf, another thing is to experience flow and to have a single golf stroke that went well or maybe a single hole where every single stroke was good. Think of a situation where you experienced flow for one golf stroke or for a single hole. Alternatively, recall an experience where you were in the Zone for an entire round of golf. What happened, how many distractions entered your mind? My guess is “none” because total immersion is a prerequisite to be in the Zone. 

Professor Daniel Goleman author of the book Focus, tells us that:

Flow = full focus + full motivation + full challenge

Now here is the formula for flow. The question is? What is the formula for the Zone?

Well, if flow comes in a flash of time and the Zone lasts for a full round of golf then we have it. The Zone is when you are in flow for an entire round of golf. To an equal degree, we can say that the Zone is when we experience flow again and again and again. We can write it like this:

The Zone = Flow * 18 holes.  


The Zone = 18 holes * (full focus + full motivation + full challenge + (your personal technique at your personal best))

24.1 The Zone and the mechanics of golf

You may ask: Great with a formular for the Zone but what about the golfing technique? 

The technique off cause, is paramount when playing golf and this book does nothing for the technique. There is a significant difference in the technical ability of a handicap 25 golfer and a handicap 5 golfer. Likewise, between a tour pro and a handicap 5 golfer. We left out the absolute golfing technique by saying that the Zone may not take you from handicap 25 to handicap 5 but it does make you a better golfer. It takes you from your present level to a better level. The right mental state can reduce your handicap and it does work wonders, but it is not magic. A good mental state does not take your game from handicap 25 to handicap 5 or from handicap 5 to tour pro level. Another way to phrase this is to say, you are in the Zone if you get a high level of stableford points, and you are not in the Zone when you get a low level of stableford points. Your personal level of golf techniques must be at a good level to be in the zone. You cannot have a bad day regarding golf technique and be in the zone at the same time. Your personal technique must be in a relatively good shape on the day in order to be in the zone. This is why training of the golf technique is important. 

24.2 How to enter The Zone

Looking at the definition for the Zone tells us how we can enter the Zone. For each stroke during the round of golf, we need:

  1. Full focus
  2. Full motivation
  3. Full challenge
  4. Relatively good personal golfing technique

Full focus: How do you make sure you are in full focus? The trouble in golf is that distractions are pulling us out of full focus again and again. Moreover, Professor Daniel Goleman tells in his book Focus, that 50 % of all distractions come from within. Our own mind makes up 50% of all distractions when we in fact do everything we can to focus. We are our own worst enemy. 

I would even claim that our fellow golfers are aware that silence and concentration is part of golfing and therefore they normally do not distract any golfer who is about to do a golf shot. On top of this, anxiety makes us want to escape the “dangerous” situation and thinking of other things than the golf is a way to escape the danger. This all bring us to the fact that due to the golfing situation, much more than 50% of distractions come from our own mind. Once again total immersion comes into the picture. We need to be fully concentrated, and we need to leave out all distractions. The type of focus we are using when standing over the golf ball is the laser point focus, described in the corresponding chapter, where we leave out everything else than the actual golf stroke. The Pre-Shot routine described above makes sure we are fully focused. If not, make sure you stop the Pre-Shot routine and start all over again. Don’t do the shot anyway. anyway – shots are the direct way out and away from the Zone. 

Full motivation, is another of the three components when entering the Zone, you need to be fully motivated but what is that? Can we be too motivated, and can we have too little motivation? How do we find the exact right balance of motivation? 

I think we all experience a situation where we or a fellow golfer had too little motivation. Maybe the frustrations led to a “I give up” attitude and the golf strokes became slopy. On the contrary, too much motivation may lead to too much anxiety and tension. As describe above too much anxiety is not doing any good for your focus. Furthermore, mental tensions lead to tensions in your body and that is pulling apart you golf results. See illustration 18.2.

All in all, you need to be fully motivated but fully motivated is a balance when playing golf. Consequently, you need to apply the mental states above in illustration 18.3 and you need to find the mental state which suits you at the time. GDS will move your motivation up and it can get you to a stage where it becomes too much, especially if you pump too much as described in the corresponding chapter. GRS will move you tension and anxiety down which can make you too relaxed. You need to be aware of your mental state of mind and enter the mental state of mind that is the right one for the time and situation you are in. A combination of the mental states GDS and GTS is called intent.

Which mental state is the best for you and your specific situation at the golf course? There is only one way to find out. Training, training, and training. Training will make you aware and training will enable you to pull the right mental state of mind and the right mental technique at the right time. Much like golf. You pull out the 7 iron, when you need your 7 iron. Awareness of distance, wind, slope position, lei, grass etc. will tell you which iron to use. Pulling out your right mental state also requires awareness and knowledge. A combination of your mental state, your knowledge about mental states, and your skills about mental states, will make you able to enter the right mental state and the balance where you are fully motivated. 

Full challenge is the third key you need to enter the Zone. Once again it is all about the balance. We can be too challenged, and the challenge can be too small. To be in flow and to enter the Zone we need to face a challenge that is just outside our comfort zone. 

This is where your ambition kicks in. It is not going to help you if you set your ambitions too low and, in that way, avoid the challenge. Being over ambitious will not help you either. Once again, you need to find the balance between too much and too little. The right level of challenge and ambition will deliver you at the place where you are in flow when you make a good golf stroke and that is the way to enter the Zone. 

You can also say this in another way. “Flow starts outside the comfort zone”. This a statement you can find on the net, and I do not agree. I would alter it to “Flow starts just outside your comfort zone”. This is a big difference because you need to be at the edge of the comfort zone not far outside the comfort zone if you want to enter a flow situation. My image of this is that I stand over the golf ball. I am inside the comfort zone and the golf ball is just outside the comfort zone. In my mind this makes me feel good. I do my Pre-Shot routine which brings me into my comfort zone and then I place my golf ball just outside my comfort zone. In that way I am on the edge of the comfort zone, ready to enter flow and in that way the Zone. 

Life starts at the end of your comfort zone.

24.2 How to stay in The Zone

Nobody ever made the perfect round of golf without any mistakes. No matter how many or how few strokes you make on a round, some must be imperfect. Such an imperfect golf shot might cause some frustration and bring you away from flow or from the Zone. Now is the time to re-enter the Zone. Many golfers experience flow on a single stroke, a hole or even on several holes. The trick is to stay in the Zone for 18 holes. To do this you need full focus, full motivation, and full challenge on all 18 holes, and you simply need to make sure your focus, motivation and challenge are at the optimal point. When one of them is a tiny bit away from the optimal point, you use the techniques above to get it back. Constant awareness of your mental state, and constant adjustment will make you stay in the Zone. 

My own best round ever was like this and at some point, the other golfers asked for my results. They knew it was very good but how good was it?

My answer was “I do not dear to check it out”. The reason for this answer is that I know that focussing on the result will kick me out of the Zone.