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The Mental Game in Prose and Poetry

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I’ve been reading Dr. Bob Rotella’s new book, The Unstoppable Golfer, (written with Bob Cullen)His basic thesis is that to play your best golf you need to develop repeatable sensible pre-shot routines, establish targets for all your shots and then go as “unconscious” as you can while hitting the shot or putting. While this approach is important for all shots, Rotella believes it is especially important for the short game. Rotella assumes that the reader can play, but is being stopped from improvement by a weak mental game that shows up more frequently from 100 yards in. By following Rotella’s mental prescriptions readers will become “unstoppable”  on the golf course. The book is easy to read and his mental game approach is well accepted among professionals. If you are looking for help with your short game and know the basics of chipping, pitching and putting, this book will help.

In the book Rotella rightly points out that sports psychology is a relatively new profession. However, he may not have come across what is likely the first reference to the mental game which appeared in a poem written by an Edinburgh medical student in 1687! The 12 line poem appears in Thomas Kincaid’s diary and is the first poem entirely about golf.

Gripe fast stand with your left leg first not farr
Incline your back and shoulders but beware
You raise them not when back the club you bring
Make all the motion with your bodies swinge
And shoulders, holding still the muscles bent                   (5)
Play slowly first till you the way have learnt
At such lenth hold the club as fitts your strength
The lighter head requires the longer lenth
That circle wherein moves your club and hands
At forty five degrees from Th[e] horizon stands             (10)
What at on[e] stroak to effectuat you dispaire
Seek only ’gainst the nixt it to prepare.

The mental game reference is in lines 11 and 12. These last two lines suggest that if you hit a bad shot, put it out of your mind when preparing to hit the next. Still good advice.

In my book, Golf Course of Rhymes – Links between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages I include a poem that I wrote which sums up the challenge of following the prescriptions in Dr. Rotella’s tome.

The Futility of Thinking

With golf and sleeping
The more that you think
The odds of succeeding
Are likely to shrink.

Be it sheep in a line
Or the ball at address
Your thoughts only lead to
An increase in stress.

But,

To swing without thinking
Requires that you
Fill your mind up with blanks
It’s darn hard to do!

But in spite of the challenge, Dr. Rotella’s book may help. Check it out on Amazon. Oh, and you can check out mine as well. Thanks.

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