Apr 1, 2015
DECK: A great swing will only get you so far, but poise will get you into the winners’ circle
By Jamie Mulligan, PGA of Virginia Country Club
The best thing I have heard in my career about golf is that it’s a poise contest.
You can have a great swing and great putting stroke and great mechanics, but at the end of the match, the person who has the most poise wins.
The dictionary describes poise this way: “A dignified, self-confident manner or bearing; composure; self-possession.”
My definition of poise is the perfect combination between focus, toughness and being comfortable enough to play any shot under any situation.
Anybody on a given day can be good, but the best players are able to stay poised whether it’s a good day or a bad day.
The noted sports psychologist, Dick Coop, who worked with Michael Jordan, Payne Stewart, Tom Kite, Davis Love and many others had this thought:
Swimmers when they get in trouble and risk drowning need just roll over on their backs and float and relax until they regain their comfort and confidence.
That’s what we do in golf with our minds when things are not going the right way. We get panicky. But all we have to do is relax and breathe our way through the situation.
If I were the Secretary of the Navy and responsible for the Top Gun pilots flying multi-million-dollar fighters and landing on aircraft carriers, I would want a pilot who had poise, toughness, comfort and the mindset to be able to do that.
If you have too many thoughts and your mind is not focused and comfortable, you cannot be effective.
If you have a sitting heart rate with a certain number and you are not near that number, you are not comfortable enough to do the things you need to do.
If you are nervous and thinking about things too much, you cannot perform effectively and that is not any different from what I see going on in pro golf.
As I said, if I was the guy in charge of putting a pilot in a $20 million fighter and having him land on a $500 million aircraft carrier, I would have monitor that shows brain waves and vitals.
If that pilot had too many exterior thoughts and vitals that were not in a comfortable range, I wouldn’t let him land the jet on the ship.
When watching someone play golf the right way, it looks as if the player is just reacting; there is not a lot of excess thought. The player is comfortable and poised.
When I was watching Rory McIlroy win the British Open and the PGA Championship, he looked like the most comfortable guy out there.
He looked more comfortable than the TV announcers and his playing competitors.
He was like that fighter jet pilot landing on the carrier in the dark, and he was able to do that because of the mindset he was in.
That mindset comes from great poise. And that poise comes from great belief.
A lot of players spend hours working hard on the practice range hitting balls, but they just might be better off working on their poise.