Neuroscience & a gofler’s controversial choice on winning the point for the European, 2015 Solheim Cup

Why was Suzanne’s only option in the heat of competition: ‘I did not give her that putt’?sp2aShe is a professional golfer. She knows the rules, understands that integrity and sportsmanship are as important to the game of golf as being a world-class golfer.

Yet in that moment, at the zenith of competing, she chose winning a point for Europe over being a professional sports person.

How does that happen? Let me explain from a neuroscience perspective.

Suzanne’s brainwaves where racing on a narrow focused highway in execute mode to win for her country, no matter what. Another way to give you a picture of narrow focus; it is like a thin light beam on the target …  you only see what’s inside the light beam. She could only think inside her narrow focus of win, no matter what.

Think about when you have been a laser to getting what you want. Maybe you push and shove people to get to that celebrity autograph or continually interrupt people to make your own point. And … if you are watching others doing those behaviors, you rip them for being idiots.

When you are in narrow focus, it is mentally impossible to see a different point of view. You must switch focus and widen your mental periphery to enable you to strategize your next move.

Within 24 hours Suzanne posted her heartfelt apology.

Imagine, if in that crucial moment on the 17th green during the last day of competition, she knew which mental tool to pull out of her bag switching her into strategy mode … knowing how to slow her brain down. You bet she would have made a different choice.

Tip: How to switch your narrow focus from execute mind set’ (fast) to strategy mind set’ (slow)

When you are in narrow focus momentum, you don’t stop and think; you execute with emotion, brainwaves speed up.

When you strategize the action removing emotion from the process, brainwaves slow down.

Let  break it down from a neuroscience mind set:

  • Remove all emotion from the process. You can’t determine the goal until you see all sides of the conversation.
  • Strategize the action you are about to take; walk your mind through the process without emotion
    brainwaves slow down to 9-11 hertz leaving space between your thoughts for options
  • Release all attachment from the decision and take a mental vacation.
    brainwaves slow down to 6-7 hertz, letting go of all prejudiced thought.
  • Now revisit your choice. Bring the emotion back in; 16 hertz
  • Establish your own personal standard All’s well, feeling good.
  • Execute with emotion; 42 hertz! You are rockin’… Everyone’s favorite space.


Golfers switch between these two mind sets with every golf shot they hit.

When golfers are stuck in the strategy mind set while hitting a golf ball, they over think and hit the ball in the water; you have lost execute mode.

If you are in execute mode when you should be in strategy mode, you make poor choices as Suzanne did; as Jean van de Velde’s epic strategy choices exhibited during the 1999 British Open when he triple bogeyed the last hole.

Give yourself a break the next time you make an idiot decision at work or hit an idiot golf shot. If the best players in the world can do it, you know you can too!

It is always what you do after the mistake that determines a champion.
Suzanne Pettersen is a true champion.
   Suzanne’s instagram