11 June 2010
Here For Lessons
by Dr. Adam H. Naylor
The clergyman walked to the first tee and declared, "I'm here for lessons," nodding to
his playing partner and suggesting that I was also welcome to give him swing advice
throughout the round. Oh no··· my professional pessimism led me to assume
either one of two things: 1. He was so desperate to improve his golf game that he
was about to fill himself with tidbits of golf gibberish until his swing was reduced to
hopelessly lashing at the ball. "Desperate"being the word resonating in my mind, or 2.
He was taking part in the age old golf tradition of reducing public expectations on
first tee. In a few moments I would witness a booming drive, precise iron play, and
silky, smooth putting. To me the pastor was either a fool or a fraud.
By the twelfth hole it was clear that pessimistic preconceptions illuminate both
the fool and the fraud (perhaps it was me···). During the previous holes, the
pastor lashed violently at the ball, sending it left··· right··· short··· long··· and on the rare occasion straight. A few lessons were certainly in order.
His friend, a significantly better golfer (carding a 74 on this day) was more than
eager to provide frequent swing advice. "Youfve got to slow down your backswing,"
"Look at where you're finishing," "You've
got get your weight through the ball," "Stop
slashing across the face of the ball," "Keep
your head down," "Slow down that
swing,"··· I'm not sure a single one of the
pastor's swings ended without a barrage of
It is unclear on this day whether the
incessant "coaching" or "practice-effect" of
60··· 70··· 80··· 90··· swings led to the
improvement. Yet improvement was
found. The ball was consistently airborne
and a par or two were carded on the back
nine. Learning took root and it had less todo with the teacher (at times the friend, at
others feedback from the course itself) than
with the student himself.
Learning happens and better golf follows if
you set the stage. The pleasant pastor set the stage. He was open, patient, and faithful. Can you be open, patient, and faithful in your development of your"mental game?" The easy part is flipping
through the pages of an instructional book
or listening for 45-minutes to a golf pro
preaching. The tough part is truly "hearing"
these lessons and making the learning stick.
It begins by allowing the new perspectives
to take root. Openness suggests that you
are ready to look a bit foolish and to check
your ego at the door, while trying new
mental approaches "on for size." Patience is critical if you are seeking long term change.
The initial enthusiasm might lead
to some great swings tomorrow, but
patience and commitment will lead to
Ultimately, the ideas of a
sound mental approach to golf are only as
good as your faith in them.
If you have a
few ideas from books or lessons that have
resonated with you it is time to try them and give them a fair test of time.
Regardless of how the swing feels or where
the ball lands, you succeeded if you trusted
yourself and your mental approach··· it is
likely if you have been faithful to yourself,
your swing will feel good and shots will be
The pastor managed to enter the clubhouse
a stroke or two under 100, with a huge
smile on his face. Over the course of
eighteen holes he had been peppered with
advice, to which he made efforts to put into
action. There were good holes, bad holes,
and going half mad holes, but enthusiasm
never waned for a moment. A lot can be
learned from this student.
Declare, "I'm here for lessons!" and mean
The previous reflections are an excerpt form
A Quick 9 for the Mind: Stroke-Saving
Psychology and Philosophy by Dr. Adam H.
Naylor. Get your copy at
http://www.lulu.com/product/item/quick9-for-the-mind/11254265. Bulk discounts
for your pro shop orders and club events.
Dr. Adam Naylor, 11 June 2010
About Adam Naylor, Ed.D., AASP-CC
Dr. Naylor currently teaches at Boston University and brings over 10 years of applied sport psychology experience (Olympic, professional, collegiate, and elite junior) to his clients. Dr. Naylor obtained his doctoral and master degrees in counseling psychology and developmental studies (specializing in sport psychology) at Boston University. He is the Director and Sport Psychology Coach at the Boston University Athletic Enhancement Center
. He has also taught sport psychology classes at the University of Massachusetts and Trinity College (CT). He has published in various academic journals and is currently the Column Editor on Sport Psychology and
Counseling for Athletic Therapy Today and a contributor to the Titlest Performance Institute http://www.mytpi.com/
Contact him at email@example.com
. Or follow him on Twitter @ahnaylor.