The Golfer Within

Find the Golfer Inside

One day, golfing with my Grandfather, I grabbed a club walked to my ball and prepared to hit a safe lay-up shot short of the water protecting a huge green. My Graps asked what I was doing and why. He knew I could easily reach the hole with a 6 or even a 7 iron and wondered aloud about my reasoning for taking a safe, albeit, boring shot with the shorter club. I told him I just didn’t feel confident with my longer iron and was afraid to hit into the water.
He asked, “Dave, if you weren’t afraid and did feel confident, what club what you use?” My response was of course I would hit the 7 iron. He told me to grab the 7 iron, act like I had confidence and was without fear and put the ball on the green. That was maybe the first time I found the golfer inside.
For the rest of my life when I was faced with Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt I would strive to find the fearless, confident or certain person inside. Did it always work, did I always find that person? No, of course not. But it did and does work most of the time. When I have chosen to find and draw out the person inside, I have never, ever, lost anything more valuable than a golf ball. I have always found much more value than I had risked.
How did my grandfather know that the golfer inside me could make that shot that day to that green? He knew because I had spent hours on the practice tee executing shots just like that. He knew because he had spent hours teaching me what a good swing would feel and look like. He knew because he had spent years teaching me to act bravely and do what needed to be done. He knew what I did not yet know, that a golfer inside me could and would make that shot.
Choosing to act without mental recognition of failure or defeat is what he taught me. Preparing for whatever hazards that lie in wait, so they end up as just pretty ponds, is what he taught me.
To find the golfer inside, you must put a golfer inside.
I love to listen to the dialogue between a world class golfer and her caddie. Often the last words from the caddie are, “Alright, you’ve got this!” I imagine the final words or thoughts of the brain surgeon, just before raising the scalpel, are, “I’ve got this!” I am certain that every remarkable achievement has followed the unshakeable belief that ‘I’ve got this’. They have all earned the right to say and believe without doubt, “I have got this!”
This is not to say that somehow every ordinary human being can miraculously rise to the occasion at hand without adequate preparation. As Dirty Harry said, “A man’s gotta know his limits.”
This is about becoming the golfer you want to be. Is that golfer you want to be; a club champion, a bogie golfer, the best short game player in the group or the week-end duffer that has the best time? Defining the golfer, you want to put inside is the first step.
Take a few minutes to describe, on paper, the golfer you want to be. The more detail the better. How will others describe you? What will your golfer epitaph be? Ok, so it will probably take more than a few minutes, and will most likely be a work in progress. Describe the swing, the attitude, the style, the skill level of that golfer inside you. Jot down a few role models. Are you an Arnie or a Phil? Maybe your inner golfer is Bryson Dechambeu or Moe Norman. I like to see my inner golfer being as cool as Freddie Couples and as tough as Tiger Woods. Hey, it’s my imagination and my inner golfer. I get to pick!
Building the golfer inside.
Now that you have a mental and physical description of that golfer inside you, your inner golf self, it’s time to build him and begin using him.
Step One: Learn all you can learn. Imagine all you can imagine. Figure out how to do it. You need to learn because learning means understanding what somebody else already imagined. No one taught Pythagoras the Pythagorean Theory. Did someone teach Einstein that E=MC2 ? Before they could imagine those keys to everything someone must have taught them something.
Do you know what causes a ball to slice? Someone does. Bernoulli perhaps, or a good golf instructor. When you know what causes a ball to slice, then maybe you can imagine a swing that will cause a ball to draw. You have imagined a swing that draws the ball, now how do you execute that swing?
Use everything you have learned, every bit of your imagination to clearly visualize the sequence of events that will create a motion that executes a swing that will draw the ball. Now go out and try to swing the club like you imagined the swing to look. This is learning, not practice. Learn until you know exactly what you must do to draw the ball. Use video, an observer or an instructor to help you learn to execute a swing that draws the ball.
It might take a few minutes or several months to learn the swing that gets the specific result you are looking for. Learning means failure. Do you know how many different attempts it took for Edison to finally get a light bulb to light?
Things a great golfer learns: How to hit high, low, short, far, straight, curving, stopping, rolling, long swing, short swing, hit the sweet spot, hit on the toe, hit on the heel, hit on the back of the club, hit it thin, hit it fat, tee it high, tee it low, know when to hold ‘em know when to fold ‘em.
Step Two: Practice what you know you should do. Practice until you can do what you know you should do. Practice until your inner golfer is as good as the inner golfer you intended to create. Practice with a singular purpose, to learn to execute the motion of the swing. You don’t learn to draw the ball, you learn to execute a motion that draws the ball.
I often hear from my students that the swing doesn’t work because the ball didn’t do what they wanted. The ball can only react to the motion of the swing, can never react to your intentions. If the ball didn’t do what you wanted, it is most likely not the design of the swing but the execution of the design.
Practice never ends. You change over time, your body changes, your mind changes, you get older! Practice helps you maintain your expectations and abilities, even increase them, as time goes inexorably by. As my Graps said, “You are either green and growing or ripe and rotting.”
Practice builds skills and until it is a skill you are still learning.
Step Three: Test yourself in a real-world scenario. When you believe you have practiced enough to have developed the skills needed to execute the swing motion regularly and consistently it is time to test it. Kind of like a dress rehearsal for a play. Now is the time to judge everything based on what the ball does.
If you have been learning and practicing a high flop, the ball better do a high flop. This is a real world, on the golf course as it lies, golf shot. Hopefully you have a friendly course where you can go try some shots from various locations to see if you can execute the shot at a moment’s notice. During a friendly round put the new shot into play. Put a wager on the shot to create a little pressure. If your goal is to win the club championship, you better practice this new motion countless times.
When asked how much training and practice a runner needed to run in a marathon, the coach said about 2000 miles worth, “But not all on the weekend before the race!”
This doesn’t mean you don’t run in any races, just don’t run in the big one. As a golfer try out your new swing in skins games or league play, understanding that it is just a rehearsal swing. . .its not the main event.
The day of reckoning! Today is the reason you did all the work. Today is opening day on Broadway, the biggest skins game of the year, the Club Championship, the day that is the first day you start using your inner golfer.
Step One: Review what you know. Think about it!
Step Two: Practice with a purpose.
Step Three: Rehearse.
Step four: Act with confidence.
Breathe in Breathe out go to the next shot.