Thursday, February 14, 2008

"With Winning in Mind" book review by Cameron Doan, PGA Teaching Pro

How many times have you heard: "Golf is 90% mental"? For years golfers have either heard this statement or uttered it themselves, and I doubt anyone has ever disagreed. But what do you do about it? How do you address the mental side of the game? If it's so important, why aren't there any teachers out there? Well, your search is over. With Winning in Mind, written by Lanny Bassham, can provide you with a roadmap to follow that will allow you to play up to your physical potential. Think about that. How many times have you said, "If I could just have some consistency" or "I played the best I've ever played on the front nine, then I just fell apart on the back". Lanny Bassham won an Olympic Gold Medal in rifle shooting using the Mental Management System that he created and that is talked about in this book. Hitting a golf ball and shooting a rifle are virtually identical mentally, they both require an "action", not a reaction. This allows the mind plenty of time to get involved in the process.

Mental Management is founded on several principles. I will touch on a few here, but you really need to read the book and tie them all together. One that really jumped out at me was this statement: "Self Image and competitive performance are always equal". As Lanny writes, your Self Image is what makes you act like you. Have you ever shot a career low on the front nine, only to follow with a terrible back nine? That little voice in the back of your head on the 10th tee was your Self Image, pulling you back to your "comfort zone" by saying "Hey, you're not this good". With Winning in Mind can help. Here's one example I have started to use in my teaching. Imagine that you are teaching your 3 year old son or daughter to tie their shoes. When they fail the first few times, as they inevitably do, how do you handle it? Do you berate them into submission and tell them how stupid they are? Or do you support them with encouragement, stressing the challenge of learning a new skill and that they will quickly improve? Obviously, you support them. Now, what happens when you hit a bad golf shot? Do you beat yourself up, saying "how can I be that bad, what was I thinking, I'm the worst player in history"? Or do you calmly reassure yourself that the next shot will be better, it's a tough game, let's be patient? Your Self Image listens very carefully to your "self talk" and responds accordingly. You cannot abuse yourself mentally for 17 holes and expect to step up on the 18th hole and play like a tour player, it will never happen.

A second principal that really fits in with golfers is the three phases of a shot: Anticipation, Action and Reinforcement. This principal helps design a simple routine that directs you to what to think before, during and after a shot. Have you ever attempted to have 3 swing thoughts, all at the same time, while you're trying to get it airborne off the first tee? You need a "mental program" to occupy your conscious mind. Lanny believes that the competitive mind has three parts: the Conscious mind, the Subconscious mind, and the Self Image. All three parts must be trained and working in harmony to play to your potential. Anticipation is the Conscious mind making decisions on distance, direction, lie conditions, and weather that lead into the shot and club selection. Action is Subconscious playing of the shot, where the Conscious mind needs to be kept busy, and basically out of the way. Reinforcement is the Self Image imagining a perfect shot being played again, and building up your confidence for the next time you have that specific shot.

Golf is both a difficult and a great game. The only true judge of success is you. That's the challenge, as well as the greatness, at the same time. In order to reach your physical potential, whatever that may be, your competitive mind must be organized to be an effective tool. With Winning in Mind is the first thing I've seen that was developed and written by a competitor that spent several years as the best in the world in his chosen sport. Lanny Bassham designed a system, then went out and dominated his sport with it. That's good enough for me. This book and Lanny Bassham's Mental Management System has changed the way I approach the game, both as a player and a teacher. I hope you read the book, take the time to study it, and implement as much as you can. You will become a better player. By: Cameron Doan

Cameron Doan is the head golf professional at Preston Trail Golf Club in Dallas. He was the 2003 NTPGA Teacher of the Year, and counts Rich Beem, the 2002 PGA Champion, among his students. He also plays competitively, winning the 2000 NTPGA Match Play Championship, the 2002 NTPGA Western Championship and competing on four Joe Black Cup teams since moving to Dallas in November of 1999.

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