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.
101 Mistakes All Golfers Make
Author – Jon Sherman (@practicalgolf) http://practical-golf.com/
The general shortcomings I have with golf instructional books are twofold: a deep dive on technical aspects of the game which I may not fully understand; and, relating back to the first point, a lack of clear language in articulating the issue and more importantly an approach to address that issue. I’ll toss in a third for you too, and that is the instructional books relating to game improvement often fail to address the emotional and relational aspects, assuming I’m robotic and can simply assimilate the information I need without respecting the myriad of other ‘issues’ which may plague me on any given round. Well, I have found an instructional book for me and I highly recommend it for you, 101 Mistakes All Golfers Make (and how to fix them), written by Jon Sherman.
I loved this book. And I will read this book annually. Why I love it is because each time I read this I will get something new from it. I have already read it twice and have had a number of Jon’s messages resonate with me. Attitude, preparation and short game performance are related areas of the game I need to improve upon and this book addresses these, especially #71, ‘Can’t Smell the Roses’ which places fun at the centre of this game. What makes this instructional book unique is how it provides a holistic look at the game. I also appreciated the use of clear language. The 101 ‘mistakes’ are approached in a clear and concise manner and use actionable language which will help golfers to act and improve. Practical Golf is an apt name for Jon’s site. If you are passionate about the game of golf than this book is a must read. I only wish a book like this was available to me years ago.
Your golfing instructional bookshelf should have Penick, Hogan, Rotella, Pelz and maybe even Parent, as well as a few others. Here is another must have. And in a few years I won’t be surprised if Sherman’s book is the one most read, dog-eared and full of post-it notes.
It is available on Amazon in print and as an e-book. Treat yourself…than maybe later tell a friend.
A recent post by fellow Canadian golf blogger @golfismental outlined an approach to embrace the Canadian golfing off season (better known as winter). An excellent post and refreshing attitude which gave my pause for reflection, not only around my off season regime but ways in which I can work on my mental side of the game (this, in addition to a new fitness regime). With that, I am pleased to share this book review from one of my favourite and more relevant golf books I own, Dr. Joseph Parent’s Zen Golf.
I struggle to relax at the best of times and on the course I find I can achieve incredible tranquility or go through fits of silent golf-induced anxiety. Acquiring this book, and having read it a number of times now – it is almost an annual read for me – has helped me over time to truly understand the relationship between my mental state and my physical performance on the course.
Dr. Parent combines Buddhist influence and teaching with his experience as a golf instructor. The book is written in a very clear and concise manner, with short chapters which introduce key actionable messages woven with reflection, story and insight from other golf professionals. Central to the book is Dr. Parent’s PAR approach to golf – Preparation, Action and Response. The book can be a quick and easy read, but can also form the basis of a comprehensive mental training regime where fundamental building blocks are introduced and can be tested in practice and play (and life).
Chapters are compelling on their own, with unique and engaging titles. I particularly like, “How to Enjoy a Bad Round of Golf”. Here, our response to a shot or a round is all within our control and can shape our attitude, and ultimately our actions moving forward. While Bob Rotella and Gio Valiante are two other well-known and respected authors whose work addresses the mental side of golf, Dr. Parent and his work with Zen Golf is worth adding to your collection.
If you’re serious about improving your game by all means address traditional approaches like getting lessons, being fit for clubs and embarking on a fitness and nutrition plan. These can all help. But if we allow ourselves to look at improvement (and enjoyment) in a holistic way I would contest we need to consider and address the mental side of the game.
My game has improved much over the last couple years and I am pleased about that. But as I formulate my off-season plan I will address my mental approach to the game and continue to read, reflect and work on an improvement of my attitude and, as Dr. Parent suggests, my preparation, action and response to my game. Grab this book if you can. If you’ve read it, feel free to leave a comment. Are there other books you recommend around the mental side of golf?