Yesterday I embarked on a “Bob Rotella based” plan to play an entire round of golf without laboring over swing thoughts. I would take one or two practice swings, settle on a specific target in the distance, consider the shot shape, and then with a waggle or two, hit my shot to the target. Oh, and in addition and most importantly: I would “stay in the present” throughout the round.
I was a bit hesitant to use the Mission Accomplished headline for this post. It brings to mind the ill-fated banner on the aircraft carrier on which George W. Bush landed in the early stages of the Iraq war. But if I was to describe the results of my first attempt at the Rotella plan – as it will now be known – Mission Accomplished is as good as any.
The weather was beautiful – as it always seems to be in Victoria in July – we had comfortable and enjoyable playing partners (the lovely and talented Yvonne and Larry), and bald eagles soaring low in the sky. On top of all this, we were anticipating Yvonne’s post-round dinner of fresh pasta with lamb. So this was a day that could only be compromised by a lousy round of golf. This was evidence that I was not quite ready to not allow my golf score to affect my mood.
On to the results of the plan. In short, it worked. On a golf course where my previous low round was 78, I shot 41 on both sides for a relatively tidy 82. There were a few deviations from the plan. I got a little angry with myself after missing three putts of less than three feet in the first four holes. I momentarily allowed myself to think of my score, “I should be even par, but now I’m 3-over.” I also had a few interactions with a gremlin whispering “are you sure about this?” as I prepared to hit sans swing thoughts. I fought through those interruptions using a technique from another book I read years ago. Dr. Gio Valiante suggested saying a mantra to yourself: “where’s my target” repeatedly when the mental gremlins attacked.
I’m not ready to say I am cured of the paralyzing effects of multiple swing thoughts for every damn swing of the club. What I am saying is, it’s a start. I realize now that this is not just another band-aid, it is the right way to play and think the game. But here’s the thing: this plan will not work for everyone. You do have to spend time working on your game and develop some kind of repeatable golf swing. It doesn’t have to be tour-caliber, it just has to be somewhat consistent. In other words, the one caveat to this whole strategy is to develop a level of muscle memory that can only be accomplished through some repetition. And then go to the course, with whatever swing you have that day, select a target, and hit away.