No Thinking Allowed
by Jeff Skinner
Each time we tee it up out there on the course we arrive at the first tee with grand expectations. Every round presents us with a new opportunity for a great round or a personal best. As we grab our club and tee our ball we stare down the fairway and think about our shot. It is at that point that we have just sabotaged our round. We might as well pack it up and throw the clubs in the trunk, change the shoes and get out of there because we just killed any chance of a good round. We did the one thing you can’t do on a golf course. We thought about our shot. There is no place for thinking on the golf course. We can think about our game on the range, in the car, at work, in the shower, anywhere but on the tee. On the tee you don’t think. You assess your shot, you choose your club, and you execute your routine and make your swing. You can’t think about your shot or club or swing, you just have to execute your routine. It is during range sessions that you have thought about your setup, swing and routine, not on the tee box. Thomas Bonk has a good article in Golf World. He speaks to a few of the prominent sports psychologists that help a number of tour players. Dr. Bob Rotella, Joe Parent, Gio Valiente and Richard Coop are some he spoke to. They all have a similar message to their clients: Don’t think. Thinking gets in the way, it’s the process not the result, stay in the moment, be patient, don’t think about winning, be fearless and swing without thinking are a sampling of the mantras used by the “Head Doctors.” It sounds easy but we all know it is so difficult to do. If the pros have trouble doing it, what are the chances that we can do it?
During the Sybase Classic, Cristie Kerr who works with Parent said she “had to be more process oriented…not results.” This past week at the Sybase Classic, rookie Vicky Hurst was ten under par on the eighteenth tee, looking at a 62. She pulled her second shot into the rough. She said she may have started to think about her score then and got caught up in the moment. She ended with a bogey on eighteen. Thinking is of no use in this game. I have read all of Rotella’s books. I even carry a laminated card with his “Ten Commandments” in my pocket. I know I’m not supposed to think, but damn it’s tough. I’m standing on the tee of a short par three last week, having just birdied the last hole. I know this hole so well; I’ve played it for twenty five years. It was the scene of my one and only ace last year. It’s an easy wedge to the green. I’m feeling good after the bird and I’m thinking this is my shot, my hole, my round. You know what happens…I chunk it into the water. I quickly hit another from the tee, without thinking and stick it to five feet. The difference between the two swings: my brain. There is no place for thinking on the golf course. Less thinking…more swinging, I’ll try that one next time.