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Golf Is a Game to Be Played
Bagger Vance's philosophy was that golf is not a game to be won. He told Junah, "Golf is a game to be played". There is a huge difference between playing to win and playing to play.

When you play to win, you create tension and pressure that adversely affects your brain's chemistry and your ability to perform. If you play to play, you are relaxed and give yourself a chance to perform at a much higher level so you can win. However, as true as this is, most golfers continue to get caught up in the outcome and winning, which causes their game to suffer.

I was at the recent PGA six-round qualifier at PGA West in La Quinta. The conditions were perfect, except for the slow greens due to reseeding. Some golfers who were use to fast greens had a hard time adjusting to the slow greens. Others who figured out the slow greens were shooting very low scores documented by a 59-course record.

For the first four rounds, the cut off for the 35 PGA cards was 69 each day or 12 under after the first four days. Guess what happened to the scores during the fifth and final rounds, as many of the players' mindsets became super focused on winning a tour card.

You guessed right. After round five, 70 or 14 under was the magic number. After the final round, it moved up to 71 for the final cut off of 15 under to qualify for your PGA card. The same perfect playing conditions existed during those final two rounds, but performances dropped significantly just because finality was fast approaching and players started playing to win.

Golf is a catch 22. If you play to win, you make it very hard on yourself to play well. If you just play to play, you dramatically increase your ability to win the prize. Junah finally wised up and asked Bagger for help.

Ironically, after the first round I checked my email and found a question from a golfer, which clearly helps illustrates Bagger's philosophy. Hopefully, the following correspondence will help you improve your golf and shoot lower scores.

"Dear Michael,

"It's been a while since I have written you and I wanted to give you an update. My golf game has improved tremendously since I last wrote you. While working on my physical game, I have also worked to incorporate your lessons in my mental game and have seen great results!

"On Sunday, I went out to the driving range and hit a bucket of balls, (I do this on a daily basis), and was very pleased with my practice session. However, on Monday, I went to the driving range and couldn't hit a golf ball to save my life. I started shanking the ball, hitting off the toe, hitting it off the hosel and striking the ground. I thought it just might be one of those days and decided to try it again last night. Same results.

"Suddenly, it feels like I have forgotten how to play the game. Since I have seen a steady and dramatic improvement over the last 5 months, it would seem logical that I have developed a mental block that is preventing me from executing a good golf swing.

"Any ideas on what I can do to return to my "A" game. I know this is temporary, but being human, it is easy to get caught up in my current problem."

I told him the same thing that I would tell you if you asked the same question.

Stay focused on the process and the results will be there according to your mechanical ability. My guess is that you made a couple of bad shots and when you didn't get the outcome you wanted or expected you let negative emotions enter and started pressing or panicking.

Reread The Mental Keys. Then, the next time you hit a bucket of balls don't give a darn about where they go. Just relax, hit the ball and see what happens. If you don't care, you won't get emotionally involved with the outcome. Once you get mentally relaxed, look for the mechanical adjustments that will get you back on track. If you do this for several buckets of balls, you will eventually find the correct adjustments and you should be back on track.

Try this out and let me know how it goes. Don't force it. Patience is a virtue, especially in golf because old man golf does his best to get into your mind and destroy your game.

Believe it or not, after the final round of the qualifier, I checked my email and look what was waiting for me.

"Mike,

"Thank you for the kind words of encouragement. I did as you asked and my game not only returned, but my little problem allowed me to reexamine my game and have actually moved to the next level!!

"Many, many thanks for your help and guidance."

If you haven't seen the movie "The Legend of Bagger Vance", I highly recommend seeing it and paying attention to Bagger when he says, "Golf is a game to be played".

© Copyright 2002 by Michael Anthony.  All rights reserved.