The Golf of Your Dreams

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Fifteen years ago, the average American male golfer's handicap was 16.2. The average female golfer's handicap was 29. Today, the average American male golfer's handicap is 16.2 and the average female golfer's is 29. American golfers have not gotten any better.

World-renowned performance consultant and sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella, author of the best-selling books Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect and Golf Is a Game of Confidence, has written The Golf of Your Dreams for the ...

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Fifteen years ago, the average American male golfer's handicap was 16.2. The average female golfer's handicap was 29. Today, the average American male golfer's handicap is 16.2 and the average female golfer's is 29. American golfers have not gotten any better.

World-renowned performance consultant and sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella, author of the best-selling books Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect and Golf Is a Game of Confidence, has written The Golf of Your Dreams for the golfer who is determined to get better but hasn't figured out how to go about it. Building on his success with golfers, Dr. Rotella now teaches and details a plan for lowering your handicap, ensuring your improvement if you follow his plan. His program for success in playing the golf of your dreams is based on strategies found to be successful with tour players such as Tom Kite, Brad Faxon, Pat Bradley, and Davis Love III, and is similar to approaches used by Rotella's other clients who are top athletes in a variety of different sports.

Whereas Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect and Golf Is a Game of Confidence covered the mental aspects of the game, The Golf of Your Dreams offers a programmatic guide for getting down to scratch or single digits. It is an approach that Dr. Rotella and his clients have tested for over twenty years, one that has been proven to work consistently with all levels of golfers.

Dr. Rotella knows that if you want to play your best golf ever, you must admit to yourself that you want to be good and that you have the necessary talent to play well. But that's not all. You must commit yourself to a process that will improve your game. In The Golfof Your Dreams Dr. Rotella provides tips on how to:

* Choose the fight teaching professional

* Communicate your dreams and goals to your teacher

* Get your teacher to teach you as a student serious about improving

* Make a plan for improvement with your teacher and stay committed

* Sustain and honor your commitment

* Break old habits and develop new ones

* Practice efficiently and effectively so you can take your learning from the practice area to the golf course

Dr. Rotella also discusses a piece of very good news for any golfer: Great physical ability is not required in order to play exceptional golf. Rotella demonstrates how characteristics such as desire, patience, and persistence, more than physical talent, enable golfers to improve their performance dramatically. When these characteristics are combined with a proven plan for success, modest talent is more than enough.

Dr. Rotella will reveal why, despite the billions of dollars they have spent on new golf clubs, balls, and lessons, average American golfers' skills are stagnant and their performance is lackluster year after year. Dr. Rotella knows, above all, that simply reading a book or watching a video will not make anyone a better golfer. But reading The Golf of Your Dreams will make you keenly aware of what you have to do in order to play the kind of golf you've always sensed you were capable of playing.

Bob Rotella -- author of GOLF IS NOT A GAME OF PERFECT, which looks at the mental aspects of good golf -- returns with a more practical guide to help any golfer develop his or her game.

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What People Are Saying

Brad Faxon
During the last thirteen years with Dr. Rotella's instruction, I have consistently improved my game, my scoring average, my skills, and my place on the money list on the PGA tour. If you follow his direction you will greatly enhance the chances of improving your own golf game.
Davis Love
My father spent many years teaching me to play golf, but when I reached the PGA Tour we realized that a poor short game was holding me back. My father suggested that Dr. Bob Rotella could help me reach my potential as a tournament golfer. Bob taught me a steady routine and has given me the confidence in my game to play at the highest level of competition.
Tom Kite
Bob Rotella understands the importance of discipline and dedication to a well-thought-out plan for improvement. Patience, persistence, and trust are required, but progress will follow if you honor your commitment to the plan he outlines. Doing so will bring tremendous feelings of satisfaction and pride.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684842851
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 11/28/1997
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. Bob Rotella was the Director of Sports Psychology for twenty years at the University of Virginia. His reputation grew there as the person champions talked to about the mental parts of their game. His clients include champions from all sports, like LeBron James; in golf world talents such as Tom Kite to Graeme McDowell. A writer for and consultant to Golf Digest, he lives in Virginia with his wife, Darlene.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

The Golf of Your Dreams, and Why Few Attain It

I have no quarrel with someone who wants to play indifferent golf.

Millions of people want to play a round of golf once or twice a month. They want to enjoy the fresh air, the sunshine, and the company. They don't want to practice or take lessons, and they may have valid reasons. Perhaps young children demand most of their time and energy. Perhaps their careers demand seventy hours a week. They may just not care very much how well they play golf. That's fine, as long as they understand the limitations they place on themselves, and admit they don't want to play as well as they can, at least not now. If this makes them happy, they're welcome to play their way.

This book isn't written for them.

This book is for the golfer who's stopped being indifferent, the golfer who puts or is ready to put a lot of time and energy into the game, the golfer who's puzzled and frustrated that his time and energy don't produce lower scores. It's written for the golfer who is determined to get better, but hasn't figured out how to go about it.

The fact is that improving your golf is more difficult than, say, improving your cycling. Once you've learned to ride a bicycle, your improvement in speed and endurance will correlate more or less directly with the time and effort you put into training. But with golf, time and effort are not sufficient. The quality and intelligence of the effort you put in are more important than the quantity. What I see as I travel around the country playing golf, consulting with players, and holding clinics, is that most amateurs unintentionally undermine the quality of the effort they put into theimprovement of their games. They do so in many ways.

Some players have convinced themselves that talent determines who becomes good at golf, and that they don't have that talent. I'm not going to say that talent doesn't exist. I've seen a few players who have never practiced take to the game so naturally that they got to scratch, or very close to it, with little or no effort. On the other end of the spectrum, I've seen a few people who took up the game as adults, having never done anything athletic in their lives. They can improve, but usually slowly and gradually.

These people, though, are the exceptions, a small percent of the total population. The vast majority of golfers falls in between. They have the talent required to play well. But their talent must be developed properly.

A lot of golfers don't want to know this. It's more comfortable for them to think that lack of talent limits their potential. They spend a lot of time at golf without getting better, but they can blame their mediocre play on God, on their genes -- on anything besides themselves.

This is a universal human tendency. I have a friend who does business in Russia. He decided that his work would be more successful if he spoke Russian, so he took Russian language courses and worked with tutors. For several years, he carried index cards in his jacket pocket with Russian words written on one side and the English equivalents on the other. Whenever he had a few minutes, he'd pull out the cards and study them. After a long while and a lot of practice, he learned to speak pretty good Russian.

But when he meets people who discover that he speaks Russian, the most frequent response he hears is, "You must have an ear for languages. I don't. I have a tin ear."

People would rather believe in tin ears than acknowledge that the reason they don't speak Russian is that they didn't put in the hours of study and practice.

The problem with this is that, as the pioneering American psychologist William James realized long ago, people tend to become what they think of themselves. If you're going to get better at golf, at speaking Russian, or at anything else that requires disciplined effort, you must first think of yourself as capable of doing so. You must believe that you have the talent to succeed.

A friend of mine, Robert Willis, recently sent me a videotape of a golfer named Mike Carver playing nine holes on a course in Grenada, Mississippi. Carver shot 35, or even par. The remarkable thing about the tape was not the score, although it was very impressive to see a player being videotaped for the first time sink a 15-foot birdie putt on the last hole to come in at even par.

The remarkable thing was Carver himself. He was born with a right arm that ends just below the bicep. He has only three fingers on his left hand and his left wrist is fused. His right leg ends just above the knee; he wears a prosthesis. His left ankle is fused.

When he plays golf, Mike puts the club in his left hand and addresses the ball with his hand way out in front of the clubhead. He takes the club back with his left arm, rests it briefly on the stump of his right arm, then swings through the ball one-handed. He steps through as he shifts his weight, à la Gary Player. Then he hobbles off and hits it again. He usually hits a nice, controlled draw, and he can produce about two-hundred yards of distance.

His short game enables him to shoot around par. He takes a practice swing, then lets the chip go, and he almost always makes crisp contact. His nickname is Stoney because he so often chips it up stone dead.

At the end of the tape, Mike is seen putting his clubs into his car, which has the vanity tag "Stoney 2," but no handicapped sticker. Mike, it turns out, doesn't want one. He doesn't see himself as handicapped.

And that's why Mike Carver can play par golf. He reminds me of one of the insights that John Wooden contributed to sport: "Don't let the things you can't do stand in the way of things you can do." Most people, looking at him, would think him not just lacking talent, but severely handicapped. That is not the way Mike sees himself. He thinks he's got talent. He thinks he can be an excellent golfer. And that belief, coupled with patient practice, has made him one.

Without that belief, without faith that you can become an excellent player, you won't have the motivation required to stick with it when progress is slow. And, in learning golf, there will be times when progress is not just slow but nonexistent. There will be times when you seem to be going backwards.

This fact relegates another large group of dedicated golfers to perpetual mediocrity. They may believe they have the talent to improve. They may take a lesson or two with good intentions. But then their pros tell them they must change their grip or their backswing. They feel very uncomfortable with the change at first; quite frequently, they can barely make contact with the ball. But they won't work on the change to make it feel comfortable and natural. They don't accept the fact that this will take time. And they don't let anything deter them from playing their usual tooth-and-toenail two-dollar nassau on Saturday morning.

Along about the twelfth hole, they're five down, they've just hit two poor shots, and another press is looming. Suddenly they're not very enthused about the process of improvement. Maybe they abandon the new grip or the new backswing then and there. Or maybe they stick with it for the rest of the round, fork over their lost bets, and go to the locker room grousing about how the damned pro has ruined their (15-handicap) games. They talk themselves into believing this, they stop taking lessons, and they finish the season just about where they started. The only thing they got from their lessons was, perhaps, a couple of high scores that bumped their handicaps up a few notches and allowed them to win back some of the money they lost. They are too concerned with short-term results to persist in a long-term process.

Yet another group of nonimprovers subscribes to Ben Hogan's maxim that the golf swing is in the ground and a golfer just has to dig it out. They want to teach themselves how to play the game, and they're prepared to hit thousands of practice balls to do it. This is not impossible. It's true that Hogan and some other great players essentially taught themselves. But keep two things in mind: You never heard of all the lousy players who tried Hogan's learning method and found that all they accomplished was to ingrain a bad swing. And, you didn't, if you were a golf fan, hear much about Hogan until he was in his 30s. He took up the game as a caddie when he was about eleven years old. It took him more than twenty years of constant effort to build a swing that he could rely on.

On the other hand, look at the examples of the other two main contenders for the title of greatest American golfer: Bobby Jones and Jack Nicklaus. Each of them had a teacher who helped him learn the game and remained his mentor well into adulthood -- Stewart Maiden in Jones's case and Jack Grout in Nicklaus's. Both Jones and Nicklaus were contending for national championships while still in their teens. Each won a U.S. Open in his early twenties.

So, while I may admire the persistence and dedication of the ball-beating golfers down at the end of the range who are trying to teach themselves the game, I would say that the evidence suggests their method is neither the most effective nor the most reliable. A good teacher will save you time. He'll help pull you out of troughs of discouragement. He'll stop you before you can let mistakes become habits.

Even the best of athletes have realized this. I was recently at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, where Bob Jones learned the game. In the locker room, there's a picture of Babe Ruth playing golf. The caption quotes him as saying that to play golf well, you need good coaching.

Babe Ruth epitomized the natural athlete. And even he didn't think he could learn the game by digging it out of the ground.

There is a mistake worse than trying to learn on your own. I'm thinking of the players who flit from teacher to teacher and tip to tip. These are the golfers who read all the magazines and devoutly watch the swing tips on the golf telecasts. Unfortunately, the backswing tip they see on television probably isn't appropriate for the grip they read about in the magazine, and neither of them may be applicable to their particular swing.

They compound the problem if they go from one pro to another, taking a lesson here and a lesson there. Confronted with a pupil he knows he may see only once, the typical golf pro will try to apply a Band-Aid that will help the golfer get through his next round somewhat less likely to hit a ball out of bounds. He won't -- he can't -- fix the fundamental problems in one lesson. He feels no responsibility for the way such a pupil plays.

Pretty soon, the golfer who wanders from teacher to teacher has a game that's all Band-Aids, which is to say a game that doesn't hold up. His mind is cluttered with different swing theories. He's the kind of person who can chatter impressively about Pro A's latest article on the one-piece takeaway, about Pro B's follow-through, and Pro C's ideas on the position of the hands through the impact zone. Most likely, he adds to the mix a suggestion from his buddy, Player D, who's never broken 80 in his life. One from Column A, one from Column B, one from Column C, and one from Column D may work out fine in a Chinese restaurant, but it doesn't work in golf. Put a club in this player's hands and he looks like a pretzel maker with fleas in his pants, but he loves to chatter about swing theories.

Then there are players whose mental game, or lack of it, limits their ability to improve. Now, I'm a sport psychologist, and the mental game is what I teach. But I'm not going to tell you that golf is played strictly between the ears. Golf is a game of body and mind. You can't play it unless you can swing the club. You can't play it well unless you have a reasonably consistent, repeating swing; unless you can play wedge shots; unless you can putt. However, the mental game is important. In the upper-handicap ranges, I've seen players go from handicaps of about twenty to handicaps of twelve or thirteen just by improving their mental games. In the lower-handicap ranges, the difference between a scratch player and one who plays to a two or three is very often not a matter of ability to swing the club. It's a matter of recognizing the right shots to hit in certain situations, of picking the right targets, of maintaining composure throughout a round. Those are all aspects of the mental game.

The most common shortcoming in the mental area is a failure to appreciate and develop the short game. If you've read Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect or Golf Is a Game of Confidence, you already know the facts of life as they pertain to the short game. In brief, they are these: The great majority, perhaps two-thirds, of all shots are played from within one-hundred yards of the hole. No one, not even the best players on tour, has refined the full swing to the point where he averages hitting more than 13 or so of the greens he plays in regulation figures. The scoring payoff for a great putt or a great wedge shot is far greater than the payoff for a great drive. These are not secrets. They've been known for generations, and my books are hardly the only source of this information.

Nevertheless there are legions of players who, if they practice at all, spend far more time practicing drivers and five-irons than they do wedges. If you confront this kind of player with the facts about the importance of the short game, he may well agree. However, he is likely to say that he wants to perfect his full swing before he turns to the short game. This is rather like a college kid who declines to date any of the women on campus because he expects someday to meet and woo Cindy Crawford. He might be praised for setting lofty goals, but he is not likely to have much of a social life.

A golfer who wants to perfect his swing before addressing his short game is trying to turn golf into a game of perfection, which it can never be. He doesn't really like golf as it is -- a game of imperfect swings redeemed by good chips, pitches, and putts. He will lie on his deathbed someday, wondering when his swing is finally going to come around.

There's one final category of frustrated hackers -- those whose deficient mental games sabotage their efforts on the course. They don't have consistent preshot routines; consequently, they don't hit consistent shots. They can't accept that golf is a game of mistakes, and they regularly lose their composure after hitting a bad shot, turning bogies into double and triple bogies.

If you fall into one of these categories, you should now have an idea of why your golf game has failed to improve. And, if you have reasonable powers of deduction, you've probably already started to understand what's required if you want to play the golf of your dreams.

First, you have to admit to yourself that you want to be good and that you have the talent to play well. Second, you must commit yourself to a process that will, over time, improve your game. You will need patience. You will need perseverance. But you can improve. Maybe you can get to scratch; maybe you'll only get to the respectable single digits. I don't guarantee what your final number will be, and you should stop trying to predict how far your talent will take you. I can guarantee that if you fall in love with the process of improvement, you'll find out how good you can get.

I recently played a round with Ivan Lendl, the tennis great, that reminded me of how satisfying the process of improvement can be. Ivan doesn't play competitive tennis any more. He's devoting much of his time to seeing how good he can become at golf. This is a man who's won major championships and millions of dollars. He has all the fame and glory anyone could want, and he has the means to choose whatever he wants to do with his life. He chooses to try to get better at golf. What he learned from tennis and is applying to golf is what's applicable to you:

The satisfaction is in the striving.

If you think about it, you'll realize that getting good at golf is not so different from getting good at anything else that's complex, difficult, and rewarding.

Suppose you're a lawyer, and a good one. You didn't start out that way. You started out, in fact, when you were a child and learned to read and write. Slowly, you assembled the skills a lawyer needs. In high school, perhaps, you were on the debate team and learned to present an oral argument. In college, you picked up research skills and people skills. In law school, you took all those fundamental skills and added specialized legal training. Finally, having passed the bar, you entered a firm and worked under a partner as an associate, observing how he or she conducted business.

Along the way, your confidence in your vision grew. You developed a firm belief that you could be a successful lawyer, which helped see you through all the tedious nights of study.

And, though you did the work yourself, all along the way you had mentors who helped you learn more quickly and more thoroughly than you could have on your own.

Golf is the same way. It helps to have a mentor.

Copyright © 1997 by Robert J. Rotella

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Table of Contents



1. The Golf of your Dreams, and Why Few Attain It

2. Picking a Pro

3. Getting Committed

4. The Hard Part

5. The Improvement Cycle

6. A Playing Lesson from Bob Toski

7. One Stroke at a Time

8. The Psychology of a Swing Change

9. Bonefishing and Other Distractions

10. The Psychology of Practice

11. When You Need Another Teacher

12. Parents And Children

13. The Money Factor

14. The Discipline You'll Need

15. A Philosophy of Golf And Life

Appendix A: Rotella's Rules

Appendix B: Your Improvement Program


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  • Posted October 21, 2011

    Very Highly Recommended

    If you are not interested in REAL GROWTH, then don't bother getting this audio
    book. But, if you want and need to grow, you will find this book full of
    gold ! With blessings. Peter Hans Frohwein

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