Thursday, May 19, 2011

How Great Golfers Think, Ch.2 - An Unexpected Referral

Chapter two in How Great Golfers Think basically gives a bit of background on the "Doc" character, setting up his qualifications and telling us that the techniques in the book are backed by research in various fields (documented as endnotes to the book). It's all presented as part of the story, and it's interesting, but there's not much applicable to my game here . . . that's where the workbook comes in.

The workbook section for chapter two is short; in fact, there are only two questions to answer, but they are important:

1) Can you think of anyone from another discipline who could teach you something about mental skills that you could apply to golf?

2) Can you think of any non-human resources that could teach you something about mental skills?

My first thought to answer #1 is my wife: I tend to be driven to master the things I try to do. I don't necessarily need to be "the best" at something, but if I'm going to do something, I'm going to try to do it really, really well. My wife makes a point to tell me (and she follows her own advice, too) that sometimes it's OK just to enjoy doing something without having to be excellent at it. In other words, let go and enjoy the journey that is golf. But that's not really using the skills from her "discipline" . . . she's a nurse, and if she were to just "let go and enjoy it" there, I'm pretty sure the patients would have issues with that.

So actually thinking about the skills from another discipline, I think about work. I'm a software engineer, and I'm surrounded by software engineers, some of whom have amazing focus and attention to detail. I, too, tend to be able to focus on the task at hand pretty well, but sometimes on the golf course, I "waste" my focus thinking intensely about the previous or next shot while I'm in between shots, and then, when I'm at the ball ready to swing, I lose the focus because my mind is tired. One of my mentors early in my programming career told me that sometimes it's necessary to get up from your work and take a walk around the block, stretch, or just take some deep breaths, and then come back to the task at hand, refreshed and able to focus again. In other words, he was saying to take a break from the focus when necessary in order to be able to focus when it was time. That's definitely something I can work on, and it's pretty closely related to what my wife keeps telling me, too :).

I mentioned, too, attention to detail. For some reason, when I'm on the golf course, I tend to rush into a shot. I line up my target, maybe take some practice swings, address the ball and swing. Then I'll wonder why I pushed the ball 40 yards right of my target or hit a nasty hook, only to see that's exactly how I was set up. While I don't want to be one of those players that agonizes for 10 minutes over a shot, there are definitely some easy things I could add to my routine: checking how the ball is sitting in the grass (especially now that flyers are more common with the 2010 groove rule); making sure I've taken into account whether the ball is above or below my feet; whether or not I truly feel comfortable with the practice swings I'm making and not actually addressing the ball until I do feel "graceful". These are all details I need to be aware of, so applying the attention to detail necessary for the work my colleagues and I do would probably help my game.

Finally, answering question number two: non-human resources to teach mental skills. Thinking about work again, I wonder if thinking of my swing as a "computer" is apropos. In my "Be Graceful" post, I mentioned something about keeping an image of the shot shape/ball flight I wanted in my mind through impact. I wonder if that's a way of "programming" my swing to get me the outcome I want . . . it seems to have worked the last time I was out.

As well, in a computer, the hardware matters, but to be really useful you need a program to run on the hardware. You don't really think about the hardware (the mechanics) while the program is running. So perhaps the idea here is to keep that image "program" running through the swing and not get distracted by the mechanics of the swing itself. When I focus on the mechanics of the swing during a round, I tend not to be happy with the outcome of my shots. Conversely, my best scores (and my most enjoyable rounds) have come when I can forget about mechanics and can clearly see in my imagination what I want the ball to do. I let the program run, making use of the hardware it needs to work the way I want it to.

So, three things to keep in mind when I'm out playing golf next time:
1) Have fun and be able to give up focus in between shots to keep your focus when you need it over the ball
2) Pay attention to the details surrounding the shot, noting the kinds of things that will affect the outcome
3) Once I've decided on a shot, keep the "program" (the image of the flight and the outcome I want) in mind while I swing through impact.

So, I guess having answered those questions, it looks like I'm ready to move on to chapter three.

No comments:

Post a Comment