The Hacker: The shrink says this column is ruining my game. So am I a write-off?
Sunday 05 June 2011
In order to maximise the chances of fulfilling my pledge to break 100 in a medal this year – the 10th year this pledge has been made, with an embarrassing lack of success – I have secured the services of two professional gentlemen whose lives are dedicated to improving the play of faltering golfers.
I refuse to divulge their names on the grounds that if I fail again, it will cause serious harm to their reputations and, possibly, careers.
I've already got enough pros on my conscience. Many times I sought help. In some cases there were distinct signs of improvement but my failings rapidly repossessed me.
One well-respected teaching pro gave me my money back at the end of a lesson because I was worse at the end than when I started.
I've had tips from some of the best players. On my wall is a picture of me with Justin Rose after he gave me a quick lesson. He put at the bottom: "Forget everything I told you."
I'm embarrassed to recall how many club pros I have driven to exasperation. Two of them are good friends of mine and my faults have become so well known to them, and so stubbornly resistant to change, that I hesitate to burden them again.
It is not their fault. My capacity to absorb advice has been the problem. No sooner am I filled to the brim with the soundest of technical instruction than it starts leaking out like a slow puncture over the next few rounds.
I consulted a pro whose philosophy about teaching I read on the wall of a driving range. It talked about tension and the problem of trying too hard to master a game that requires patience and a relaxed approach.
These are not qualities I've ever been associated with but now I'm close to the springtime of my senility it makes sense to incorporate them.
Under his tutelage I am hitting the ball sweeter and straighter but it is very difficult to persuade a body accustomed to much frenetic lunging at the ball to adopt immediately a slower, smoother swing. So at the moment it's a battle between the old and the new. My regular partners have seen me hit shots of which they never thought me capable. But, just as often, they see me hit shots with which they are distressingly familiar.
The former are a long way from outnumbering the latter and I've had some dire scores lately. But I remain convinced I am on the right track and I promised the pro a grateful write-up about his methods when I break 100.
The other week I received an email from a sports psychologist who had read about my travails and offered to help get my mind in better order for the task. I think he was prepared to take me on for the benefit of mankind generally because he requires no fee other than a mention in this column if his assistance was helpful.
I accepted his offer partly out of desperation, partly out of curiosity. Psychologists have been playing an increasingly important role in the careers of many top professionals, aiding concentration and composure.
This mental approach has yet to spread widely through the game to golfers at club level, although there are a few clubs where psychologists are available to members.
I had my first session last week and saw video evidence of how some stars use mental disciplines. I haven't enough space to go into what advice I received in a two-hour session but the first steps are to develop a regular pre-shot routine that will help me to become more positive and achieve more consistency.
But it was acknowledged that this column may be part of the problem because, by its very nature, it concentrates on the negative aspects of my game. Given the way I play, it is difficult for it to do anything else.
He has urged me to write a second column – not for publication – in which I talk about the positives to be taken out of my last round. Talk about giving me a hard job to start with.
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