How the doctor of golf actually plays golf


As I approach my 900th golf column for the Bulletin I thought I’d share some personal ideas, senses and thoughts about how I play my own golf game.

First of all, I don’t play “golf swing.” I play golf – the game of golf. There is a difference, and some folks don’t realize that. If one goes to the golf course and continually tries to analyze their golf swing, shot to shot, they are depriving themselves of the joy of actually playing the game. Also, I don’t always play for money, but when I do I play to win, but I sure want to avoid losing. My favorite group divides up any money after the round and it all goes to post-round drinks. One fellow insisted on taking his cash winnings  home with him, which was the last time he played with us.  

Mistakes and bad shots are going to happen, even on a good day. I have developed the habit of almost instantly leaving mistakes behind to focus on the next shot. That formula helped me develop my short game, chipping and putting, to help me score and overcome errors. When I’m on the course I’ve learned to be internally aware of the joy of being healthy, being able to play golf, see the beauty of the outdoors and appreciate the moment. Yet, emotionally, I’m a “flat-liner.” I don’t jump up and down like those fools on Let’s Make A Deal when I make a great putt, and I don’t mope and brood over a poor effort. I take pride in playing pretty well, yet, as Jesus said 2,000 years ago, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Next to the score card on the golf cart I keep a 3 X 5 card with a few key thoughts. The first is “process.” If you calmly go through the correct process while playing shot for shot, the results will come. I care deeply about how I play, but the process comes first. Sometimes I write “NATO” on my golf ball; that stands for “not attached to outcome.” Also on the card is the swing thought “Trust.” If you are in between clubs with uncertain yardage, anxiety can creep in like a phantom. Club selection may not be perfect, but if I trust the swing, it should be OK. Then comes “Aware” as a reminder to be completely attentive to everything around me, like breeze, slope, where the ball lies, risks and hazards, and more. That takes a few seconds. Lastly, there is “Steady,” not too fast, not too slow.

One of my mantras is, “Never give up on a hole.” I couldn’t count the number of times I made a couple of poor shots and was way out of position, and yet made what my partners called a “miracle” up-and-down for par or chip-in for birdie. To paraphrase a “Yogi-ism” the hole ain’t over ‘til it’s over. One of my weaknesses is not finding enough greens in regulation. But my biggest strength is chipping. When asked me recently how I manage to chip it so close so many times, I replied I pick an estimated spot where I need to land the ball and execute the shot to that distance. Another favorite mantra is, “The more I practice the luckier I get.” You can’t get better, or even maintain what you have, without practicing. I practice a couple times a week, one on the range and one on the course. If I don’t have a game or a playing partner, I cherish the practice rounds of the course: hitting special shots, knowing what risks I can take and putting.

When I have written so many times “attitude is everything,” I try my best to follow my own advice. Getting down on yourself will make matters worse. It’s all about maintaining a positive disposition without being a phony. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s 1952 book “The Power of Positive Thinking” was one of the greatest books ever written. I find doing my research and reading about golf for my weekly columns is immensely helpful in learning more about golf.

Golf Doctor, Charlie Blanchard