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“How Great Golfers Think” Book Review

May. 23, 2008     By     Comments (8)

Bob Skura is no Bob Rotella, but for me at this point in time, that's a good thing.

Just about every golfer has their demons. Whether it is a temper or negative attitude or thinking about the score you think you can make, none of these things can positively impact round of golf. Bob Skura's How Great Golfers Think is a book designed to help golfers of any skill level deal with those demons.

Where How Great Golfers Think differs is in its approach. Most "mental" golf books I've read give you stories and whimsical, common-sense advice. While serving a purpose, this often does not stick with you over time. How Great Golfers Think is more of a seven-course meal and leaves you satisfied and full, laying out steps and a plan for golfers to better improve their mental approach and ultimately lower their scores.

Using a lesson-story format through the regular foursome of Kip, Andy, Frank, and Jason, Skura lays out three fundamentals to success:

  • How to think.
  • How to talk.
  • How to play.


The Three Keys
I know what you're thinking. This sounds like common sense. While it sounds like it, the content is more rich on the insinde. Doc, the mental coach to the four buddies, outlines each one. The first fundamental, How to Think, talks about setting goals. It does so in a fresh way and via an approach I've never used before. First, Doc challenges the guys to think about why they play golf. I've never really done this before, but from the standpoint of setting goals, it makes sense.

Doc then continues to stress the importance of setting attainable (of course) goals but to do so with both short and mid-term goals. This also plays well into another topic of focus called segmenting - breaking down your round into smaller games or rounds. That way you can start fresh after a certain point of your round. Even if you're playing well this can keep from focusing on a score. If it's a bad round, as Doc says, "put the bad experiences in a drawer."

The next section - How to Talk - is about how we talk to ourselves on the course. It's not limited to speaking, but also covers our on-course body language, mannerisms, and how they can affect our self image. I've failed miserably at controlling these in the past. Saying "You're stupid" or "These greens are terrible" will not make a situation any better than slamming your wedge on the bottom of your bag or back of the cart. Skura shows that positive statements and affirmations are just the first in a series of "self-talk" skills that build up and release new potential. How true that is.

Bob SkuraSkura emphasizes that you complete and master one ability before moving on to the next, and the self-talk section is a prime example of why. If I can't master my ability to control my words and positive talk, what is the point of trying to walk and move my body in a positive way? It might promote my attitude a bit, but it would only be masking my inner demons. No golfer would be able to get to the level where they were talking about their expectations on the course without being able to talk on the course itself.

Once you've mastered How to Talk, you can move on to the last section of the book - How to Play. This section starts with the teachings of a child educator, Maria Montessori. As I've mentioned before, I act like a child on the course sometimes, so I knew this was applicable. Absorbing, connecting, and applying are the three concepts of Montessori's teaching method. In a clever fashion, Skura incorporates these concepts and principles into play on the golf course. He uses the aforementioned Kip, who's set a goal of playing in the Masters, throughout the chapter as an example. We follow Kip not only on the course but through the previous lessons on his journey through the U.S. Amateur to accomplish his goal - and I won't spoil it for you except that you can feel what he is going through as a golfer. Anyone reading this book can.

Bob Skura is no Bob Rotella
I have just about every Rotella book there is. While they tend to offer enjoyable, quick reads, I never found myself taking notes and highlighting a Rotella golf book like I did this one. I like the writings of both Bobs for different reasons, but I think I needed to read Skura's book at this point in my golf career. I needed that seven-course meal to satisfy my want and need for a good mental check.

While I haven't had a chance to put this book to work on the course I have already started to formulate a plan, goals and all. I have habits that I need to overcome and only if I truly apply the fundamentals will I begin to see any results. Only a committed golfer will find real use out of this book, but even if it is a small goal or commitment, you will find yourself turning the next page and so on if you meet that goal.

Conclusion
I will admit that I thought that How Great Golfers Think was a bit corny at first. The story of the four guys seems a bit over the top and predictable. The book really starts into it when they meet Doc and start the journey together through the three fundamentals. It's up to you to decidewhether or not you think that journey is worth it for you. All I can say that it's worth picking up this book, giving it a read and learning about what it will take.

You can find more about Bob Skura, this book, and Bob's other work at howgreatgolfersthink.com.

Discussion

  1. Sutha says:

    Might have to keep my eye out for this one.

    I always thought most mid handicappers (10-20) could probably get 4-5 shots better if they keep themselves mentally in check (among players at my club anyway).

    On the weekend I was able to hold my self together for most of they day and played 3 under my handicap, but my partners lost it after 2 or 3 holes and gave up on the day, sure I had my share of disasters but I ground it out all day.

    A perfect example was on the last, my partner and I both drove into the rough, both had 165yds to the pin, he is a much better golfer but was in a terrible mood, he subsequently tried to smash his shot and ended up in the front left trap, I on the other hand, was calm, stuck to my routine and put in 3yds form the pin two putted for par and won the day.

    My index is 16.6 (only been playing for two years) but I think I've got the game for 11 or 12 maybe better, it's got to be down to the mental side of things.

  2. Paul says:

    I agree with the basic idea of the book (I haven't read it), just based on what is expressed here.

    The problem is most amateur golfers (me included) don't play often enough to ingrain these ideas. I play every weekend and a few extra times a few weeks of the year. I can't remember these things.

    My handicap index is 14.5, I keep my score low by course management largely. I rarely takes risks and I depend a great deal on my short game. But I've only been playing 5 years and have a great deal to learn.

    Mostly I find, I play really well through the first 13 holes and I add a lot so strokes +3 and +4 on a couple of holes starting with No. 14 onwards. I have to be on guard against being tired and loose shots. I keep some oat meal to go things to eat, a large shot of sugar really and that helps me more than anything else.

    When you are just not fit, have the stamina, flexibility and what not, thinking alone won't get you very far.

    On the other hand, throwing your clubs about, beating the turf, cursing, jumping up and down definitely doesn't help and I see a lot of people doing that. I just enjoy laughing at them, ninety bucks to get mad and pissed off. They could have done that at home just as well!

    Still Mr. Skura needs an income as do all of us, so I hope a few of your readers will buy his book, but I won't be. I'll save the money for those oat meal to go cookies. They've saved my round many a time.

  3. Filipfilip says:

    Eating is cheating!

  4. JP says:

    After a couple of decades reading golf books, I've thought lately that I've had my fill; there's nothing new that I could possibly want to read about the game. But your review makes me really want to read this book.

    The whole issue of knowing what we really want from the game is so important, and it's rarely discussed. I had never given the question much thought until a friend posed it to me on the course a year or so ago.

    I'm convinced that a person of average physical coordination can learn to play golf very well--scoring in the low 80s with some regularity, occasionally breaking 80--if they go about it in a sensible way. And the key to 'sensible' is a proper 'psychological' approach to playing. This involves knowing what to worry about and what not to worry about, knowing what shots and skills and so forth to tackle and which to leave to the pros. This relates directly to knowing what you want out of the game, really understanding it.

    I think you sold me on the book.

  5. Paul says:

    Eating is cheating!

    This is great, what a wonderful retort. LOL!

    I share your thoughts as I often tell our 7 and 8 handicappers that they are often seen smoking soon after hitting a poor shot, thus releasing some chemical in their brain and thus helping to calm themselves down. I often claim smoking is cheating.

  6. Hays33d says:

    Out of stock at Barnes and Noble. How am I supposed to use my "Extra 15% Off" I got in the mail?!?!

    :cry:

  7. golfncode says:

    I actually just received this book in the mail a few days ago (ordered based on this review :)), and I've only gotten through the first couple chapters since I'm going to try to space it out like the book recommends. So far, though, I've got to say it's a good read. I'm only through the goal-setting portion, and while that information is info I've heard before, the way it's presented and the examples given are extremely helpful and I'm finding that I actually *want* to put it into practice and I think I know *how* to put it into practice. I'm hoping the rest of the book is as straightforward and useful as it seems to be so far. Perhaps I'll report back here after a few more weeks of trying to put the information into practice.

  8. Richard from NC says:

    I am a 39 year old father (4 handicap) of a 13 year old son (16 handicap) who has been playing competitive golf for less than a year. The head of the Methodist College PGM program sent my son this book. We both started reading it at the same time and I bullied it away from him. So I have just finished. He is on chapter 5 and took it to school to read during free time and my son hates to read. I learned more about myself in the 2 days it took me to read this book than I have in years. What I am taking away from this book is priceless. I will become a better player and have more fun playing this sometimes cruel game. Never been in the zone but now I have a better chance. I strongly recommend this book and I will read this book several more times (if I can get it away from my son)

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