In no other game does the power of positive thinking play a more vital part than in golf. As you stand over a ball, what goes on in your mind is as important as what goes on in your muscles and joints as you attempt to belabour it into the far distance.
Mental strength can be the key to a better game. This does not mean us poor hackers have a mental deficiency. Indeed, my observations over a long period suggest the opposite may be true. However, let’s just say that the less activity going on in your brain the more likely you are to apply yourself successfully to a game of golf. Hackers tend to have a livelier thinking process and a far greater awareness of the world at large, and it’s not easy to hit a ball if you’re worried about attacking Iraq.
Hackers’ minds are also more likely to be flooded by doubts and questions such as ‘Is my bottom sticking out too much when I address the ball?’ But, as the professionals ceaselessly remind us, unless you think positively you will never release the good golfer that is inside us all.
If there was ever a good golfer inside me he has long made his escape through a handy orifice – but you have to listen to your teachers, especially when you are paying them so much.
One of the legion of pros to whom I have taken my serious chipping problem was convinced the answer lay purely in the psychological approach. The mental block that has caused me more thinned chips than McDonald’s had to be unjammed before I could use my wedge to good effect.
‘I want you to be absolutely certain in your mind when you go to chip the ball,’ he said.
‘But I am already,’ I protested. ‘I’m certain I’m going to cock it up.’ What I needed, I explained, was someone who could prove to me I was capable of chipping properly. Confidence comes from knowing you can do something. It doesn’t come from knowing you can’t.
I am now at the self-help stage and I believe I am at last making progress. It involves me spending hours chipping plastic balls from the lounge carpet into the armchair, but every effort is worth the trouble.
It helps that I am not the only sufferer. There are enough of us at my club to form a branch of Chip-cockers Anonymous.
‘My name is Peter and I can’t chip.’
One of my friends managed to find a cure by chipping with one hand. He holds the wedge in his right hand and puts his left hand in his pocket while he is making the stroke. It helps him concentrate harder. He was with a group of us who went up to St Andrews for a golfing break last year. Other golfers would stop and stare disbelievingly at his apparently nonchalant one-handed chipping action.
He won’t thank me for mentioning that it was the only time he put his hand in his pocket all the time we were away.