“You can win tournaments when you’re mechanical but golf is a game of emotion and adjustment. If you’re not aware of what’s happening to your mind and your body when you’re playing, you’ll never be able to be the very best you can be.” – Jack Nicklaus
By Ian Hardie
In the articles Are you sick of playing bad golf? and Are you sick of playing bad golf – part two? I talked about giving a series of golf lessons to a golfer who many years before would have been considered to be pretty good at the game in most people’s opinion
However, as there had been a full 25 years between their former prowess and their ‘current struggle’ with the game (bearing in mind that their ‘current struggle’ with the game was still producing scores well below that of the average golfer around the world but much higher than the golfer having the lessons was expecting to have based on the image they held of themselves as a good golfer from the past)
They weren’t in the slightest bit convinced that they were still any good at the game
Which is why they were there having golf lessons to attempt to regain their past skill – fully believing, like most golfers are – that the problems within their golf game were caused by their current, self-proclaimed exhibition of ‘poor technique’
You may remember that in my opinion the problems the golfer was having weren’t actually driven by poor technique – that was just the physical manifestation of the actual problem the golfer had – which was something that became abundantly clear when we headed onto the golf course for an on-course playing lesson
Once there, it didn’t take long for the golfers ‘extra voice’ that was clearly residing deep in their head – to make itself known – as it was just waiting for an opportunity to come out and criticise the golfers current performance by comparing it with their ‘memory of just how good they used to be’
At the first sign of any golf shot that wasn’t hit perfectly
Now, at this point I was going to share some more with you about the sort of things that the golfers ‘extra voice’ was feeding into their consciousness – which as you may well have experienced yourself at some point – had the end result of affecting their physical ability massively during their game of golf
That was until I stumbled across a video the other day………………..
After watching it a couple of times and debating as to whether it was too far removed from golf to be of any use to illustrate what I’m covering – I decided that as buried in the middle of it, there is a pretty powerful illustration of the fact that a person doing something totally different than golf deals with the same problem of that ‘extra voice’ (although you will hear that she calls it something worse!) that I would let you know about it as
The video also details what steps she takes to overcome it during a performance!
Let’s face it, a game of golf is in actual fact a type of performance isn’t it?
Anyway, the person you will see in the video – Joyce DiDonato is an operatic lyric-coloratura mezzo-soprano – notable for her interpretations of the works of Handel, Mozart, and Rossini
Now, I know that right now you are probably thinking:
“What the heck is an operatic lyric-coloratura mezzo-soprano?”
I have no idea either, which leads to the next question
“What help can a video of an opera singer possibly be for golfers?”
Well, you will realise exactly how much use that is soon – which leads to the last possible question that may be on your mind
“Does Ian really like opera?”
To which the answer is actually ‘no’ but I do like to learn things from talented people which is exactly why I debated for some time as to whether to talk about this at all – in the end I figured that her message as it related to her performance was just so powerful – that it was worth looking at and understanding just what it is she does
Note: the first few minutes of the video are not that relevant to my point as it is her answering questions following a master class at The Juilliard School but just hang on in there and you will hear the important bits!
Right, now you are back to reading after watching that video
How inspiring and full of insight was that?
Even though clearly opera singing is an activity that is far removed from playing golf
Did you notice how similar some of the aspects that she has worked on to become a top performer are to what is required to excel at golf?
Managing the voice in her head, dealing with mistakes and staying focussed
I especially like the way she referred to the voice in her head as an ‘evil voice’
Those of you reading this that have one lurking around in your head will know exactly just how evil it can be when it comes out during a game or after a poor shot
So what does all this have to do playing bad golf?
Well, let’s go back to the former good golfer who came to me for lessons to regain their skills at the game, who clearly had an ‘extra voice’ out there causing a lot of problems on the golf course
The golfer was planning – once they had their technique ‘sorted out’ – to head out and do what most previously good golfers will do to regain their game
Grind away practicing for many hours until ‘their game’ returns
I know that’s what I did upon returning to the game after a 10 year break but it really wasn’t that useful for me either – as just like the golfer I was giving lessons to – I hadn’t gained control over my ‘extra voice’ that was constantly pointing out just how good I used to be’ at the first sign of any golf shot that wasn’t hit perfectly
These days though, I have a much different opinion on the method that we have all been taught over the years – that long and repetitive practice is the best way to develop a golfer
In fact, I now attempt to limit the amount of physical practice that golfers who come to me for lessons do afterwards – which is actually quite difficult to do for one simple reason
As humans we gain instant gratification from physical practice
We work on a basic part of the set-up or alignment and get better contact, we get the little draw going with our #5 iron, we start hitting consistently long drives…………………
As we are getting constant and mostly, pleasing visual feedback – we feel that our golf game is developing and being golfers, this automatically makes us optimistic at our possible performance during our next game
Trouble is we end up with a false indication as to our current progress at the game as the one thing that is missing from those practice sessions is the ‘extra voice’ because things are going well…………………once we take the game to the golf course and hit a poor shot
The ‘extra voice’ kicks into action and begins its destructive tendencies
Leaving the golfer more confused than ever and beginning a loop that repeats over and over – get lessons and start hitting better, practice really well, proclaim to ourselves and anyone else who will listen that ‘I’ve got my game back’, then head out onto the course to self-destruct because you can’t keep that ‘extra voice’ under control
You might want to read that entire bit again as its pretty powerful!
Contrast that with spending some time visualizing how to go through the process of playing the first shot of your round as well as possible, trying to improve your reaction to finding your ball in a bad spot by proceeding in a calm, logical fashion without hitting the ‘react button’ or simply working on ‘switching off’ between shots and while we may feel a small difference after doing that ‘mental work’ – there is no instant gratification
So as humans we tend to think of that as a less productive activity than practice
In fact, we have no idea if anything that we have just done will have made the slightest bit of difference to our golf game – until we get out on the golf course and start to find ourselves under pressure to perform
I’m going to leave that there for now as I will be taking a further look into these ideas in ‘Are you sick of playing bad golf – part four?’ but I do have one final thought, I’d like to share about the video of Joyce DiDonato
You may have noticed the part where she talked about working on making her strengths better while ignoring her weaknesses – I know that will seem counter intuitive to some of you
As we have all been sold the idea of working on our weaknesses to ‘balance ourselves out’
Personally, I’ve found that working on strengths while ignoring weaknesses
Is one of the key ways to quickly improve a golfers scores while putting very little extra effort in – you might want to read that again and see if it’s something of interest to you
Or just get on with improving your golf by clicking here to start now