Wednesday, June 1, 2011

How Great Golfers Think, Ch.3 - Meeting Doc

As the chapter title indicates, this chapter tells about how the four golfers meet Doc for the first time. It's a short chapter, but there are a few good nuggets in here: "You can climb any mountain if you take one step at a time" and "a steady application of sound fundamentals will get you anywhere you want to go" are two good ones.

The real meat is in the workbook section, though. The workbook discussion starts out talking about "starting points." From the stories in the workbook about Kenny Perry (Kenny wanting to make the Ryder Cup team in 2008) and Ben Curtis (Ben just wanting to make cuts in 2008), it seems we need to take an honest look at where we are before we figure out where we want to go. And this honest look is both near-term and long-term; in other words, I need to look at, say, where I am here on June 1st and where I want to be on October 1st, but I also need to honestly look at what attitude I bring to the first tee when I start a round of golf. I suppose I could narrow it down even further by being honestly looking at what attitude I bring when I start each individual hole in a round . . . and down to the individual shot . . . wow!

So where am I at this point? I'm an 8.5 handicap who has trouble getting rounds started. For example, I went eight over through seven holes today . . . then I went even par for the next 10 holes. Bogeyed the last for an 81. That's typical for me, too: I'll often find myself going five or six over on the front nine, then one or two on the back, with long stretches of par or better. If I could start out a round the way I play in the middle, I'd probably be much closer to scratch than I am. That's frustrating to me, especially because my goal is to be better than scratch.

It's also important to realize, though, that in achieving the goals we set for ourselves, we really accomplish those goals by taking one step at a time . . . lots of smaller steps, not one big one. In other words, we're not going to accomplish what we want to do instantly. It tend to be impatient with myself; combine that with setting goals that are probably too high for me to reach (at least short-term), and I generally end up frustrated. If I focus on the small steps, realizing that everything's not going to magically work overnight, perhaps I can relax a bit when I start my rounds . . . which will probably allow me to get into the "zone," which is the subject of the next section in the workbook.

Here, the workbooks asks us what it was like when we experienced being in the "zone". For me, I felt calm. My swing had a great tempo. When I missed an approach shot, I felt like my short game could easily save me. I felt like I could see the line of my putts clearly, and I could easily get my putts to follow that line. And I was focused, not internally or externally, just focused . . . focused on what I wanted the ball to do, where I wanted it to go . . . and I knew I could get it to do that. And it almost felt like a jolt when I came out of the zone . . . usually because I start thinking things like "wow, I just went 10 holes at even par."

One of the things that Doc says in this chapter is "While there's never a guarantee you can get into it on any given day, if you develop certain fundamental skills, you will be likely to have those peak experiences more often and for longer periods of time." It's a matter of developing those skills, and the last part of the discussion section asks us what mental skills we'd like to work on and to come up with a goal for that skill. I guess I'd like to have the skill of being patient with myself during a round and being able to focus on the shot at hand at least through impact. Patience I touched on above, but here's what I mean when I talk about that focus: I often find that my attention wanders somewhere in the transition between the backswing and the downswing. If I'm putting, somehow I'll end up looking about two inches in front of and to the right of the ball. If I'm swinging, I'll find myself looking somewhere else. And generally when those things happen, it's because I'm thinking about technique--about how I should be swinging--rather than what I want to ball to do. And when I lose that focus, things generally don't turn out the way I want them to.

Now, how to translate those into goals . . . I'm not sure. Patience: I could set myself target scores more appropriate to my handicap. I'm not going to go out and suddenly break par by four strokes. My lowest score is a 75, and I generally expect to break 80 when I'm out there. Perhaps similar to Ben Curtis in 2008 setting a goal of just trying to make cuts and ending up with $2.5 million in earnings, maybe my goal shouldn't be to break par every time I go out but instead, for now, to break 80 and see what happens. And for focus: perhaps I could rate my focus on each shot and try to improve that score by five each round.

I'll make myself a note of those two things stick it on my golf bag and see what happens the next time I go out.