A reader, recently commenting on his appreciation for the blog, encouraged me to add a little “know how” to the “mind how.” Believe me, in my searcher’s capacity over the nine years of my chasing the Champions Tour, I completely understand the sentiment.
You feel like there’s a secret out there somewhere and you’re the only one who doesn’t know it. We once had a woman flee our golf school on the second day for that very reason. I can’t remember now whether we were able to coax her back, but I do remember our efforts to convince her that there was no secret. I know that seems hard to believe. In her emotional state, I’m sure it was doubly hard for her.
Well, I take that back. There might be one secret. But even then only at the conceptual level. Here it is:
Except for the driver, The Secret to Golf is to swing the club as fast as possible on a slightly descending path so that the clubhead compresses the ball against the ground and points at the target through impact with the ball. The driver should swing on a slightly ascending path. In all cases, the swing should be under control and the clubhead should be the last thing to arrive at the ball.
Great, Bill. Thanks a lot.
Actually, this is a great deal more information than Tim Gallwey gave one of his fledgling tennis students. Here’s an excerpt from my forthcoming book, Going For It! A Spiritual Adventure on the Champions Tour:
Back in the 1970’s, in the meat of my tennis playing days, Tim Gallwey became a big splash in the world of tennis with his breakthrough book, The Inner Game of Tennis.
Gallwey had been a nationally ranked amateur tennis player and was mystified by his chronic “choking” in the really big matches.
He came to realize that there were really two of him playing these matches: Self 1, his logical, controlling, intellectual self and Self 2, his natural, instinctive, athletic self which was perfectly capable of playing great tennis if only Self 1 would leave it alone. He dramatically demonstrated this bifurcated aspect of our “selves” in his six-part PBS series titled after his book.
In one memorable episode, he took a woman out of the bleachers at one of his tennis camps who had never played the game before. After giving her only some basic orienting instruction about how to grip the racquet, where the racquet face was in relation to her hand and how to serve, they began to play a game.
But it was not the game she thought she was going to play.
It was instead a game called “Bounce, Hit.” Gallwey’s instructions to her were that every time the ball hit the court she had to say, “bounce,” and every time it hit either his racquet or hers, she had to say, “hit.”
Gallwey stopped their first practice. “I noticed that you are just a little off on the timing of the bounce and the hit. I want you to really pay attention and be really precise. You need to call out the bounce and the hit at the exact moment it occurs. Don’t anticipate it. Don’t estimate it. But get it exactly when it hits the court or my racquet or yours,” he said.
She nodded her understanding.
And so, with the fledgling woman student serving, they began to play a game of Bounce, Hit. Self 1, her intellectual self, was completely engaged in trying to get the precision of the bounce and the hit just right. In the meantime, Self 2, her natural, athletic self was running all over the court making these incredible “gets,”—backhands, forehands, it didn’t matter—all without any instruction on how to do so.
They played just one “game” and each point had ten to twelve rallies back and forth over the net. This was a shocker to most any amateur observer who knew that their own rallies rarely lasted beyond three or four shots. And as one experienced player in the bleachers pointed out afterward, “She never double faulted.”
When the woman looked quizzically at Gallwey, he said, “Oh, I forgot to tell you, you only get two tries to get a serve in play.”
With Self 1 completely distracted by the “Bounce, Hit” game and in the face of the woman’s ignorance about the rules of the game of tennis, Self 2 had served up a display of its capabilities that was truly astounding.
So this is the bias that I bring to the blog: there is more value in a mastery process that allows you to come to and practice instruction fully awake than there is in the instruction itself.
Make no mistake, I have had the benefit of world-class instruction with the likes of Jim Flick, Jim Deiters (his assistant), Dave Collins (Jim McLean’s assistant) and Fred Shoemaker (my golf school partner). And I believe in the value of instruction.
But when I was working with Fred, I was not as awake as I was with Dave, as I was with Jim, as I was with Jim Flick. The value I took away from each of them was possible because of my ability to use elements of the mastery process: sublimate my ego, quiet my mind, remain patient and practice with curiosity, not frustration.
Take that concept, find a way to execute “The Secret to Golf,” seek authoritative coaching when lost and enjoy the journey.