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Although I am a keen golf fan I tend to only have the time and wiliness to play golf during the summer. Although I don't have an official golf handicap, I know roughly what it is and have always been sure I could improve upon it greatly if I put the effort in. This summer I decided to put my money where my mouth was and really make an effort to improve my score on my local course. My handicap is probably around the +24 mark (bearing in mind I before summer I bought this book I only played around 3 rounds per year), so I set myself the aim of completing a round getting fewer than 18 over par, better than a bogey a hole.
As a fairly competent long distance player I really was searching for a book which would help me with my short game; chipping, pitching, putting etc. Being, to my mind, the best short game player, as well as obviously the best player, in the world Tiger Woods sprung to my mind. Luckily enough for me he had written a book. Published in 2001, How I Play Golf, is described on the cover as "A Masterclass with the World's Greatest Golfer". This seemed enough reason to buy it alone.
I ordered the hardback of the book and at the time I didn't bother to check how many pages the book had or how big it was, and I was quite surprised to be greeted by a 27x23cm nearly 300 page book. It's such an attractive looking book I was unsure whether to use it or to put it safely on my shelf just to look pretty.
I managed to eventually open it and just by reading the foreword I immediately felt a change in my golfing philosophy. A key factor in Tiger's game is the mental aspect, and just with a 3 paragraphs he had instilled me with a new positive outlook and determination.
Unlike most golf books, Tiger's starts from putting and works backwards; as it's the way he learnt it can't be bad. This has always been my weak point, many a time I've got to the green in regulation, and should have got a par or even a birdie and have ended up with a bogey or even worse a double bogey. I really needed as much advice as I could get, and compared to most golf books the amount of information dedicated to putting is huge. Tiger doesn't just teach how he plays golf, he also talks about other players who he believes are better, and what is coach says he should do. There are also very good photographs to go along with the text, so if you are unable to visualise what Tiger is saying, you'll be able to take see exactly how to hold a club or how to stand.
Next up is chipping, this was just as in depth as putting. I've always struggled with chipping, I'll find myself 5 yards from the green looking to chip the ball only 10 yards, and I'd always end up topping the ball and sending it flying 25 yards to the other side of the green! But after merely skimming through the chipping section I was out in the garden chipping perfectly, though I wasn't really getting the distance right that comes with practise of knowing how hard to hit the ball in different lies - which Tiger does talk about, however, the flight and contact with the ball was so much better, and I haven't topped the ball since.
I've just decided to talk about the two chapters that really have helped me so far. Overall however, there are 13 chapters:
1.How To Start - This is a short intro really just talking about the important things in golf, learning and having fun.
2.How To Putt
3.How To Get It Down - This is about turning a 3 into a 2, how to bring your score down.
4.How To Escape From Sand - Here there is advice about how to tackle various bunkers in various positions.
5.How To Full Swing - this is the first point in the book where Tiger talks about a full swing. Although I didn't read this as in depth as the short game chapters; this section was great some of the photos are brilliant, including a pull out segment breaking is swing into 15 different still shots from 3 different angles.
6.How To Flag Your Irons
7.How To Nail Fairway Woods
8.How To Smoke Your Driver
9.How To Handle Problems - "What to do when things start getting ugly" - gives advice on shots from difficult lies and how to know when to cut your losses and play safe.
10.How To Stay In Control - This was pretty useful as for me, and I'm sure a lot of people, after one big mistake my game tended to fall to bits as I lost concentration. Tiger here teaches you how to manage your game.
11.How To Master The Mind - This was probably my favourite section, it is all about having the mental toughness to improve your game.
12.How To Get Strong - Tiger here gives exercise tips and dietary advice.
13.How To Play - This is really just a conclusion to the book just giving you the message to get out there and start enjoying the game.
So how did I get on, I stopped playing golf for a week while I read this book and just practised different bits in my garden or on my carpet (this was just putting, I would not recommend you try using a driver indoors!). I was then ready to hit the course again, initially there where flickers of what I had learned coming into action though the first 9 holes ended up not going to well, probably my worst of the summer. However, I persevered going through the same routines every time, imagining what I wanted to do with the ball and maintaining my positive outlook. I ended up breaking my record on the course, even though I had such a poor first 9 holes! And the improvement seems to have stuck.
I've read skim read quite a few golf books and I have to say none come near to how good this one is. I'd recommend it to any golfer of any skill, the jargon maybe a little confusing at first for beginners but it's worth it for the knowledge and insight you can gain. I love it so much I'm trying to work out who I can now buy it as a gift for at Christmas!
This book is available in paperback for around £13 and hardback for around £18.