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The Golfer's Mind

Play to Play Great

The Golfer's Mind by Bob Rotella
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Introduction: My Top Ten

All of the rings and all of the money and all of the color and display -- they linger only in memory. The spirit, the will to win and excel, these are the things that endure. The quality of any man's life is the full measure of his commitment to excellence and to victory, regardless of what field he might be in.

-- Vince Lombardi

I teach the psychology of greatness. The way I teach it varies.

When I first begin to work with a client, I like to arrange for him or her to come to my home in Virginia. We spend a couple of days together, some of it in conversation and some of it on the golf course. I get to know the client thoroughly. He is immersed in my ideas about using the mind to achieve greatness, about playing to play great, about bringing the best possible attitude to play and practice.

After that, the nature of my contact with my clients may change. Some of them still like to come to Virginia periodically for a long session. But others prefer shorter talks on specific issues and problems that have arisen in their careers. I might meet them for lunch or dinner in a town that's hosting a golf tournament. We might chat on the putting green or the practice range. Sometimes we talk over the phone while he's in a hotel room and I'm at an airport.

This book is akin to that second category of counseling sessions. In fact, it arises partly from them. When I talk to a player who says, "Doc, I'm having trouble trusting my swing," I review the fundamental ideas about the necessity of trust and why it helps a golfer produce the best shots he's capable of making. Players have often wished I had a book, a handbook if you will, that could serve the same function and reinforce those conversations. This is that book.

If you're completely unfamiliar with sports psychology as I teach it and with its application to golf, you might want to consult one of my earlier books, like Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect. It's my primer on how great golfers think.

Often what I hear from readers of those earlier books is something to the effect that, "Your ideas were really helpful right after I read them, Doc, but lately they don't seem to work well." What that tells me is not that the ideas have gotten less effective. It tells me that over time, the reader has forgotten some of them. Or he's reverted to old ways of thinking, perhaps without realizing it.

This doesn't surprise me. The players with whom I work individually are prone to the same problem. If the issue is trusting the swing for instance, they might be able to do it very well in the months after we have our initial session. It's one of the things I stress. But over time, a golfer is exposed to a barrage of contradictory ideas. People are telling him to think about the way his hands cock the club or the ratio between his hip turn and his shoulder turn. If he's a professional, he gets this sort of advice from renowned instructors on the practice range at Tour venues. If he's an average player, he gets it from magazines and television. Pretty soon, instead of trusting his swing and thinking about his target, he's thinking about pronation while he's on the golf course. He's trying to swing while his mind sorts through bits and pieces of conflicting advice. That's difficult to do.

When this happens with one of my established clients, I review the essentials with him. This book is an effort to do the same thing for readers. It's a distilled version of what I teach.

So often, in those telephone sessions, I return to ten fundamental points of good golf thinking. If Moses hadn't already copyrighted the name, I would be tempted to call them my ten commandments for playing great golf. I know that if a player adheres to them, he can find out exactly how low his skills are prepared to take him on any given round. Here they are:

I. Play to play great. Don't play not to play poorly.

II. Love the challenge of the day, whatever it may be.

III. Get out of results and get into process.

IV. Know that nothing will bother or upset you on the golf course, and you will be in a great state of mind for every shot.

V. Playing with a feeling that the outcome doesn't matter is almost always preferable to caring too much.

VI. Believe fully in yourself so you can play freely.

VII. See where you want the ball to go before every shot.

VIII. Be decisive, committed, and clear.

IX. Be your own best friend.

X. Love your wedge and your putter.

These ideas may sound obscure or strange to you. If you finish reading this book, they won't. I intend to explain each of them, and by the time I'm done, you will understand why they're so important. I hope you'll want to re-read them often.

The first person who suggested the format for this book to me was the late Davis Love, Jr. He and I worked together on the staff of Golf Digest Schools before his tragic death in a plane crash in 1988. He told me once that he wished there was a book of instruction on the mental side of golf, broken down into topics. He thought that a player could carry the book with him or keep it close by. When he needed to refresh his thinking about a particular issue, he could consult the book, read it for a few minutes, and come away with sound advice aimed at his problem. Not only do I owe the idea behind this book to Davis Love, Jr., I owe him so much more. He taught me a lot about golf, and he was a great friend. That's why the book is dedicated to him.

I hope readers will use this book as Davis Love, Jr., envisioned. You might want to read it in its entirety first. After your first consultation, I intend the book to be available as a handbook. You may want to consult some chapters, like "A Golfing Philosophy" on a regular basis, because it's so easy to lose track of the fundamental ideas in that chapter. If you're getting ready for a tournament and you feel the need for some advice on putting, for example, or acceptance, or game plan, you can go right to the chapters on those topics. Read as much as you need. Use the thoughts at the end of each chapter for a quick refresher. Put the book aside and come back to it when you need it again.

Sometimes people ask me if I teach psychological "techniques." I don't. The word "technique" suggests to me some sort of mental parlor trick. I don't want you to have faith in a technique. I want you to have faith in yourself. Your mind can be a powerful tool that will help you realize your dreams and aspirations. But you have to control it and use it properly. You have to coach yourself. You have to believe in yourself.

What I teach is both simple and difficult. It's simple, for instance, to say that you have to be committed before you start your swing, that doubt and indecision can ruin a shot. But on the course, it's not so easy to be committed. It takes discipline and practice.

The fact that it's hard is one reason it's worthwhile. Having control of your mind and using it properly can separate you from the competition, whether it's at your club or on the PGA Tour.

I believe that virtually every golfer has the potential to be much better than he or she is, and that using the mind is one essential way to improve. You will never know if you have the ability to be the best player in the world, or the best player in your club, unless you commit yourself to developing both your physical and mental skills. This book can be part of that commitment.

"Commitment" can be an imposing word. It can suggest that using your mind properly is an onerous chore, that you might shoot lower scores, but enjoy the game less. Trust me. The players I know who have the best minds also have the most fun playing golf. They understand that it is, in the end, a game. They have a ball finding out how good they can be at it.

So can you.

Copyright © 2004 by Robert J. Rotella
Free Press; June 2008
192 pages; ISBN 9781439103395
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Title: The Golfer's Mind
Author: Bob Rotella; Bob Cullen
Buy, download and read The Golfer's Mind (eBook) by Bob Rotella; Bob Cullen today!
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