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Monday, April 22, 2013

The Mental Game and Jim McLean

Jim McLean
Jim McLean
Jim McLean paid a visit to a roomful of old friends this year at the Met PGA Educational Forum, spending about two hours on the stage sharing his insights and many tales from his long career in the game and chatting with WNBC Sports Anchor (and McLean pupil) Bruce Beck. It was a fascinating presentation.

McLean is the director of the fabulously successful golf schools bearing his name across the nation. He's headquartered at Doral in Miami, but his roots run deep into Westchester, where he started his club pro career as an assistant at Westchester Country Club. He later served as head pro at Sunningdale, Quaker Ridge, and Sleepy Hollow. One of his greatest contributions to the game is the long trail of pros who worked for him here and in Florida.

Beck, who took many lessons from McLean at Sleepy Hollow, asked him how he manages to switch from coaching standout PGA Tour pros like Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson to teaching rank beginners and duffers like you and me. McLean said, "That's not a problem because you have to focus on every golfer as an individual anyway. Regardless of their skill level, everyone needs help with specific, different parts of their game." He seldom works with Bradley, for example, on swing mechanics but instead concentrates on his mental approach to the game.

Bruce Beck and Jim McLean. Photo courtesy of Met PGA
McLean also pointed out that there is hope for everyone of us, regardless of how poorly we hit the ball. "There really are solution to every problem in golf," he said. "The biggest obstacle is people who won't follow the plan to solve them. He also commented that so-called "feel" players need to use practice drills, too, because, "You need to get the feel for doing it right."

Coaching the mental game was the topic of much of the discussion. McLean said he's worked with all the sports psychologists at one time or another but believes the golf instructor needs to be a psychologist, too. He told a brief story about when Keegan Bradley first hit the Nationwide Tour: "After a few tournaments, Keegan told me how much better he was than most of the other players he was up against. I asked him how many times he had won so far and the answer was none. Then I asked him how many times he had led a tournament at any point and that answer was also 'none.' When that sunk in, Keegan realized that being the best golfer in the field doesn't mean anything unless you put the numbers on the scorecard to prove it."

McLean suggested that most golfers could improve their putting by learning which arm dominates their swing by making a few one-arm putts to get the feel for it. "If you run into trouble," he said, "try the other arm for a while until you get comfortable." He also observed that it's not a good idea to practice putting--or any one thing--for too long at a single session because it will become tedious and the practice will lose its effectiveness.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

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