Book Review – Fearless Golf
I enjoyed a playing lesson with my instructor this year and after a few holes, where I had taken a very the conservative approach off the tee he said to me (and I am paraphrasing), “I rather see you hit the driver into the trees on then play too conservatively with a 3-wood or hybrid”. In our year-end debrief, he mentioned a need for me to work on a slower tempo, his words still ringing in my ears, “you have nothing to lose by swinging smoother with your driver”. He experienced my fear off the tee and provided me the most important lesson of the season; practice, play smart and play without fear.
So as I approached my off season I was very pleased to locate a book by Dr. Gio Valiante titled, ‘Fearless Golf: Conquering the Mental Game’. I enjoy reading about the mental side of the game in the off season and based on spring’s late arrival in most of Canada I am reading more and practicing less. The essence of this book aligns perfectly to my most important lesson of this past season. Dr. Valiante cites, “Fear sabotages swings and ruins psyches”. I look back to almost a year and half stretch in the past where I didn’t play with a driver because of fear (I struggled to keep the ball in play with a driver). The first line of the book cements Dr. Valiante’s thesis, “fear of any kind in the number one enemy of all golfers”. This quote is attributed to Jack Nicklaus, arguably the game’s greatest player. If Jack is talking golf, I am listening.
Dr. Valiante has written a book that is comprehensive and requires commitment to read to understand. And at 275 pages, it’s not the quickest read. The book is chalk full of anecdotes from professional golfers, sharing their experience and insight on their journey of mastery of the mental game. Dr. Valiante spends much of this book sharing the differences between Mastery players and Ego players. Mastery players view obstacles as challenges, are process-focused, and view the game as a continuous opportunity to improve. Ego players, on the other hand, are results-oriented, are more prone to anger and frustration and are seek to avoid embarrassment. While a stark contrast, it does provide cause for reflection for golfers to self-assess their own characteristics.
I found this book very insightful and helpful especially given my playing lesson and off-season goals. It’s a book I will review and likely re-read. The strength of this book, the anecdotes from professionals, is also one of the book’s weaknesses. Dr. Valiante draws on great stories; the insight helps weave together his messages very well. However, in some cases the anecdotes are long and create a slight disconnect from his narrative. This book will remain close by as I work hard to move to becoming a ‘mastery’ player who is focused on process and enjoyment of the game. After all, while golf is important to me, my play does not impact my tour earnings or my world golf ranking. This year, I look forward to working hard to build trust with my driver and playing the game smart, and with no fear.