Suggested by Phil – a good article
What Makes a Champion – Mind or Technique?
A pro friend of mine, Richard, asked me just the other day what my opinion was about the makeup of the greatest golfers. He was particularly interested in the relative importance of having a technically good swing on the one hand and the value of having a strong mind on the other. This is, of course, an age-old question but let me give you my take on it.
I’d like to start by talking about the classic, traditional way in which we analyse the different aspects of a great player’s game. Especially in the modern world with all the swing video analytics and slow motion capabilities available on the market and on the TV, we seem to get stuck in a discussion about the player’s swing technique. It’s as if the only reason behind his or her success is the way he or she swings the club, from the grip to the posture to the alignment to the swing plane, and going on the type of ‘method’ employed; one plane, stack and tilt, short backswing, long backswing, flat or upright, early wrist set or late wrist set etc., etc.
I suppose it’s because we have little or no understanding of the importance and influence of psychology that discussions of this part of a player’s weaponry either never happen or start but go nowhere. I was fascinated recently to watch a YouTube video clip of an interview with Moe Norman in 1995. Some of you will have never heard of this Canadian pro but those of you who have will know of his reputation as the best striker of a golf ball the world has ever seen.
Now, Moe isn’t up there with the Hogan’s and Nicklaus’s of the world in terms of major tournament wins but he certainly was in terms of the control he consistently displayed over his ball. He actually won 55 professional tournaments in his career as well as winning the Canadian amateur championship on 2 occasions. His mind, or the 5 1Ž2 inches between his ears as he called it, was so strong that he couldn’t see why he’d hit the ball anywhere other than where he wanted it to go. I once heard him say, “If I want the ball on the fairway, why would I hit it into the rough!” Apparently, he didn’t see the game in the same light as the rest of us! He held 41 course records, had 17 holes in one and shot 59 three times.
He was once playing with Sam Snead and stood on the tee with his driver. “You can’t take a driver here, Moe, there’s a creek across the fairway at 250 yards,” said Sam. “That’s no problem,” said Moe, “there’s a footbridge and I’ll just knock it across that.” Of course, he did just that as Sam proceeded to lay up with an iron.
Whilst Moe’s swing technique has been studied, examined and dissected many, many times over the years it would seem that his mind and attitude towards the game have not been so closely scrutinised. In the interview with Jack Kukendall he clearly states that ‘To me a good golfer is one who can hit the ball to a defined target area with the least amount of effort but with an alert attitude of indifference. A person must first change his mental attitude. Then, and only then, will his ability produce positive results.’ Dr Bob Rotella shows in his latest book, ‘Your 15th Club,’ that he would certainly agree with this sentiment when he stated that… “Good golfers attach a low level of importance to every shot they hit.”
So, why does the golfing establishment never cease to look at Moe’s strange and quirky swing when even he thought it was his mental ability that made all the difference? The truth is that every time a new champion bursts on the scene we look at his specific way of swinging the club and then set up academies where you, too, can learn this new way of playing the game that is guaranteed to help you play the golf of your dreams. Could it just be that the great champions such as Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, and Jack Nicklaus, would have achieved the same greatness with different swings?
I leave you to dwell on this heretical thought with Moe’s poem, ‘My Robot.’
“I have a little robot
That goes around with me
I tell it what I’m thinking
I tell it what I see
I tell my little robot all my hopes and fears
It listens and remembers everything it hears
At first my little robot followed my command
But after years of training it’s gotten out of hand
It doesn’t care what’s right or wrong
Or what is false or true
But no matter what I try now
It tells ME what to do!”
Watch a magician tell you what he believed to be the fundamentals of playing great golf.