Read an Excerpt
Training Your Brain
Champions control their game by funneling their golf experience through a process that I call the 30-Second Swing, which brings sequence and order to their golf game. You have the same type of filter available to you. You can exercise this control over both your external and internal flow of experience, a control that will allow you to take a big step up on the performance curve. It might not make you a champion at the highest levelthere is the matter of talent-but adopting the 30-Second Swing will train your brain to run your game so that you can play to your talent level.
The 30-second time frame is only an approximation; each player has to refine the pattern and customize it to his or her personality. But the insights and techniques, once mastered, will enable you to play to your potential. You'll be a champion in your own fight with your brain trained to play golf instead of golf swing.
It's a relatively harmless par-5 with a green you can miss 40 yards to the right and still be okay, yet our spotlight player pulls his second shot way left into the jailhouse woods. Or how about the huge green big enough to hold a 747? From 80 yards away, this same player buries a ball in the lip of the bunker.
These aren't snapshots from a Saturday morning best ball or local club championship. They're mistakes made by Greg Norman, at the time one of the world's best golfers. The first mistake occurred on the 8th hole of the 1996 Masters, the initial step en route to one of the most astonishing collapses in modern golf competition. The second mistake took place several years earlier on his way toerasing another substantial lead on the back nine of the Tournament Players Championship.
Scott Hoch, no stranger to a breakdown now and then, commented on Norman's disintegration over the last eleven holes at the '96 Masters. "You get on a train like that and it's hard to get off. I didn't expect it. He's proven himself to be mentally tough."
Famous Come-From-Ahead Losses
Norman is not the first to have been playing at a gallop and suddenly thrown a shoe. Arnold Palmer lost the 1966 U.S. Open in a playoff after leading Billy Casper by seven shots with eight holes to play. Ed Snead lost the 1979 Masters after leading by five with eighteen holes to play. Six-time PGA Tour Player of the Year Tom Watson, ahead after three rounds, shot 80 to lose the 1978 PGA Championship. And back in 1919, unknown Mike Brady shot an 80 to lose the U.S. Open after holding the fifty-four-hole lead.
So what happens when the wheels fall off ? How does a golfer beat the course into submission with a 63 on Thursday and limp home with a 78 on Sunday? Whatever it is, it must be powerful stuff -- much more powerful than just the swing. What, exactly, does a golfer lose control of?
I suggest it's the mental side that goes first, followed shortly thereafter by the swing itself. But since the physical swing is so visually apparent, we blame it for the collapse, rather than the thought patterns hidden from our view. The problem with attaching so much importance to the swing is that it leads to a vicious cycle that can last the rest of your golfing life. Most golfers labor under the basic misconception that swing mechanics are the only things that are important in sending the ball to target -- if only you could get that right, you could be a player.
Using this logic, a good shot means you made a good swing; a bad shot means you made a bad swing. Therefore, when you hit bad shots, you're not ready to play golf until you fix the bad swing, so it's off to the range. This destructive reasoning traps you in a break-it-fix-it-break-it-fix-it cycle. Since you think your swing is always the culprit, swing mechanics so consume your focus, there is no time or energy left to play the target game called golf. On the course you may appear to be playing golf, but you're really playing "break it, fix it." As golf professional and mental game guru Chuck Hogan has pointed out, many golfers unwittingly spend their entire lives in this remedial loop.
Train Your Brain to Run Your Game
Training your brain to run your game is the central theme of this book. Champions can't control what is happening to them, but they can control how they respond to what is happening to them. Their thought process is of the highest quality because they have trained their brain as diligently as they have trained their swing. You can call it knowing how to win, mental toughness, golf smarts, paying your dues, or simply experience, but whatever you call it, a trained brain is the sine qua non of a champion.
Of course, not every golfer has the combination of trained brain and trained swing working for them. There are three possible combinations:
1. An untrained swing combined with a trained brain produces tenacious players who get the most out of their swing. These golfers have much potential because once they improve their swing mechanics (a relatively easy feat), they will have a trained brain to run the show.
2. The majority of amateurs suffer double jeopardy: neither their swing nor their brains are well trained for golf. In addition to training their brain, they need the help of an expert teacher and some time on the range.
3. The third combination is a player with a sound golf swing and an untrained golf brain. When this player's swing goes, the game goes with it. These are fragile players, especially when it comes to sustained performance....The 30-Second Golf Swing. Copyright © by T.J. Tomasi. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.