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More than just a golf book
on July 10, 2002
"The Inner Game of Golf" has been on bookstore shelves for 20 years because it appeals to a segment of the golfing public that eschews traditional instruction. It is not a book about how to play golf; it is a book about how to learn golf. The author's approach is a straightforward application of Eastern psychology and targets the subconscious mind of the golfer as the primary player of the game. Most of the methods described in the book are directed toward quieting the conscious (verbal) mind so that the subconscious (non-verbal) mind can learn from experience.
Here's an example. In the traditional approach to playing the game, the golfer watches the flight of the ball after contact and deduces from it how he must have swung. From that information he makes mechanical corrections that are applied to the next swing. In the Inner Game approach, the golfer does not watch, but feels the flight of the ball after contact. From this feedback the subconscious mind automatically makes corrections that are applied to subsequent shots. For me, the former approach has always led to frustration. Driving range corrections always fall apart after 3 holes on the course, and mechanical analyses lead to doubt. But with the Inner Game approach, my swing gets stronger thru the round, and I hit with greater and greater confidence as the round progresses. It is often a confident feeling that I carry with me for many hours after leaving the course. In that respect, a round of golf early in the morning is, like meditation, a conditioner for the daily activities that follow.
This updated version of "The Inner Game of Golf" is a substantial revision of the original, and owners of the 1981 edition may well want to consider buying the update. While several sections remain untouched, there is fresh material inserted throughout as well as a couple of completely new chapters. But the most significant revision is one of tone. Gone is the enthusiastic arrogance of the original which aggressively promoted the Inner Game approach as superior to traditional teaching methods. Indeed, the 1981 version flatly stated that Inner Game techniques should not be used in conjunction with traditional methods. While this tone may have helped elevate the book to its cult status, it ultimately turned off the serious golfing community to the point where the author's name is rarely mentioned by traditional golf instructors. In the revision, the author changes direction completely and now says that the inner game approach should be merged with traditional instruction to create a new, synthesized approach to learning. He even offers a few techniques for achieving such a synthesis.
But, what hasn't changed is the author's central thesis that it is the golfer's understanding of why he plays the game that leads to both success with the sport and contentment as a result of it. The reader who understands and accepts this fundamental concept will find himself transformed in a way he would never have predicted from a mere golf book.