Silence the ‘Chimp’ By Distracting Him


Editor’s Note: This is the third installment of Iain Highfield’s unique series on his OSVEA system (Options, Selection, Visualization, Execution and Acceptance), which includes taming what he calls  “The Chimp,” that ancient part of the brain that instills fear and tension in human beings, including golfers.

This task can be as easy as 1,2,3.

For the inner Chimp to be effective, it’s evolved in such a way that it can only focus on one thing at a time. Therefore if we provide something for the Chimp to focus on, it can free up our brain and body and help us take a step toward our intention – namely, getting the ball in the hole.

One of the most effective ways I have witnessed for distracting the negative brain is for the player to simply count. In fact, in my experience, there are many performance variations and benefits that counting can become the catalyst for. There are also many ways that we can train this skill and I’d suggest attempting them all to find which one works best for you.

Ultimately, the focus of the challenge is to assess not only how effectively you can employ a distraction technique, but also gain a sense of how this simple process can help you achieve flow, gain rhythm and reduce tension.



Step 1

Count to 20 out loud, listen to how it sounds and feel how the numbers flow from your body.

Step 2

Then begin to count as you take practice swings with an imaginary club, walking towards an imaginary golf ball (still counting) and taking a swing. Again notice how the sound of the counting flows – was it any different to when you simply counted out loud? If so repeat the process, trying to make the two states feel the same.

Step 3

When you’ve successfully matched the feeling of the count, add a club and pay attention to the timing, flow, feelings and rhythm as you pass through your routine counting out loud.

Step 4

By now you may feel like you have achieved a state of flow and rhythm to what you are doing –  for example your 1,2,3 may be your practice swing; 4,5,6 is when you stare at the target (Photo 1);  7,8,9,10 is when you walk to and address the ball; 11, 12 is your waggle (Photo 2); 13, 14 your backswing (Photo 3) and 15 is your down swing and follow-through (Photo 4). As soon as you have created a similar sequence, now you can add the ball.

Now the real challenge is to keep the flow of the numbers, feelings and how the number sounds the same as before you introduced the ball. However, I should probably remind you that lurking inside this innocuous looking ball is your old friend, the Chimp. The ball will trigger your negative and protectively anxious mind, and if you’re not careful your focus can easily shift from the process of building flow to the outcome of the shot.

Once rhythm and flow is established and ball striking feels solid, you can pass through the four levels detailed below to increase your retention of these skills and enable you to more effectively transfer them to the course.

Level 1 = Hit while counting out loud

Level 2 = Coach/friend and player count alternate numbers

Level 3 = Introduce target and random targets while counting

Level 4 = On-course counting throughout the swing


As you develop the ability to count your way throughout the shot it becomes impossible for your negative thoughts to occur, as your inner Chimp is only able to process one thing at a time (in this instance it would be the numbers). Silencing our Chimp will also significantly reduce the chance of technical impedance in the shot.

This Process goal can become an integral part of your Execution component of the Five-Step OSVEA process.

For more information on Iain Highfield and his OSVEA system at Bishops Gate Golf Academy and the International Junior Academy, e-mail him at

Read Part 1

Read Part 2


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