So I've 'caught' the golf bug early. I love the game. Compared to my main sporting love of cricket, golf offers a completely different sporting paradigm. First, there is no one you can rely on - other than yourself. It doesn't matter how others do, it will have no bearing on your score - as the cliché would go "It's you against the golf course."
In addtion, it's the only sport where you have to master 20+ different techniques in order to complete a single round. At least in cricket, I can concede that I'm not a bowler - in golf however, there is no hiding place!
Before taking the sport up 'semi-seriously' in September 2016, I've played the odd round here or there - mainly on holiday or with my old cricket coach - never taking it seriously and always scoring near the 120 mark.
Golf is an extremely expensive sport to get into. + First, you have to buy the clubs (14 of them for a full set), + A bag to put them in, + Clothes (you can't just wear antyhing on a golf course), + Green Fees - in order to play + Lessons (if you want to be any good...) and so on...
So, like all millenials, I turned to YouTube for guidance on how to get better at golf.
In one of of his 'Q+A Friday' videos, someone asked Peter Finch about 'golf books' and whether they were worthwhile buying and reading. In particular, he recommended one book - Golf is not a Game of Perfect by Dr Bob Rotella.
My friend bought this book and lent it to me - so here's my review.
Bottom line is - this book is amazing! Although it is specifically aimed at golf - there are so many theories, mindsets, habits etc that can all be applied to everyday life.
Whilst reading it, I started writing notes on phrases and what I would call 'take-away phrases' - that I could take out onto the golf course. So the text below is just my notes from the book - stuff that I thought would be useful to 'take away' from the book. (So basically, in parts, it's not going to make sense...)
The book's aim was to help you 'be the best on every shot - out in the pressure cooker'. There's no point in being good on the driving range, it's all about being good on the course. I compared this with cricket. I've seen some players, over the years, who look a million dollars in the nets, but when they get out in the middle - they're useless. They can play a great defensive shot, but then don't run, they don't 'steal a single', rotate the strike - all things you learn by being in the 'field of battle'.
KISS - Keep it Simple Stupid
The first thing I wrote down was KISS - an acronym my Dad used to bang on about when I was younger (and still does now). KISS stands for Keep It Simple Stupid. Whilst reading the introduction, I thought I'd sum the book up in its entirety. "Keep it Simple" - and you'll reap the rewards - however, as I read on, fair enough it's about 'keeping it simple' - but how?
Dr Rotella mentions how most literature out there is about improving the 'basic' skills - the swing, grip, stance - but there was nothing out there on how the mind works. "They can't video the mental side." - and thats what the book was going to delve into.
Good athletes create their own reality
It doesn't matter what others do, you can only focus on what you do to be better.
Before each shot, pick out the smallest target and aim for that.
Dr Rotella made a big point about having a 'pre-shot routine!' - "Look at the target, look at the ball and swing." - He made the comparison to professional golfers. "Yes, some of them take an age to take their shot - but he said 'seeing as the ball goes exectly where they want it to go, they can afford that extra time. That's because they are making up the time by not playing the extra shots that you and I are normally making."
I took a liking to this statement. In cricket, I have a routine (especially when I am wicket keeping) - and it works. Why? Because I'm relaxed, I'm not trying to correct my technique out in the field - I'm just 'keeping' - so why not take that into golf?!
Take as many practice shots as you like.
"Take as many as you like, as long as you are happy with the shot right before you take your shot. This may mean you take one practice shot, or five." - the phrase "You're only good as your last shot" rings true in this scenario.
To finish the stuff on the pre-shot routine, he goes on to say this :
"No matter what happens with any shot you hit, accept it. Acceptance is the last step in a sound routine"
If you are not spending 70% of your practice time on shots from 120 yards in, you're not trying to become the best golfer you can be.
From inside the threshold (120 yards), think about holing the shot."
Good players have to be relaxed. For example, attitude is what makes a great putter - it's more important being decisive."
"Enjoy Winning Ugly!"
This statement triggered a few thoughts - not just sport related. A lot of the motivational/success 'quotes' that you get on the Internet relate to this statement. The fact is that if you look at a 'successful' person - if you think that they got there without any roadblocks, seamlessly then you are kidding yourselves. It takes discipline. Whether its going out for a run when its chucking it down in rain, or doing revision in a train station - it all counts.
Thow away your expectations as soon as you step onto the course.
It's just a game of golf - not life and death. If you are going on the course expecting the world - you are going to be severly disappointed. Just enjoy it!
Mantaining confidence is like swimming against the current, you've got to work hard to stay where you are.
This is such a cliché 'sense of quote' to compare it to - but most successful ideas are 1% imagination, 99% perspiration.
Hit the shot you know you can hit - Conservative strategy, cocky swing
Why go for the miracle shot every time? More likely than not you are going to fail and end up in a worse position than you would have been if you had played within yourself.
The book was really good at giving the theory but giving examples on how that theory was put into practice - with real life examples. I remember one example where one golfer (I cannot remember his name - but he was an avid gambler) gambled that his high handicapper student would beat this other golfer's mid handicapper student - so long as he was caddying his high handicapper.
The high handicapper won because his 'teacher' was telling him where to hit the ball - as he knew his ability better than most - which shows how much the mental game has to do with shooting a good round of golf.
Play every round with a game plan. Look backwards and plan the hole.
Prepare to fail if you fail to prepare! ;)
Stay in the present and keep your mind sharply focussed on the shot immedietly infront of you.
Can't change the past and what you do in the present will affect the future. In terms of golf, if you're thinking about your approach to the green before your tee shot, you could end up slicing your tee shot and having to take two extra shots before you make than approach (which you could then duff).
Avoid mechanical thoughts. Strive to become loose, freer and more confident.
Two mentalities : + Training - make things happen + Trusting - lets things happen
Humans are creatures of habit - under pressure is where the dominant habit comes to fruition.
Trying to change your swing when you are mid-round is the most cardinal sin you can do. All preparation should be done on the driving range - then trust your practice and swing on the course.
Stick to your routine and your game plan. - Don't let the score effect your game.
Assume your opponent is going to make their shot.
These two things go together in my opinon. Just assume the worst case scenario and play for that. Another way to think about it is how Butch Harman explained in the Ryder Cup 2016 coverage. Make par minimum. If you opponent is going to beat you, they are only going to do so by playing good golf. With that kind of mentality, at least you will not lose most of the time.
Get to the course an hour ahead of time.
Lesson - 12 hours pratice - Lesson
The last two are more practical lessons but still just as important.
Bob Rotella's Rules
Although I highly recommend you go buy this book and read the whole thing for youself, this post is mainly for my benefit. Bob Rotella ends his book with a list of rules that 'summarise' the book. Below are those points :
A person with great dreams can achieve great things.
Golfing potential depends primarily on attitude, skill with the wedges and the putter and how well a golfer thinks. Great golfers are simple ordinary people thinking well and doing extraordinary deeds.
Choosing how to think is a crucial decision.
Golfers who realise their potential generally cultivate the three D’s - desire, determination and discipline; the three P’s - persistence, patience and practice; and the three C’s - confidence, concentration and composure.
A golfer must train themselves in physical technique and then learn to trust what she’s trained.
Before playing any shot, a golfer must lock their eyes and mind onto the smallest possible target.
To score consistently, a golfer must think consistently. A sound, consistent pre-shot routine makes it easier.
The correlation between thinking well and making successful shots is not 100 percent. But the correlation between thinking badly and unsuccessful shots is much higher.
Golfers must learn to quiet their minds, stay in the present, and focus tightly on the next shot to be played.
The loss of focus on four or five shots a round makes the difference between great golf and mediocre golf.
A golfer must learn to enjoy the process of striving to improve the short game.
Attitude makes a great putter.
As ball-striking skills improve, it becomes a greater challenge to love putting and the short game and to maintain a positive attitude toward them.
It is more important to be decisive that to be correct when preparing to play and golf shot, particularly a putt.
Confidence is crucial to good golf. Confidence is simply the aggregate of the thoughts you have about yourself.
A golfer cannot let the first few holes, shots, ot putts determine his thinking for the rest of the round.
A golfer should strive to be looser, freer, and more confident with every hole. This will combat the tendency to get tighter, more careful, and more doubtful.
Being careful. tightening up, and trying to steer the ball will likely cause disaster. Good golfers gain control over the ball by feeling that they are giving up control.
Golfers need selective memories, retaining the memory of great shots and forgetting bad ones. Selective memory helps a golfer grow in confidence as he gains experience and skill.
Golf is a game plated by human beings. Therefore, it is a game of mistakes. Successful golfers know how to respond to mistakes.
Golfers must learn to love the challenge when they hit a ball into the rough, trees, or sand. The alternatives - anger, fear, whining and cheating - do no good.
Patience is a cardinal virtue in golf. To improve, a golfer must learn how to wait for practice and good thinking to bear fruit.
At night, a golfer can program her mind with great expectations. But she must throw them away when she steps onto the first tee.
On the first tee, a golfer must expect only two things of himself: to have fun, and to focus his mind properly on every shot.
Players with great attitudes constantly monitor their thinking and catch themselves as soon as it begins to falter.
A good competitor never allows herself to intensely dislike another player. She might be paired with her for an important round.
The quality of a golfer's practice is more important than the quantity, particularly for better golfers.
If a golfer chooses to compete, he must choose to believe that he can win. Winners and losers in life are completely self-determined, but only the winners are willing to admit it.
Courage is a nccessary quality in all champions. But an athelete cannot be courageous without first being afraid.
In sport, the bad news for the present champion is that tomorrow is a new day, when the competition starts again from scratch. But that's the good news for everyone else.
On the course, golfers must hace the confidence of a champion. But off the course, champions must remember that they are not more important than anyone else.
Thanks for reading :) x