1 September 2006

Respecting Your Game

I had the pleasure of having lunch with a very inspirational person a while back whose face you might recognize. Bobby Valentine is the manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines baseball club, an engaging speaker, management guru, and an accomplished ball room dancer to boot! His long history in the game and vast real life experiences have given him the ability to see and extract the most from each players game unleashing their true ability and potential.

Apart from his obvious unquantifiable amounts of "Mojo", a lot of his modern management theories and principles, like respecting the individual as well as the team, hold true through to the game of golf. Perhaps had he chosen golf over baseball he might just be a"shoe- in"to captain the Americans Ryder Cup attempt in Ireland this year instead of Tom Lehman!

During lunch he spoke about his belief of having passion for whatever you set out to do in life and how being true to yourself means following that passion, nurturing it and always keeping it alive. Do this and you will find success in any endeavor. In golf and life passion doesn't necessarily equal incredible amounts of practice as you might think, but striking a balance in life to allow the passion to exist and thrive.

I have a passion for golf, but it's something I've definitely had to work on to keep alive and healthy. One of the best ways to do this is to respect your game and ability. Smart people in their chosen fields often quit the game of golf, out right, due to frustration at not meeting the performance goals they've consciously or subconsciously set for themselves! A lot of this comes from having expectations on performance brought on by the occasional and often sporadic perfect (hero) golf shot. Knowing your own ability and playing to it can keep you positive on the course. I'm always surprised by the number of amateur golfers who attempt shots that even Tiger Woods would avoid, then get upset after they can't pull it off and inevitably fail miserably!

Pro golfers on tour expect to miss shots during any particular round and learning how to manage the negative feelings associated with them is what separates the champions from the mediocre players. Jack Nicklaus was once asked by a reporter after missing a putt that cost him a victory, what it felt like to miss. He simply replied that he didn't miss it! It went right where he aimed it! The important thing is that he had read the green, chosen a target point made a decision and putted. It didn't go in, but he certainly wasn't going to beat himself up over it, what possible good could come of that?

To help yourself out during a round, choosing your battles is important i.e. knowing when you can take a riskier shot or perhaps the opposite, when you should gear down, lay up, and hit a 3 wood or an iron instead of a driver on a trouble hole. Playing to your strengths will get you a long way. If you have a yardage that you feel confident from, say 100 or 120 yards, hit your second shot on a par 5 to leave yourself "that exact" yardage to factor out any chance of a tricky approach shot. Hit shots around the green to the side of the pin that leave you a putt that breaks the way you like etc... Most golfers have shots they prefer and ones they dread.

Iam reminded of a good example that will help to illustrate what I'm trying to get across. Years ago I was in a live house with various bands and musicians on hand. There was one guitarist who knew a few simple chords, nothing overly technical, but worked them well. He transitioned from one to the next and absolutely rocked the place! Then on came a much more accomplished guitarist who attempted much more intricate chords, but just couldn't quite piece them together and boy it was hard to watch and harder to listen to! He just didn't know his own ability (although high) and that kept him from making good music.

In short, if you are true to your ability and always play to your strengths, you will make beautiful music whilst preserving your passion for the game. If you make a decision to go with a certain club or a line on a putt don't beat yourself up if it doesn't turn out quite according to plan. And remember, a wise man once said (over lunch) that anything attempted with true passion will always have positive results....I tend to agree!

Losing your passion? For help or questions about your game, please contact me and come out to the club for some fresh air and a lesson.

Bennett Galloway, 1 September 2006

Previous Columns
  • Adrift in a Sea of Golf Balls
  • The Secret to Scoring Well "Shhh.....Don't Tell Anyone"!
  • Hakone, the Gem of Kanagawa and a Resort Golfers Paradise
  • Golf in Japan: A primer to golfing in Tokyo
  • Time to thaw out that golf swing
  • Golf made easy

  • About Bennett
    Bennett is a long time resident of Japan and the Director of Golf for Gotemba Golf Club and Belle View Nagao G.C., in Shizuoka near Mt. Fuji. Member of the Golf Writers Association of America and a teaching professional, providing lessons for all ages and abilities, in English or Japanese. He also specializes in in-bound golf tours to Japan with Golf Shizuoka and Golf Hakone.

    Contact Bennett »