Tuesday, July 27, 2010



Mr. Jacobs never read it, at least during my studies, but many people likened his teaching to The Inner Game Of Tennis, a book by W. Timothy Gallwey. Of all the books about the mental game, many regard this as the best. It is not hard to apply it to golf or music. It has been said that golf is 60% mental and 40% mechanical. (Change the percentages according to the source.) The point is that the mental side is more important than the mechanical side. I suggest that for both golf and music this axiom misses the point. Golf (Music) is 50% emotional, 25% mechanical, 5% mental, and 10% luck.

“Golf is a game that is played on a five-inch course - the distance between your ears.” ~Bobby Jones “Thinking instead of acting is the number-one golf disease.” ~Sam Snead.
"It is nothing new or original to say that golf is played one stroke at a time. But it took me many years to realize it." ~Bobby Jones
“Golf is a game of misses and the winners are those with the best missed.” ~Kathy Whitworth
“There are two kinds of golf; golf and tournament golf. They are not the same.” ~Bobby Jones
“You can tell a good putt by the noise it makes.” ~Bobby Locke
“When I think about three things during my swing I’m playing poorly; when I think about two things I have a chance to shoot par; when I think of only one thing I could win the tournament.” ~Bobby Jones
“No good player ever swings as hard as he can. Power is a matter of timing, not overpowering the ball. ~Arnold Palmer
“Many shots are spoiled at the last instant by efforts to add a few more yards.” ~Bobby Jones
“The ultimate judge of your swing is the flight of the ball.” ~Ben Hogan
“Through preparation and hard work, you can prepare yourself for a mental attitude-a ‘zone.’ When it happens, all you can see is the ball and the hole.” ~Payne Stewart
“Of all the hazards, ferar is the worst.” ~Sam Snead
“Fear comes in two packages-fear of failure, and sometimes, fear of success.” ~Tom Kite
“Golf is more in your mind than in your clubs.” ~Bruce Crampton
“The mind messes up more shots than the body.” ~Tommy Bolt
“Don’t be too proud to take lessons. I’m not.” ~Jack Nicklaus
“Success in golf depends less on strength of body than upon strength of mind and character.” ~Arnold Palmer
“I never pray that I may win. I just ask for courage to do my best.” ~Gary Player
“Be brave if you lose and meek if you win.” ~Harvey Pennick
“When you’re playing poorly, you start thinking too much. That’s when you confuse yourself. ~Greg Norman
“Thinking instead of acting is the number one disease in golf.” ~Sam Snead
“You can talk strategy all you want but what really matters is resiliency.” ~Hale Irwin
“To be consistently effective, you must put a certain distance between yourself and what happens to you on the golf course. This is not indeifference-it’s detachment.” ~Sam Snead
“The greatest single lesson to be learned from golf is mental discipline.” ~Louise Suggs
“Focus on remedies, not faults.” ~Jack Nicklaus
“You need a fantastic memory to remember the great shots and a very short memory to forget the bad ones.” ~Mac O’Grady
“You tend to get impatient with less-than-perfect shots, but you have to remember less-than-perfect shots win Opens.” ~Curtis Strange
“Most golfers prepare for disaster. A good golfer prepares for success.” ~Bob Toski
“Some people think they are concentrating when they’re merely worrying.” ~Bobby Jones
“To play well you must feel tranquil and at peace. I have never been troubled by nerves because I felt I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.” ~Harry Vardon
“Golf is a matter of confidence. If you think you cannot do it, there is no chance you will.” ~Henry Cotton
“Try to think where you want to put the ball not where you don’t want it to go.” ~Billy Casper
“The most successful way to play golf is the easiest way.” ~Harry Vardon
“Enjoy the game. Happy golf is good golf.” ~Gary Player
“Golf is like a love affair. If you don’t take it seriously, it’s no fun.; if you do take it seriously it breaks your heart.” ~Arnold Daly
“Golf is a game of finding what works, losing it, and finding it again.” ~Ken Venturi

Mental, Schmental! Jake often attributed mistakes to ‘paralysis-by-analysis’. Every golfer knows there is no place for thinking on the golf course. This is an oversimplification to be sure, but the message is clear. With either activity we can tie ourselves in knots by overanalyzing. I have been fortunate in my brief career to have played in many wonderful situations with fantastic bands and orchestras. The most intimidating solo situations were no different than standing on the first tee of the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland. My caddy told me that the juxtaposition of the first and eighteenth fairways make this “the widest landing area in all of golf. Put your ball down the middle.” He went on to say that he had caddied for an American the previous week who was so intimidated by this, the oldest and most revered course in the World, that he could not tee up his ball. The caddy had to tee it up for him. Mental, Schmental! It is emotional to step from the back row of the orchestra to play a solo in front. There is a personality required. Michael Jordon WANTS the ball in the last 5 seconds when his team is down by two. Tiger Woods relishes coming from behind in the final round. A friend of mine played assistant to a famous 1st trumpet in a major orchestra. As the strings allowed the pitch to climb during a long trumpet rest my friend quietly asked if they should push in their tuning slides. “$#(*& $. I’ll show them where the pitch is.” he replied. He played a little louder on his entrance and the strings came back down to A=440. It’s not only emotional, it’s a personality that can’t be faked. It can be cultivated by doing the preparation. It can be cultivated through sports psychology. It can be enhanced by going to the mountain to see the guru. (Unfortunately some have the confidence without the musicianship to back it up.)

“I’ll be able to score as soon as I get my swing thoughts alphabetized.” So goes the golf joke because swing thought must be a singular focus.

Some musicians are better ensemble players than they are soloists. You might guess it has to do with not handling the pressure of the spotlight. Golf has shown me another dimension. There is an extra motivation of playing for the team. Weekend golfers frequently play a 2 man or 4 man Nassau. To be sure part of the reason is to take away some of the pressure. But I believe there is an extra motivation for many in playing for your team.

When we say there is no place for thinking on the golf course, we don’t mean that we are unaware of the wind direction, the slope of the green, the pin position and the like. It means that once we have made a decision about where we want the ball to go, and when we have decide what club will get the ball there, we turn the process over to what Timothy Gallwey calls ‘Self Two.’ When you have made your decision, shut off your brain and ‘pull the trigger.’


While working for a manufacturer, I took some new trumpets to Frank Kaderabek when he was principal trumpet in the Philadelphia Orchestra. Frank asked me about the International Trumpet Guild conference from which I had just returned. I told him about a well known trumpet player who got a case of cotton mouth during a recital. Frank was shocked. “Why would you get nervous playing for a bunch of trumpet players? You couldn’t have a more understanding audience.”

The corollary in golf is so obvious it hardly necessitates mentioning. You can turn on the television any Sunday and watch a golfer bogey a hole and come back with a birdie. You can watch a player hit a ball into the water and knock his next one stiff. Conversely you can also watch a player implode, all set in motion by one bad shot. Hardly a week goes by that the commentators don’t talk about how a player needs to put the bad shot behind him and focus on the next. Be Here Now. Play in the moment.

Incidentally, the Colonel Bogey March, aka theme from the movie Bridge Over The River Kwai, was written in 1914 by Lieutenant F. J. Ricketts under the pseudonym Kenneth Alford about a military man who was also a golfer, presumably carrying an 18 handicap. As the story goes, rather than yell ‘fore’, the Colonel would whistle a descending minor third. Lyrics (vulgar) were added by British soldiers in World War II. The counter march in the movie was an addition by Malcolm Arnold. Sometimes the relationship between golf and music is subtle, sometimes not.


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