There is a mental side to the game of golf which will always attack your nerves and exploit your imagination if you allow it to.
Various estimates of the extent to which golf is mental as distinct from the purely physical have been expounded in locker-room and in print. Some pundits, amateur and professional, have even maintained that golf is as much as seventy-five per cent mental.
I do not propose to venture an opinion on a matter which must vary according to the make-up and the outlook of the individual. But of this I am convinced. No game throws out a stronger challenge to the temperament of the player. Some face this challenge and beat it, but others never quite come to master their emotions and in consequence never achieve all of which they are capable.
X may have a fine method but a suspect temperament. Y may be ideally equipped temperamentally but his technique will show obvious flaws. Both X and Y will meet with a certain degree of success, but neither will attain the standard which could have been his if he had overcome his weaknesses, of temperament in the case of X, of technique in the case of Y.
The instructor, like the doctor, can only prescribe so far. Just as the doctor must have the co-operation and the will to get well of his patient, so the golf instructor requires perseverance and determined effort on the part of his pupil.
The teacher of golf can do best for his pupil by helping him to acquire a sound and lasting method, making sure that he understands what he is trying to do and why and warning him against allowing other considerations, temptations and fears to encroach upon the overall objective of reproducing the shaped swing and the timed delivery which, unaided, will do all that can possibly be done in dispatching the ball from point A to point B.
That is why I set out to equip a pupil with a shaped swing and a good delivery, a technique which will give him full confidence as soon as he steps up to the ball if only he will realize it.
The top players put their trust in their swing, particularly the great ones. It is true that when that swing is not working at its best they have to buckle down to "scrambling" their figures, but no one knows better than they themselves that they cannot "scramble" indefinitely. Maybe they will get by for one round or part of a round in a 7 2-hole tournament but they must get it working smoothly again without delay if they are to stay in the race.
The bad and the indifferent shots, the unexpected thrusts of a match-play opponent, are bound to come in the course of a round. One's reflexes will inevitably play tricks now and again. But the hole you have just played is done with. Another hole, with a fresh challenge, awaits you on the next tee. Go to meet it in the right frame of mind, or it is odds on your dropping another stroke perhaps more.
Always your refuge, when the imagination threatens to overcome self-discipline and when you feel the tension mounting, is the picture of the shape of the swing which you have stored in your mind. Only through this mental picture can you feel and sense the position of the club head at the various stages of the movement.
The more you can discipline yourself to do this and keep doing it in spite of all distractions and changing circumstances the more natural it will become, both physically and mentally. The intention is formed in the mind. The muscles must be trained to obey, not to take charge.
I repeat once again.
Your swing and the delivery you have fitted into it will do all that can possibly be done to give you YOUR peak performance. You cannot augment it in any way, but you can quickly turn the chance of success into failure by "thinking" a vague something else into the operation. Likewise, a positive approach can quickly change failure into success. Good luck!
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