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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Play to a Style

That's what Arnold Palmer said Friday night on Golf Channel's last 12 Nights at the Academy show. He said this is the advice he's been giving his grandson Sam Saunders. He said all the greats -- Hogan, Nelson, Jack, him, and all the others -- played to a style and he believed that when Sam learned to play to a style also, it would be obvious to everyone.

Photo of Arnold PalmerSo what exactly did he mean by that? How do you play to a style? I wish he'd gone into more detail, but I'm going to take a stab at defining it.

I'm going to use a different word though. I think Arnie meant that your game has to take on a "persona" that shapes and guides its development. Arnie said your style influences how you play, how you walk, how you talk -- in short, everything about how you play. That's the persona of your game coming through.

For Arnie, that persona was "aggression." Arnie attacked the golf course from the tee, the fairway, the rough, and deep in the woods; it didn't matter where he was, he attacked the course.

He strode up the fairway, complete with that famous "hitching up his pants" move. For a while early on, he had a cigarette hanging out of the side of his mouth as he tracked down that ball.

Even his swing looked aggressive. Maybe "swing" is the wrong word; Arnie "hit" the ball. Words like "slash" and "bash" were used frequently. That characteristic followthrough is unmistakable, isn't it?

Now, I'm not saying that Arnie himself is an aggressive person. He has always had a reputation for being very approachable and easy to talk to. But on the course he "put on" his style (as he calls it) and it shaped how we perceive him to this very day.

I think I understand what he's saying. This is like putting on a cape, a mask, and leotards before heading out to a costume party where no one knows you. You can become someone else for a while. Your style or persona on the golf course works the same way -- you become a golfer with the mental approach that will best allow you to play your best.

It will affect how you carry yourself because you become the kind of golfer you want to be.

It will affect your approach to the game because this golfer will play the course this way, not that way.

And it will even affect your swing -- at least in terms of your tempo and playing rhythms.

I can't tell you how to choose a golf style or what style might be best for you... but if Arnie says it works, it's at least worth giving the advice a little thought.

Wonder if I could convince my new golf persona to be rich... ?


  1. Great stuff ! I haven't seen the episode yet, but I hope they spent a good bit of time around his work shop. Sadly, xxx Golf Channel once again picked the wrong person to host, but what can you do ?

    (quick note, though - aggressiveness and approachability are not and have never been mutually exclusive terms. And yes, Arnie is a VERY aggressive person. He lives it in his business life, his golf life, and his personal life. If you ever get down to Bay Hill and happen to be there when he walks through the lobby of the hotel, you'll find him approaching people and welcoming them to the resort. Wall flowers don't do those things)

  2. You'll enjoy the show, Court -- they spent the entire time in his workshop. He even showed how he regrips his clubs.

  3. It's a shame there aren't more leather grips out there to be used. Hard to beat the feel of a leather grip.

  4. Just saw Arnie this afternoon - that was terrific...even with Kelly Tilghman hosting. (you know it's good when even she can't ruin it) :-D

    Couldn't believe she was so amazed at watching him wrap the leather grip...then tried to pass it off as being what so few of the little people get to use.

    Like you, I enjoyed the "play to a style" thoughts he gave to his grandson...and then immediately hated Tilghman's one up routine of "have a package"...just be quiet Kelly. We already know you don't know what you're talking about.