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Thursday, 4 May 2017

Bobby Jones on Playing the Game Part Three

Before he went on his incredible Major championship winning streak, Bobby Jones had to learn to adjust his ambitions and exercise restraint in his play. He came to understand that he needed to adopt the attitude, as J.H. Taylor described it, of "courageous timidity"; having the courage to handle adversity, with enough timidity, or caution, to "be aware of a limit to his powers."

For seven years Bobby had not won a Major. This was as much a source of mystery to him as to the fans who witnessed his incredible talent. It was only when he made the necessary attitude changes that he finally became the dominant player in the game. What helped him make this attitude change, from playing every shot for it's ultimate potential to relying on good, consistent play? Bobby wrote:

    "I learned to adjust my ambitions to more reasonable prospects shot by shot, and to strive for a rate of performance that was consistently good and reliable, rather than placing my hopes upon the accomplishment of a series of brilliant sallies.
     My resolution along these lines was immensely fortified by a bit of objective analyzing of my own play, which came up with a rather surprising result. I began by reviewing in my mind each round of golf as I played it to determine how many strokes in the round, exclusive of putts, had resulted precisely accirding to the conception I had in my mind as I played them. Since my scores around my home course at East Lake were rarely ever as high as the par of seventy-two and had a normal range of sixty-six to seventy, I expected that a fair number of shots in each round would have been completely satisfactory. I was amazed to find that in some rounds, fairly good from a scoring standpoint, I could find only one or two shots which had not been mishit to some degree. Many, of course, finished on the green or near the hole, but most had been hit a little too high or too low on the club; some had faded or drawn when the action had not been intended; some drives of good length had barely missed the sweet spot.
     I finally arrived at a measure of expectancy that in a season's play I could perform at my best rate for not over half-a-dozen rounds, and that in any one of these best rounds I would not strike more than six shots, other than putts, exactly as intended.
     If one should have confidence in such an appraisal, which I had, the following conclusions were inescapable:
     1. I must be prepared for the making of mistakes.
     2. I must try always to select the shot to be played and the manner of playing it so as to provide the widest possible margin for error.
     3. I must expect to have to do some scrambling and not be discouraged if the amount of it happens to be more than normal."

I can hardly think of a better way of describing the proper mental approach to the playing of the game. But some might think this advice doesn't necessarly apply to the recreational player. After all, they aren't playing for Major championships, or big money. Bobby concludes by dealing with just that point. He wrote:

    "The main point of all this for the play-for-fun golfer is to emphasize the importance even for him of adjusting his attitude towards the game before he goes out on the course. Let him first divest himself of any thought that it may be unsportsmanlike or unworthy to prepare himself for play as best he can. There is no point in going out to play a game unless one has the desire to play well, and golf was not made to be played impetuously; nor is one likely to exercise the needed restraint and self-discipline unless one has prepared oneself in advance. You don't need to go into any ostentatious seclusion, but only quietly and within yourself, to get your mind on the game before you step up to the first tee."

All golfers want to play well. Of course, how well they should aspire to play should be reasonable relative to their skill level. But the game was meant to be taken somewhat seriously; not, as Bobby wrote, to be played "impetuously." You should have an idea of what you hope to accomplish, and of how you hope to accomplish it. A little mental preparation can go a long way. And those three rules from Bobby about how to prepare yourself mentally for the playing of a round of golf are golden.