How much do you love the direction your game improvement is taking? If not, perhaps the inspiration you need is going to be gained in the next lesson I share with you from my book, Mentored by the King, Arnold Palmer’s Success Lessons for Golf, Business and Life.
Plan to Win
Augusta National is golf’s Garden of Eden, a stunningly beautiful slice of the American South. “If there’s a golf course in heaven,” Gary Player once remarked, “I hope it’s like Augusta National. I just don’t want an early tee time.”1
In Sync with His Plan to Win
With four wins at the Masters Tournament (1958, 1960, 1962, and 1964),3 Arnold Palmer has become synonymous with Augusta National. For Arnie, the place seemed to fit him like a glove—or a neatly trimmed blazer. Four green jackets, two runners-up, and fourteen top-ten finishes over a fifteen-year span made me believe Palmer was in some kind of spiritual harmony with Augusta National. I once asked him why he believed he was so successful on that course when it seemed to bring so many other gifted players to their knees.
“Well,” Arnold replied with a half-cocked smile, “of course, the Masters was the tournament I really wanted to win in my life. It was the people as much as it was the place itself that made Augusta National so special to me. People like Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts, who I became close to over the years, were an inspiration for me, not just for the golf, but for the way they conducted their lives and what they did in business too. I won the Masters in ’58, but in ’59 I should have won it, and I kind of let it slip a little bit. My win in 1960 was a major deal with good drama from my charging finish. Making birdies on the last two holes to win was sort of a reaction to previous situations that I was in. I just told myself that I wasn’t going to let what happened that last year happen again. It inspired me to go for it and I finished strong and won.”
His memories of nearly fifty years earlier still clear, he said, “My win in 1962 was a playoff and a squeeze down to the end. Then, of course, my mindset was that I had to win the Masters again, and I wanted to win one where I could walk up eighteen with the feeling of total enjoyment for having played in the tournament and having the things happen the way that I envisioned them to happen. I always wanted to have a good lead coming down the stretch with no doubt that victory was mine.”
“So did you ever accomplish that particular goal?” I asked.
“It did happen that way in ’62,” he said with a smile, “exactly how I had seen it happening in my mind. I stood on the seventy-second hole and said to my playing partner, Dave Marr, ‘I think I can win from here.’ It was not offered boastfully, but as someone who had really gotten to where they wanted to get to. Then Dave, who was a good friend, kidded me. ‘Make twelve!’ he said. By then I could smile, knowing that I wasn’t going to make twelve and that I was going to win the Masters. That victory in the very way I had envisioned it was a new and different personal satisfaction. It was something I’d been driving for in my life.”
Work Your Plan
“Plan your work and work your plan.” It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Catchy too. After studying Arnold Palmer’s career, I can say with assurance that the King has taken this philosophy to heart. But can the vast majority of golfers, mere amateurs, really believe that people can do what they desire, plan, and picture in their mind? The idea of “positive mental imaging” might not be a fail-safe exercise, but Palmer’s success and the success of countless others who employ the technique advocate it holds great promise.
Winning the Masters was a strong desire for Arnie, but it happened in large part because he planned out how he would win and then rehearsed his plan over and over again, like an actor memorizing a script. This same technique works outside of golf—perhaps even more effectively. It’s a wise person who plots a course of action before actually taking the plunge.
One of my favorite people was John Wooden, UCLA’s Hall of Fame basketball coach who died in June of 2010 at the age of ninety-nine. Coach Wooden was well-known as a planner who planned his work and worked his plan. He believed strongly in preparation because he felt it gave athletes the best chance of success. Coach Wooden, like Arnold Palmer, was also a stickler for not just doing — ?but doing things well. He once remarked, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” He also was a realist. “Things turn out best,” he said, “for those who make the best of the way things turn out.”
Certainly for Arnold Palmer, the difference between victory and defeat often came down to the time and effort he took plotting out a pretournament plan of action. Of all the things Arnold Palmer did on a consistent basis, he did one thing prior to every round of golf — ?something all of us should do:
He planned to win!
Plan your next win. Begin by strategizing your actions to match your skills. If you are a natural fader of the golf ball, don’t go against the grain by forcing shots to the left pin positions or trying to curve the ball off the tee on a right-to- left dogleg hole. Choose your best angles and positions to match your strengths and then be disciplined enough to stick to the plan. The strength in the exercise comes from writing it out and then rehearsing it over and over again, until you know you are going to win and you know why you are going to win. That’s the Pro’s Secret, being a conscious competent that begins with thought moved through feeling into action creating the desired result.
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Until next time, happy golfing,