BITESIZE BOOK REVIEW: GOLF AT THE TOP WITH STEVE WILLIAMS

 

TIPS & TECHNIQUES FROM THE CADDY TO RAYMOND FLOYD, GREG NORMAN & TIGER WOODS

Steve Williams is famous or infamous (depending on who you speak too) in golf for his dominant presence alongside the most famous names in golf. Whatever your opinion of this outspoken New Zealander his record speaks for itself at the highest levels of the game. You cannot objectify the exact influence of a caddy but at the very least he can be credited with a confident skilled ability to make decisions and to be calm under pressure on the back nine of a major.

His recent tenure with Adam Scott was fruitful for both – says Adam – “He helped to push me along, to help me get right where I wanted to be. He truly loves the game, and I believe he will miss it. I am sure he would say that he thought, after Tiger, that he would never caddie again. I was very fortunate to have three great years with him.”

The bitesize insight of this book seemed appropriate to acknowledge Steve William’s retirement from the game. This book was co-written with Hugh De-Lacy in 2006 and is designed to provide an “insider look at the methods, secrets and big tournament moments” of Steve’s career which included over 100 wins.

It is surprising to us that this book did not gain more of a following or praise from those in the industry upon it’s release. Maybe many did not venture beyond the front cover or typical impressions of caddies, but this book takes a serious attempt at being the ultimate golf psychology manual. Not afraid to use technical terminology this book goes where many fail in attempting to help the better golfer.

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For the bitesize insight we will focus on two chapters regarding the subconscious and the experience of ultimate performance – the zone.

CHAPTER 8 – AFFIRMATIONS – SCHOOLING THE SUBCONSCIOUS

This section begins by making the comparison of the human subconscious with that of a computer. “The subconscious doesn’t have a conscience [..] it accepts as fact anything that is programmed into it. It can’t make value judgements”. To combat negative thoughts Williams and De Lacy promote the value of repetitive affirmations.

“It’s a deceptively simple process […] we can trick our subconscious minds into delivering performances that reflect our full potential. Affirmations are positive statements of our future created in a way that suggests we have already become them.” This information helps provide reason for a more positive approach on the course – it is more than simple wishful thinking. Commit to progress and visualise a positive result next time you play. Be angry or frustrated after a bad shot like Tiger, but don’t harm your confidence but repeating negative affirmations.

CHAPTER 12 – THE PARADOX OF THE PEAK EXPERIENCE 

Williams recalls in great detail the greatest shot he has ever seen Tiger hit, a three iron from a bad lie in a fairway bunker in the 2003 PGA Championship. “The most amazing thing about it was not that Tiger made it seem both achievable and effortless, but that he was in a state of palpable serenity when he hit it.”

Before going on to describe the sensations that accompany peak performance experiences, Williams discusses the fallacy of ‘trying harder’ in sports. Rather than ‘confusing the subconscious’ the ultimate prescription for success is “to try to succeed by not consciously trying.” To concisely explain this tricky section, Steve Williams is imploring the reader to get out of his own way, to trust his subconscious to perform and not manipulate the performance by forcing something to happen.

So how do you know you are in the zone? What are the sensations you should seek to achieve or fulfill?

MENTAL QUIET – “Overwhelmed by a sense of inner peace and tranquility [..] no matter the pressure. Time seems to slow and the player ceases to be aware of any distractions.”

PHYSICAL RELAXATION – “Their muscles relax and take on heightened sensory qualities during the swing or stroke.”

IN THE NOW – “There is no past, no future. Execution of shots is automatic and effortless and requires no conscious thought.”

CONFIDENCE AND OPTIMISM – “Difficulties and challenges become opportunities. Errors become sources of vital information to ensure the success of the next stroke.”

ENERGY – “Extraordinary well-being accompanies the zone. He has boundless energy and seems incapable of weariness.”

AWARENESS – “The subconscious effortlessly selects the most useful and relevant data from among the deluge of messages being delivered by the highly tuned senses.”

CONTROL – “Results turn out to be exactly what was intended and expected. This results in the all-encompassing feeling of being in control.”

IN A COCOON – “The feeling of perfect safety. As if protected by a barrier [..] no worry, doubt or fear, as if he was in a time warp or cocoon.”

This peak experience is valid for all forms of performance and is known in current terminology as ‘flow’. It’s very personal and touches on so many different levels of emotion and experience that it is very hard to communicate just how it is. Sporting competitors frequently struggle to convey the experience, some mistaking the confidence or joy for arrogance. The experience is perhaps at the core of sports enjoyment – the reason we keep coming back for more. To get a glimpse of nirvana, however long it decides to stay with us.

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