If you're interested only in swing-plane minutiae, find yourself a Konica Minolta Biz Hub Swingvision camera and have at it. But if you accept what the great philosopher Yogi Berra once said about baseball and apply it to golf, that 90 percent of the game is half mental, here's a place you might want to start: "Play Your Best Golf Now," the third book in a series by Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott with Golf World's Ron Sirak.
Nilsson and Marriott are the co-creators of the Vision 54 approach that starts with idea that if any given hole can be birdied, why not all 18 (for a round of 54)? Among its most famous adherents is Annika Sorenstam, who in the Standard Register Ping in 2001 birdied the first eight holes in the second round en route to an LPGA record 59.
"Play Your Best Golf Now" focuses on eight essential playing skills, only two of them, tempo and balance, pertaining to traditional golf instruction. The others deal with mental preparation, building emotional resilience, for instance. They offer 10 emotional resilience exercises ("Play on the course and after each shot, for ten seconds, access something that makes you feel positive emotions").
If you need evidence that what they teach works, here it is: Ai Miyazato, Yani Tseng, Brittany Lincicome, Na Yeon Choi, Song Hee Kim, Kevin Streelman, Joe Ogilvie and, of course, Sorenstam. All are or have been Nilsson and Marriott students.
Tseng won three major championships before the age of 22, the third of them the Women's British Open last summer. "We had her singing songs to herself to keep the self-talk away between shots," the authors wrote, "and we had her keep her Play Box routine to five seconds so the self-talk wouldn't have time to start up when she was over the ball. This was her Play Box Awareness -- and it worked."
The singing between shots and the short Play Box routine helped keep negative thoughts at bay, freeing her swing to perform as she had trained it to do.
What Nilsson and Marriott are teaching is not just for elite golfers. Nor, it could be argued, is it just for golfers, the example of Vikki Templeton advancing this notion. Templeton and her husband operate a dairy farm.
"The main thing I learned from VISION54 is that it is not only about golf, but also about life," Templeton said. "Life is often mirrored in your golf. The lessons learned in VISION54 are so transferable to your everyday life. One thing I have learned is to only concentrate on what I can control and not dwell on the uncontrollable."
As swing thoughts for life go, there's one worth embracing.
-- John Strege