Just Because I Don’t Play Doesn’t Mean I Didn’t Learn: The Lessons

by mdiehl on February 13, 2009

Pearls of Tour Wisdom

Pearls of Tour Wisdom


Changing Your Grip started out a few years ago as a presentation I gave. Eventually, I hope it will become a book.

But why wait for that? The lessons contained in the presentation are valuable at any time.

In addition to my career as a writer, I also speak to groups on subjects like fear and risk, humor in the workplace (I’ll have to resurrect that one and re-read it — it’s not that funny around my office lately), communications skills and more. I gave this presentation to a district meeting of businesswomen.

It’s about lessons I learned and the skills they gave me to succeed and lead. So you see, even if you don’t play golf — even if you hate golf or think it’s boring — and I would’ve, had I not been personally involved with it — there are simple parallels anyone can relate to.

[Don't worry -- what I have to say won't always be serious or teacher-ish. I have a lot of stories from our days with the Tour. All kinds. Stick around.]

For now, I thought I’d give you the first five “pearls” and a little  of what they’re about. Then later on, I’ll talk more about each one in detail.  I hope eventually we can get some players’ takes on their own “pearls.” The nice thing about a blog is that you can explore as many as you want.

Okay? Here goes:

1. Sometimes you need to change your grip.

Often, pros change something about their game — a fundamental, like their grip or swing — because what they’ve been using isn’t working for them. Even Tiger did it. After all, they’re out there to win. To make a living. To be champions.

Changing something within is a monumental task – but one worth doing. Because — what if you could get a different result? One you really wanted?

It’s about changing a belief, self-talk, a behavior, a reaction — whatever keeps you from “hitting the shot where you want it to go.”

2. Play It One Shot At a Time.

If there is any principle or maxim in life that has absolutely worked for me, it’s taking it one step at a time, one day at a time.

People used to ask me: “How do you do it ?” — living alone with our (then) four boys (we had 4 under 8 years old on Tour) for about 9 months of the year, coping with crises, the ups and downs of competitive golf… I used to say I lived one day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time. I was very young — still in my 20′s — but I instinctively knew that’s what worked.

How many of us are really living in the present? When a pro starts letting his previous shots get to him, he loses focus on what he needs to do next. As they say on the Tour, the wheels start to come off.

3. Is that shot possible from here?

Pros can find themselves facing terrible luck. Or maybe they hit terrible shots. Just a couple of weeks ago, during the FBR in Scottsdale, I saw Anthony Kim trying to figure out what to do when his golf ball stuck in a big cactus. 

The much loved Bob Rosburg followed guys on the course during ABC golf broadcasts. He was famous for his assessments of disaster when a shot was “challenging.”  He’s got no shot from here, he’d say. It’s impossible.

Smart players assess the situation: What are the obstacles to making a good shot? What’s blocking their path to get back on track? They have to practice every conceivable shot. Be ready for anything. That way, no shot is impossible.

This is about not letting other people decide what you can and can’t accomplish.

4. Know when to lay up. Know when to go for the stick.

Pros will often “lay up.” This technique enables them to better place their approach shots to the green in a more advantageous position — avoiding trouble, like a big water hazard or nasty sand bunkers. Or getting into perfect position to land nearest the pin with a good break, and have a chance to birdie.

Sometimes it’s smart to recognize trouble ahead, play it safe and stay away from danger. But sometimes, you have to take the risk and just go for it.  I loved the movie Tin Cup. It showed — among other things — that you have to have balance in anything.  Going for it every time is a recipe for… exhaustion and stupid moves.

5. Let It Happen.

Trying to force something often causes problems.

This is closely related to one shot at a time… Don’t project ahead. Don’t get caught up in the “what ifs.”  You will drain your energy from what you need to do in this moment and put all your thought and attention into something that hasn’t happened yet — and probably won’t, unless you subconsciously make it happen.

The greatest players are those who can see each shot as a new opportunity, and the last shot as a lesson.


So — there ‘s a start.

If you have your own pearl — golf or otherwise, I’d love to hear it.  That’s one of the things I loved most about being around golf and Tour players — the rich wisdom that was often buried in humor and slang. It was never, ever boring.

And it works for all of us.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Artful Golfer May 20, 2009 at 12:18 pm

If every golfer read this blog entry, and never took a golf lesson, they’d be better golfers!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: