Silence The ‘Chimp’ With Tension Awareness

Editor’s Note: This is the second 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. You can get caught up with the series at


Visualization in golfing terms could be classed as feeling, seeing or hearing the shot you are about to hit. This simple exercise can help you build tension awareness and create an effective process goal, helping you to silence the unhelpful screeches of your inner Chimp. It can be a productive exercise, particularly for players with a propensity to “tense up” under a perceived pressure – ferociously squeezing the club over the last few holes every time victory is in sight.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique has been used by elite athletes for years and is scientifically proven to enhance performance. Simply put, it’s the systematic tensing of particular muscle groups in your body, releasing the tension in order to recognize and appreciate how your muscles feel when relaxed.

This express version of the technique can be used as part of your practice routine, helping transform it into a more purposeful warm-up. By quantifying the feelings it provides, you can create a process goal that keeps you in the moment, silences the Chimp and leads to far more fluid swing motion.


Step 1

Place your club on the floor at your feet and relax your jaw, neck, shoulders, hands and abs. We’ll refer to this state as “level zero tension.” (Photo 1)

Silence The Chimp

Step 2

Now slowly dial up tension in each of these areas of your body from zero to level 2, 4 then 6 going all the way to maximum tension (your level 10) in each of these body parts. (Photos 2-7)

Silence The ChimpStep 3

Repeat this process 5-6 times and then pick up your golf club and immediately make some practice swings, with the tempo and speed you desire to have when you’re on the course. As you do this try to quantify the level of tension in your hands and in your jaw – assign a number from your scale for the tension you feel in these parts of your body. It may help to close your eyes to enhance the sensations of your practice swing. (Photos 8-10)

Silence The ChimpStep 4

After completing several practice swings, the ball is introduced only at the point when you feel your tension levels are properly under control.

Step 5

When the ball is introduced, you’re effectively going to sign a mental contract with yourself – committing to a swing that maintains a certain level of hand or jaw tension. Don’t be afraid to change the levels and find your optimum. (Also, a handy way to maintain low jaw tension is to balance a potato chip between your teeth.)

We can build up the intensity of this challenge by working through the following levels:

Level 1 = No target

Level 2 = One target

Level 3 = Random targets

Level 4 = Random targets and shot shapes


By forcing you to recognize how the body acts and reacts under tension, you become able to manage it and gain fluid movement. Through this tension management technique you’re able to identify an optimum level that you are then able to take into competition, in the form of a process goal, and silence the Chimp. This Process goal can become an integral part of your Visualization and or Execution segments of the Five-Step OSVEA process.

For more information on Iain Highfield and his OSVEA system at Bishops Gate Golf Academy in Central Florida, e-mail him at

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