"Lose the Clutter, Simplify Your Game"
Jim McLean urges golf-playing CIOs to stop thinking too much.
By Jim McLean
Busy executives need to simplify their game, says Jim McLean, one of golf's top instructors and the owner of Jim McLean Golf Schools. McLean runs seven U.S. schools, including one at the Doral Resort & Spa in Miami, Fla., home of the famously challenging Blue Monster course and the host of this year's World Golf Championships-CA Championship. To learn more, contributing writer Emily Kay spoke with McLean and elicited a list of tips for playing a simply better game of golf.
How can a CIO simplify his or her game?
By having a clear understanding of what you're trying to achieve. Are you after relaxation, or do you want to play better golf? Golf can be an impossibly complex game, especially if you listen to all the advice out there from fellow competitors, the Web, The Golf Channel, magazines, lessons and different teaching methods. You need a practice plan so you're working on the right things.
What are some of the top mistakes to avoid?
First, too many golfers don't stretch, and their golf muscles are not in good shape. Second, they give themselves very little, or no, practice time, and no decompression time from the office. To play golf, you have to get yourself in a very different state of mind than what's needed to run your business. The go-get-'em attitude and high intensity pace of the office don't work well in golf unless they're done properly. That means becoming inwardly calm, like Tiger Woods. You have to be able to turn off all the things that are going on in an executive's life and focus on the game.
How important is a fitness regimen? Is that part of simplifying your game, too?
Yes, people are much more aware of the physical fitness aspect of golf, largely because of Tiger Woods and how much he is into fitness. For busy CIOs, two workouts a day aren't realistic. But they certainly can practice better breathing and swinging, and sharpening up their golf muscles.
Avoid rushing to the course, and give yourself time to relax—even 15 minutes just to sit down. If you have time, make a lot of practice swings and hit a lot of smaller shots instead of running to the range and hitting 10 drives and hustling back to the tee. Do some breathing near the first tee and make really slow-motion swings. Take long, slow breaths, breathing in through your mouth and out through your nose.
How about once we're on the course? Any ways to simplify the game there?
Tee off with a fairway metal wood instead of a driver. Play conservatively to start, and swing at about 70 percent effort. To gain control in golf, you have to give up control. There's a lot of "let go" and relaxation you need to have a good swing. Unfortunately, "letting go" is not a common CIO term!
Remember, golf is an art, not a science. T your way through a golf swing. The paradox of golf is that to have a true swing, you need to have a lot of abandonment and the courage to stand up on a tight shot and let it go. That's what a beautiful swing is.
What's the best way to learn golf? Books? Web sites? Friends?
The secret is having a simple sequence and a good forward move. But many popular books teach the same swing to everybody. There are 6 billion people in every size, shape and talent level. It's hard to believe that one swing fits all.
What's more, you can work on things that actually make your game worse. You're trying to reposition the golf club, focus on your backswing ... trying to be perfect with your swing and getting the face exactly positioned at the top of your swing—that could finish someone right there.
That's why a lot of golfers who come to our golf schools are frustrated. They've read something that says the exact opposite of what someone else told them to do. We show them what they're doing, what's really happening and what we want to happen instead.
CIOs are busy people. What's the No. 1 tip for making the most of their limited golf time?
High handicappers tend to accumulate mistakes—bad grips and pressure, bad arm positions at address, bad stances and bad takeaways. Add all that together, and now it's a lot harder to hit the ball, even if you're a great athlete. You've missed the shot before you've taken the club away. By contrast, the most productive way to improve your game is to focus on just one thing at a time.
Interviewer Emily Kay plays to a 10-ish handicap