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The Winning Touch In Golf


With an introduction by CARY MIDDLECOFF
Illustrated by Lealand Gustavson


by Cary Middlecoff.

Nobody who has ever thought about the game of golf seriously can doubt that the psychological factors involved are tremendous. Certainly I have never doubted it. On the contrary, I have often wished—yearned, even—for a better and deeper understanding of this science of the mind as it applies to golf and golfers.

These moments of yearning have come when, head in hands, I sought earnestly but vainly to explain to myself how I had missed a short putt or a simple shot that I knew myself physically capable of making. The wishing for greater knowledge of golf psychology goes on continually, because I know my overall golf game would be better if I had it.

For a graphic and familiar example of the importance of psychology in golf, we have readily at hand in the records the vividly contrasting performance of Arnold Palmer on the 72nd and last hole of the 1960 and 1961 Masters Tournaments. In 1960, you will recall, this great competitive golfer came to the last hole needing a birdie three to win the tournament by a stroke over Ken Venturi. He made it with a strong and accurate drive, a masterfully played six-iron shot to within six feet of the pin, and a smoothly and resolutely stroked putt that was, as the saying goes, in all the way.

Add to this 1960 picture these further facts: Palmer had, in fact, reached the 71st hole needing two birdie threes to win, and he was perfectly aware of what the situation demanded, Venturi having finished about half an hour earlier, with no one else in contention except these two. So here we have a man of iron nerves, impervious to "pressure."

Then a year later to the day, this same Palmer reaches the same hole of the same tournament needing only a par four to win. A bogey five, moreover, will give him a tie and the chance to win by beating Gary Player the following day in a playoff. Again he hits a strong and straight drive, but instead of the great finish of a year before, he plays out the hole as a 95-shooter might and takes a double-bogey six to lose.

Did Palmer in 1961, as many unthinking people later sug¬gested, yield to "pressure?" Nonsense. How could he have? He was a year richer in experience, and many thousands of dollars richer in money. Additionally, he had won the tournament before, as had not been the case a year earlier, and any competitive golfer will tell you that it's easier to win a big tournament the second time than it is the first, from the standpoint of so-called pressure.

What was it then? I can't explain it, but I'm sure the answer lies in the realm of psychology, just as the answers to the other¬wise inexplicable failures and successes of yours and mine in golf lie in the realm of psychology. Palmer was psychologically "right" in 1960 and psychologically "off" in 1961.

But psychology enters into golf long before the player reaches the last hole in a tight and dramatic situation. In fact, it per¬vades the game. It is vitally important in the learning process, beginning with the time the aspiring golfer picks up his first club. It remains vitally important in all of the practice, in all the day to day informal games, and carries through any tournament play the golfer may undertake.

All this being so, it is surprising that the subject has been so little explored up until now. The answer here may lie in the fact that, as I once observed in my own instructional golf writing, that a writer-golfer-psychologist is a rare combination.

However rare the combination, we have it now in Dr. Peter G. Cranford, Ph.D. That he is a writer, and a good one, is evident on every page of this book. Beyond that, and perhaps surprisingly for a scholar of Dr. Cranford's attainments, he is a writer of remarkable clarity and simplicity. Reading his book will not necessitate having a dictionary at hand for frequent consultation. Neither will it be necessary that the reader himself be steeped in the lore of psychology. Dr. Cranford makes it abundantly clear that his message is to fellow golfers—not to his colleagues in psychology—and the message comes through loud and clear.

Dr. Cranford's credentials as a golfer are established early in his book and supported by documentary evidence through¬out. His own meticulously and assiduously kept records show him to be a player who scores in the 70s with some consistency, which is plenty good. But not alone in records does he show himself to be a dedicated, devoted golfer. Virtually every para¬graph tells you that here is a man who plays golf, thinks golf, lives golf. What diletante golfer, for instance, would practice thousands of putts on his living room rug so as to be able to assess the value of "carpet putting practice?"

The author's standing as a psychologist is, of course, attested to by his degree and his long experience in the field. That he turned this study and experience to the subject of golf is a break for all of us.

In my judgment, Dr. Cranford does most for the golfer who aspires to lower his score when he writes on the general subjectof learning through practice. It has been my observation that most golfers start out a golfing season with high hopes and firm determination to get better through practice, but allow them¬selves to become discouraged too quickly and slip back into the old ruts. Such chapters as "How to Overcome Inertia," "How to Make Time and Place Work For You," and "How to Avoid Conditions That Kill Interest" will cut strokes off many a golf score.

The great beauty of this book is that the author has had the interest and the patience to accumulate a vast knowledge about the learning process of golf by making trial-and-error experi¬ments and recording the results. He is thus able to state with authority which learning methods are apt to work and which are not worth the time and effort. Through this alone, a reading of his book can save any golfer untold frustrations and set him on the right path to learning the game.

His chapter on "How to Handle Anger" will, of course, be more valuable to the temperamental than to the placid, but there is hardly a golfer who will not derive a considerable benefit from it.

But here is the book for you to read. The first chapter is entitled "How To Begin To Improve," and I suggest that a good way to begin to improve is begin immediately to read this book. My firm prediction is that you will find in it expert confirmation of some ideas you have had about the psychology of golf, plus a great many new ideas which you can put into practice with profit.

You may feel after reading The Winning Touch In Golf, as I did, that perhaps the most valuable secret that Dr. Cranford imparts about golf is the game's fascination for its devotees regardless of age or ability. Dr. Cranford, like a certain other Dr. whose teeth I brush each morning, has been playing the game of golf for several decades. Yet both of us are still doggedly trying to achieve some mastery of the game.

We have both had some success and a lot of pleasure out of golf, as well as a lot of the disappointments that serve to heighten the pleasure of the successes when they come. Both of us know that neither of us will ever know all the secrets of the game, and both of us realize that in this fact lies the great appeal of golf.

Many of the secrets, though, the good Georgia doctor has revealed. I expect to apply a number of them beneficially, and so can you.

To my wife Helen
Who Knows the Psychological Secrets of How to Keep a Golfing Husband Happy !