Golfing Expert Gary Wiren Shares His Strategy for Mental Toughness

The PGA Hall of Fame legend shares his tips on staying consistent.

 
golf expert shares insight

Larry Weidel: We’re with legendary golfing teacher, inventor, professional, and a writer among other things, Gary Wiren. Such an honor to have him share with us.

Gary is the author of “The PGA Teaching Manual” and “The PGA Manual of Golf: The Professional’s Way to Play Better Golf”—in all, he has written 14 published books and contributed to more than 250 articles for magazines and other periodicals.

He’s known essentially every major golf pro since the fifties or forties. Gary has been up close and personal with people in the business world and on the golf course.

He’s dealt with every excruciatingly tough personal and business situation anyone could face in life and not only worked through it but turned out to be one of the most successful people ever in the complex and demanding world of golf.

He’s been behind the scenes with the top people in the world of competitive golf and in business. The results are there for all to see that he obviously knows how to coach himself through difficulties and has a rare mental toughness.

So, I really twisted Gary’s arm to come and share with us about mental toughness—what it takes, what he’s learned, what he teaches, and what he says to himself when he gets in those toughest of times in life. 

Gary Wiren: Larry, it’s always good to talk with you because we’re trying to help other people to improve their lives with some information that may give them some inspiration.

LW: I know you’ve got a story about mental toughness that can kind of help kick us off.

GW: Well, first of all, I wrote a book called “The New Golf Mind,” and it was the only book ever written up to that point on how the left brain and the right brain work differently, one is the analyzer, you look at the situation it’s the 500-yard par five, or this is 160-yard par three.

golf expert shares insight

I’m going to need this club or someone’s worth to you.

The wind is blowing from the right. Let’s see. Yes. And I’ll over the bunker over here, etc etc. That’s called your analyzer.

Then you have the integrator part, the left brain and right brain here. And this one is the one that he’s got to keep you focused and on track for what you’re about to do. And that’s why I try to work with people so much in the golf world to do something that works in every part of their life.

That is called habituation. You get so that you get good habits.

The difference between a successful life and an unsuccessful life is the difference between a person who has good habits and does them.

It was a habit means you do it regularly, very regularly now, or person who has bad habits.

He just stays steady because that's the way he knows he's going to operate the best. Click To Tweet

So in golf, being able to instead of trying this one time and trying that another time. For example, if I’m going up to hit a tee shot, alright, well, the first thing after my analyzer has taken care of all this, now the integrator goes to work and we put it on.

I checked that grip position as Ben Hogan once said, good golf starts with a good grip. And so we started with a good grip. I check it out by giving it a little squeeze.

And if the faith doesn’t change by that little squeeze, then I know when I squeeze coming down it’s going to stay the same way. We’ve taken the alignment from behind. I draw a little like a line all the way back from my target, the yellow stripe or whatever.

Whether they’re putting or whether they’re chipping, and I have a little spot right out in front of me. That’s easy to line up to them.

You see, it’s not hard to put your clubface down if the target is only two feet away—but two feet away, may be right on line with where you want to be, which could be 200 yards away.

So we do that as the next part of that little routine. Then I said my old saying, we call a jazz grip aim and set up.

G-A-S gripping.

So I’ve done my grip. I’ve done my aiming. Now I set up my body so that it is in a position that will deliver the best result from the shot I’m trying to make. And the setup is different for all different shots.

Really.

I mean, I set up much differently for my pitch shot or shot from out of a bunker or a shot from a tee shot with a ball sitting up in the air as opposed to down on the ground.

So it becomes a habit. I do it every time, the same way.

And I can tell you people who say “Oh, I forgot to do this. Or I didn’t do that. Or, oh, I should have done this.”

If you do anything in life and you do it regularly—and the habit is a good habit—you get good results from it. That is very, very important.

golf expert shares insight

LW: And you said you could kind of see when people break the routine even on television. Even if you’re out at a golf course and you’re a hundred yards away, you see someone putting, if they do their set up, right before they putt, they kind of glance up to the side, you see that head work, you know, they got a peak look at the cup and right before, you could say he missed it and sure enough, he’ll miss it.

GW: Well I thought one of the great ones was years ago, we had, we had The Big Threes’ former player, Nicklaus (Jack), but there was a fourth. His name was Billy Casper and he was one great golfer.

Over a couple of years, he, won more tournaments than those three, he was that good. Billy had a routine and it was exactly the same every time.

Whenever he got into his routine and something interrupted, you know, somebody shouted or something else, he just walk away, go back again, take out his yardage book, look at it again, put it back, go through it, repeat exactly the thing he had done before step by step by step.

So that made him very consistent.

LW: What do you think about these?

You know, you’ve seen the emergence over the years of all of these mental coaches for professionals now.

And what’s your take on that?

GW: Well, if they’re good, it’s great. If they’re not true, if it’s not so great, but that’s true in any kind of teacher, I guess.

I know Rotella, Bob. Bob has been in my house here and he was one of our first really hot ones starting a few years back. And he’s helped a lot of people. There are golfers who need it. And there are some golfers who don’t need it so much.

I will give you one example, Brooks Koepka, who’s still number one. I think maybe just dropped to two. He just got a locked-in brain there about what he wants to do and what he’s going to do.

He does not let anything outside ended in. Have you ever seen him throw a club or have you ever seen him get frustrated about missing a putt? Nope.

He just stays steady because that’s the way he knows he’s going to operate the best.

It’s hard to get angry and then still perform well in golf. It’s not hard in football because it’s almost helpful sometimes.

The only time you need that anger helps you in golf is if you get so mad that you want to practice, that’s about the only time.

The difference between a successful life and an unsuccessful life is the difference between a person who has good habits and does them. Click To Tweet

LW:  I was going to ask you about emotion and how you harness emotion, you know, from anger to depression to humiliation.

There’s a lot of humiliation on the golf course and how you put that out of your mind, it relates in a sense to what you were talking about working on different projects and you give it everything you’ve got, if it’s just not going to happen, you go onto something else.

What do you do to overcome that frustration humiliation when things just go up in flames?

GW: You put things in perspective first of all.

You get people go out and shoot one of the worst rounds they’ve ever had, and they could say, well, tomorrow there’s another scorecard. That’s it.

I mean, what are you going to do about it? It’s history now. But the thing about being able to focus is so important.

There’s a great story. One of our all-time best women players was playing at a British women’s amateur for the first time in 1923. And she had a putt on the 16th hole to beat the person who’d already won the women’s championship three times.

So, that was the first time that she’d ever played in it. And here she is, under all this pressure needing an eight-footer or 10-footer or something that in order to become the champion.

The golf hole is right alongside a railroad drag. And as she’s approaching the putt and just sitting her putter down, this train comes roaring through and she’s over the pipes for quite a while.

She strokes it, knocks it in.

And when they asked her afterward, “how’d you tap it in? Well didn’t that train bother you?”

Her answer, “What train? What train? I was in a cocoon of concentration.”

golf expert shares insightSome people have that ability and some do not. You do what you can do, but the whole point of it is, is that developing a routine will really help you.

The last thing is, look, the first line of the first book I ever wrote Larry in 1970 in a book and the sold about a hundred thousand copies, the first line was “golf is a game, and as such is meant to be enjoyed,” that’s it—bingo.

So you, if you can keep it in perspective, you will be able to fight off all these bad feelings because you realize it isn’t that important.

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