How Great Golfers Think
The following are three excerpts from How Great Golfers Think – Perfecting Your Mental Game by Bob Skura. The story is about a foursome of golfers who find a mentor to teach them about the mental game of golf and life. In this episode from Chapter One we meet the main characters, Kip, Jason, Frank and Andy.
“Where’s the scorecard?” grumbled Andy.
“Frank’s got it, and he’s in the shower,” Kip said, trying to hold back a smile.
“I hope he’s washing away his bad shots,” Andy wisecracked. “I think we lost all the bets to you and Jason today.”
Every Saturday morning for the past two seasons, Kip, Jason, Andy and Frank have played 18 holes together at the River Bend Golf Club in Aurora, Ohio, a beautiful university town on the outskirts of Cincinnati. Afterward there are usually a few bets to settle over a light meal. However, this Saturday was different; it was the Saturday of Master’s Weekend, the official start of the season for most golfers, bringing with it hope for rebirth on the golf course.
Frank appeared from the locker room, his graying hair still wet, and joined the others. He flicked the foursome’s scorecard onto the table and with an audible sigh slumped into a chair. “Good grief. That was a rough day.”
Kip took the card and started tallying it up, while Jason angled his lanky body so that he could see over his friend’s shoulder. “According to this,” said Kip, “we won the front, the back and the overall. Plus you pressed us once. Dig deep, guys. That makes it four ways.”
“Big deal. We’ll get most of it back,” replied Andy. “The winners have to buy the drinks.”
“Yeah, one of these days we should change that tradition,” Kip chuckled. “I can’t win for losing.”
A natural talent and determined to achieve, Kip Raston is the glue that holds this group together, for the simple reason that he’s the best golfer of the four. At 24 years old, he’s a successful sales rep for an industrial parts manufacturer, a job he’s held since graduating from a Big Ten college, where he captained the golf team. Yet even though he had an impressive college record, Kip has never won a national competition or even one outside his own state. With an athletic, 175-pound body enhanced by a faithful exercise routine, he has all the physical attributes to succeed. But Kip feels his full potential is held back by some elusive mental skill he can’t quite put his finger on.
Readers go on to learn that the other characters are: Jason, a 17 year-old with a 0 Hdcp; Frank, a retired 58 year-old teacher with an 8; and the joker in the group, Andy. He’s 39 years old, owns a roofing company and plays to a 14.
****** END OF EXCERPT #1
This is the second of three excerpts from How Great Golfers Think. In this episode, also from chapter one, we learn that the main character, Kip, has a very special ambition.
“#@%! the lessons. Just go out there and have a good time. That’s the way I play,” Andy proclaimed, raising his glass. “By the way, boys, thanks for the drink!”
“Hah!” Frank responded. “You play for the fun of it, do you, Mr. Volcano? Just how many clubs has fun-loving Andy broken so far this year? According to my calculations, you snapped your driver over your knee on your winter vacation. Then, in your first game back home, you threw your five-iron into never-never land, and just last week you mortally wounded your putter. Some fun, huh?”
“Sounds like our Andy all right,” Kip chuckled. “But you know, besides the lessons we’ve invested in, I bet we could start a pretty good retail outlet with all the clubs, books, videos and swing aids we’ve bought over the years. And tell me: Have any of them actually helped?”
“How come you’re trashing swing aids and instruction magazines? I think they’re awesome.” Jason countered. “Isn’t that why all the players are so good these days?”
“Okay, so they help out some people,” conceded Kip. “But why aren’t guys like us improving more? Like Frank said, we learn more about the game and swing mechanics every day, yet after the age of about 21 or 25, the average player doesn’t seem to get that much better. I wouldn’t say I’m slipping, but I’ve sure started to notice that my improvement has started to level off in the past year or two. The swing aids are helping you now, but probably anything would help at your age. I think we need something more, and I think there’s something extra to help you too. You could use a better mental approach. You’ve even told me so!”
“Forget about it,” Andy persisted. “You guys are going about it all wrong. Just ante up for a new driver every spring and buy yourself a game. I wouldn’t go in for any of that brainy stuff.”
“Brainy stuff? No kidding, partner!” Frank smirked. “Your 95 today certainly wasn’t too brainy for a 14 handicap. It’s a good thing I’m not your partner every week. I’d go broke.”
“Who’s worried? I’ve got lots of room to improve,” Andy grinned. “Kipster here beat me by 25 shots today. He’s so good he doesn’t have anything to look forward to.”
Kip dismissed Andy’s comment with a wave of his hand. “Huh! You think we’re that good, do you? Jason and I won the bets today, but my game wasn’t anything to write home about, considering how easy the course played. We’re just fortunate that the way you guys slapped it around, we could’ve beaten you with a couple of brooms, an apple and an orange.”
“I don’t know what you’re complaining about, Kip,” Jason said with surprise. “With the scores you shoot and the tournaments you’ve won, what else do you want?”
Kip looked off into the distance, as if trying to bring some internal image into focus.
“You know what I really want, Jason? I really want to play in the Masters!”
****** END OF EXCERPT #2
This is the third in a series of four excerpts from How Great Golfers Think. In this episode from Chapter Three the players meet their mentor, ‘Doc,’ and learn that success has a simple starting point.
“So, what it really comes down to is that a steady application of sound fundamentals will get you anywhere you want to go. That’s where The Three Fundamentals Of Success come in.”
“Yeah, Doc. What are those three fundamentals? I’ve been dying to have you tell us about them,” Kip asked impatiently.
“Kip, The 1st Fundamental Of Success is How To Think. You can apply it, and the other fundamentals, to any discipline, which is what makes them so valuable.”
“How To Think,” Kip repeated slowly. “Doc, no disrespect, but isn’t that a bit simple? I expected a little more to sink my teeth into. Something like: how to control my demons, how to trust my swing, or how to handle pressure.”
“The simpler the better, Kip, although I understand where you’re coming from. I’m sure Jason, Andy and Frank are thinking the very same thing, but rest assured, all of your concerns will be covered by the time we finish working through the three fundamentals. How To Think is about your goals and your self-image. We’ll work on that fundamental first.”
“Okay. I’ll buy that,” Kip replied. “So what are the other two fundamentals?”
“I hate to disappoint you, but you aren’t ready for them yet. However, when you start to realize you need something more, you’ll naturally ask new questions. That’s when we’ll move on to the next fundamental.
“And speaking of first things first, what single part of the golf swing has the greatest effect on the overall result? Would it be the address position, the start of the downswing, or something else?” asked Doc.
“The impact position,” Andy guessed.
“Try again,” Doc encouraged.
“Would it be the position at the top of the backswing?” ventured Jason.
“The first foot going back?” suggested Kip.
“Come on, guys. Anyone knows the answer to that,” said Frank. “It’s the set up, or starting point. The things we do closest to the start of any activity have the greatest impact on the outcome.
“Frank’s right,” confirmed Doc. “In fact, Jack Nicklaus was a living example of the importance of a sound starting position. Even after he turned pro, he went to his instructor each spring for a refresher lesson on his grip, posture and alignment. Also, over every shot, in every round of every tournament, he made sure those basics were in order before he started his takeaway. Of course, you could try making corrections in midstream like most golfers do, but there’s no need to work that hard.”
Andy, trying to make sense of all this, summed it up with an analogy. “Doc, you mean it’s sort of like me getting into the doghouse with my wife, and then buying her a gift to make up for what I did wrong. It’d probably be better if I just did the right thing in the first place.”
“You’re catching on. The 3 Fundamentals of Success are to our mental games what your grip, alignment and posture are to your physical games. The more solidly you build your starting points, the fewer corrections you’ll have to make later on.”
************* END OF EXCERPT 3
And with that Doc promises to meet with his new friends every two weeks to round out their mental game education. Over time they come to discuss the following:
The First Fundamental of Success – How to Think
Goals, Segmenting, Self-Image
The Second Fundamental of Success – How to Talk
Self-Talk, Body-Talk, Self-Fulfilling Prophecies
The Third Fundamental of Success – How to Play
Absorbing, Imagining, The Zone.