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Fore! Golf and bridge

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Posted 2006-March-21, 21:37

If you’re a golfer, as well as a bridge player, and not inclined to run for your life when people say things like this:

“We develop as human beings through the game of golf. We won’t do anything that we think might lead to lower scores but might not be good for us in our lives as a whole. Who we are is, for us, always more important than what we do."

you might enjoy this book: Every Shot Must Have A Purpose by Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott with Ron Sirak

In June 2001, at the U. S. Women’s Open, I saw one of the best golfers of all time, Annika Sorenstam, go from this state: uptight, unhappy, seemingly bewildered, so-so ball striker (okay, so-so for Annika) – to this one: smiling, confident, Hoganesque ball striker – in just 15 minutes.

I’ve always wondered what happened in those 15 minutes.

All I know for sure is that Pia Nilsson showed up on the driving range, smiled, said a few words in Swedish and stood by supportively, 10 feet away or so, saying a few more words every few minutes, and helping her friend find something inside herself that she’d momentarily forgotten.

Maybe the trick to being the best you can be at whatever you're doing "right now” is to have a Swedish woman come up to you and say the right words of encouragement in her native language (I’m willing to try this). But I’ll bet it has more to do with understanding what’s really important about what you’re trying to do - not just golf or bridge – and making good decisions, sometimes under pressure, the kinds of decisions that come from determination, understanding, awareness, perspective, preparation, concentration, believing in yourself and believing that you can achieve what you set out to do, if you do so with a sense of purpose. This is the kind of stuff Nilsson and Marriott talk about in their book.

Of course, they don't just talk about what they think is important. Nilsson and Marriott make their living coaching golfers who want to be the best in the world. This book provides many concrete, useful suggestions to help you become the best golfer you can be.

Here are some excerpts:

How are we going to make you a better player? Well, it is absurd to think that we can change your swing with a book. For one thing, we’ve never seen your swing. How can we change it? While there are certain mechanical fundamentals essential to playing the game—grip, stance, posture, etc.—we believe there is more than one right way to swing a golf club. And we believe that golf is far more than merely the physical act of swinging a club. Your fundamental problems are probably not with the way you swing but rather with the way you approach the game.

Chapter X -- Make Practice Real: Practice With Purpose

"For practice to have full value, make each swing with the care of a stroke from a tee on medal day" -- James Baird, Five-time British Open Champion

Swing key: Great play begins with thoughtful practice.

Practice they say makes perfect. But it can also be a perfectly wasteful use of time if not approached in the proper manner. In fact, time spent on the practice range actually can do more harm than good if you spend all your time perfecting bad habits -- both mentally and physically. How many times do you see someone on the range who does what they call scrape-and-hit, where they just keep raking balls in front of them and banging away, with no purpose to the shot? For most people, practice ends when either the balls run out, their hands hurt, or it gets dark. But what has been accomplished? What was the purpose?

The net result of this sort of practice can be to develop – and then reinforce – sloppy habits both with the swing and with the mind. If there is not a purpose to each shot, all you are doing is encouraging the development of a loose swing. If there is not a purpose to each shot, all you are doing is teaching your mind to wander and not focus on the task at hand. How can you expect your mind and body to work together on the golf course under the pressure of a competitive round when all your practice has been designed to make both your swing and your thought process lazy? The pursuit of perfection on the golf course begins on the practice range.

This may sound like stating the obvious, but if you give an honest assessment of the way you practice and if you observe the way others practice, there will be a ring of truth to what we say here: HAVE A PLAN when you go to the range. And merely hitting balls for an hour is NOT A PLAN. We once heard a non-golfer watching players warm up on the range say "Why are they
practicing missing?" Sometimes we need to change our routines to evaluate how we are playing.

Here are some key exercises to help you develop a practice routine that will not only give greater focus to both your swing and your thinking, but will also release your instinctual self and give you the confidence to take that person out onto the course with you.

... followed by 9 pages of helpful, concrete suggestions for improving the way you practice

<end of excerpts>

Other favorite chapters:

* The Most Important Shot in Golf Is This One
* Anger Makes Us Stupid
* Don’t Play the Blame Game
* Play with a Purpose: Don’t Try a Shot You Can't Handle

I wish there were a book like this for bridge players. Maybe Eric Kokish will write a book about bridge from a coach's point of view someday. Until then (and even then), there’s a lot of good stuff in here that may help you with non-technical parts of your bridge game, plus of course, your golf game, and any other games you want to do well at while having fun!

I'm using some of the stuff in this book. Will let you know at the end of the year if it helped me.

Contents, introduction and chapter 1 are here:

If you lose all hope, you can always find it again -- Richard Ford in The Sportswriter

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