John Weir isn’t a golf professional, and he doesn’t sell any of those gimmicky golf training aid you may see advertised on the Golf Channel, but he insists he can help shave several strokes off your game.
How? Through hypnosis.
Weir, 28, has been fascinated with hypnosis since he was 18, and his sister Carolyn was hypnotized at a motivational program in their hometown of Pittsburgh. The hypnotist made his sister so rigid that he laid her face down across two chairs and stood on the small of her back to finish his lecture. Weir was immediately hooked.
Weir went on to study psychology at Point Park University in Pittsburgh and became certified in hypnosis in 2001. He has helped people stop smoking, lose weight, improve sleep, gain confidence and overcome stress, depression and social anxieties.
“People think they’re relinquishing control of their mind to a hypnotist,” Weir said. “That’s not the case. What we do is help people take back control of their minds.”
Weir enjoyed a successful practice working with hospitals in Pittsburgh, but four years ago he experienced an epiphany. He took up golf.
Weir never took a golf lesson, but through self-hypnosis he applied the techniques he used in his clinical practice to his golf game: focus, confidence, trust and staying relaxed and loose. Weir replaced his negative thoughts with a vision of his perfect swing. Within a year, he chopped 20 strokes off his score and began averaging in the mid- to low-80s even though he rarely hit balls at a range.
Soon Weir’s family and friends sought his assistance. His father took eight strokes off his handicap in one season. His 84-year-old grandfather had a handicap in the mid-20s, but after one session, he shot a 78 in his league.
Weir began working with other golfers in Pittsburgh and appreciated their motivation and willingness to do anything to improve, unlike some of the down-on-their-luck patients he worked with in hospitals.
So Weir moved to Myrtle Beach, S.C., and opened his golf hypnosis practice in April.
Last weekend, he conducted seminars at the annual convention of the National Guild of Hypnotists at the Royal Plaza Hotel & Trade Center in Marlboro and remained in the region to teach a golf program Tuesday.
On Monday at Cyprian Keyes Golf Club in Boylston, Weir’s powers of suggestion were put to the test. He agreed to try to solve the biggest golf woes of myself, T&G sportswriter Paul Jarvey and local golf pro Jim Fenner. I’ve had so much trouble hitting my irons that I’ve pretty much given them up in favor of hybrids. Jarvey stabs at his short chip shots near the green, and Fenner turns his right hand over so much on lag putts that he has tried putting left-handed and cross-handed.
Unlike what you have seen in the movies, Weir didn’t swing a watch. During our session, we didn’t even swing a club. While we sat in the clubhouse, Weir told us to close our eyes and imagine that they were too heavy to open. For some reason, I panicked and wanted to run out of the room. Instead, I opened my eyes, and Weir suggested that in the interest of time I observe the other two. They soon fell into a deep hypnotic state. Weir had Jarvey and Fenner extend their left arms and convinced them that they couldn’t lower them. Neither could.
“It felt stiff,” Jarvey admitted later. “It was a strange feeling.”
Under hypnosis, Jarvey admitted to a lack of confidence when chipping and Fenner admitted he couldn’t relax when putting. Weir basically told Jarvey to replace his negative thoughts when chipping with the positive thoughts he experienced when writing, and he urged Fenner to replace his negative thoughts when putting with the positive thoughts he felt when teaching. At the end of the session, Weir told Jarvey and Fenner to open their eyes and asked them how long they thought the session had lasted. Jarvey guessed 20 minutes, Fenner 5 to 10. The session actually lasted 45.
Jarvey, Fenner and I then headed out to play 18 holes to see if the hypnosis had helped.
Fenner turned his wrists on his first putt, but not as much afterward. Weir’s session reminded him to stick with a pre-shot routine and visualize each putt dropping into the cup.
“It helped take some of the anxiety out of the long putts,” Fenner said. “Rather than taking my time and relaxing and hitting the shot, I was rushing through it, and that added to the problems.”
Later in the week, Fenner said he had never putted better.
Jarvey didn’t need to take many short chips much during our round, but he said he was more relaxed in general.
“Did I think it was worthwhile? Yes,” Jarvey said. “But I can’t say that it shaved any strokes off my score today.”
Weir admitted that hypnosis is not a quick fix. He can make hypnotic suggestions, but the golfer must practice Weir’s techniques, the same way a golfer must practice the swing changes that a golf pro suggests.
“It’s like a doctor prescribing the medication,” Weir said. “They can give you all the medication in the world, but it’s still up to the person to take it.”
Weir suggests mental drills and follow-up sessions. For more information, visit his Web site, www.johnweirhypnosis.com.
Although, I wasn’t actually hypnotized, listening to Weir seemed to help anyway. I was definitely more relaxed. I shot my best round of the year and improved my best score at Cyprian at this season by 10 shots. On my second nine, I shot 1 over par. Maybe it was a coincidence because I still hit hybrids instead of most irons.
But maybe it wasn’t.