First, a little bit about the format of the book for those who may not be familiar with it: How Great Golfers Think takes the form of a story with a series of conversations between a number of characters. Bob Skura writes in the introduction: "I chose to use conversations between realistic, though fictional, golfers in an imaginary setting so that the book's lessons come across as a story line rather than a lecture." Seems like this would be effective, at least for me. It also makes it easier to read and, I think, more interesting.
Chapter one is mostly an introduction to the characters we'll be following through the book, but it raises two important points, I think: 1) the mental side of golf is as important as the physical side of the game, and 2) having goals helps us improve. One of my favorite lines is this: "Who knows what the key is for each individual, but there's probably a personal goal that can give each of us the fresh approach to the game we had when we were just starting to play. We just have to find it." (p. 11)
I'm a goal-setter; it's what I do. And sometimes I feel like my own goals are "too ambitious." I'd like to be a +3 handicap . . . for some reason, I feel like if I can get to a +3, I'll be "satisfied" (I know I won't be ;)). And I'd like to have a real shot at a top-ten in a USGA-sanctioned amateur event. What's different about these "goals" for me is that I haven't really taken them seriously. Normally, I'll sit down and think about what I need to do to accomplish something. I'll figure out the kinds of things I need to do to accomplish a goal, make at least a mental map of steps, then I'll stick to it, revising that map as I go along. Instead, so far these "goals" seem more like "wishes" to me . . . more "wouldn't it be cool if?" than "this is something I'm going to do."
Though I've read the book before, and I know there's more about goals down the line, I can't remember what it says about making goals real. We'll see when we get there. In the meantime, though, the workbook at the end of each chapter has a section that says "you are ready to move on if you. . . ." For this chapter, the assessment criteria are 1) if you "have considered trying to achieve an exciting goal" and 2) if you "have assessed if you are using a balanced approach to your physical and mental improvement." Since I've mentioned my goals above, I guess I meet criteria one.
As for criteria two, up until this point, I've believed that the mental side was important, and my library is full of books on the mental game of golf. But I guess I haven't really structured a mental approach in the same way that I've structured my physical practice. So I'm not at this point using a balance approach, but I guess that's an assessment, so I'm good to move on :). I'm hoping that as I get into the book more, I'll find a way to create a plan for "mental practice."
On a side note: It's amazing how much I don't remember about this book even though I've read it before . . . one more reason for doing this.