By Dr. Tom Dorsel, Ph.D. – First printed in The Hilton Head Sun on August 5 2020

Jack Nicklaus wrote a book entitled, “Golf My Way,” and Tiger Woods has a video series entitled, “My Game: Tiger Woods.

My, My!  That word jumps out at me in both cases.  I’m sure after reading Jack’s book and watching Tiger’s videos, you will come away with some good physical and mental game tips, but mainly be impressed with how these two great golfers accomplished success for “themselves.”

However, in learning about Jack or Tiger, did you really learn anything about yourself?  Are you now going to be able to turn yourself into a Jack Nicklaus or a Tiger Woods?

Sadly, unlikely!  Your time might have been better spent learning, “Golf YOUR Way.”  Like Bagger Vance said, you have to “find YOUR swing,” and I would add YOUR mental game, too.

That’s right, mental games are also different, even Jack’s and Tiger’s.  Both were intimidating, with boundless confidence and a killer instinct; but Jack exhibited these attributes with a quiet, methodical determination that bowled over his opponents like a Golden Bear.  Tiger was, well, more cat-like, pouncing when least expected with a great shot from out of nowhere, punctuated by a Tiger roar.

Bobby Jones was neither of the above.  His simple mantra was, “If I just keep throwing pars at them, they will all crack eventually.”  Ben Hogan was in his cocoon, intimidating by his mysteriousness, aloofness and impenetrable isolation that kept everybody guessing.

Lee Trevino’s mental game was entirely different.  He said that he relaxed by laughing and cutting up with the gallery, but also added that, “All I need is 5 seconds to tap my foot and hit the ball, but that is a very serious 5 seconds.”

The point again is that we are all different, and each of us has to find the overriding element that defines our personal mental game?  Like unique fingerprints, your own particular swing and mental game is hidden somewhere in your DNA.

Example 1:  Visualization

Both Jack and Tiger were good at visualizing, but they did it differently.  Jack said he “went to the movies in his head before each shot.”  Tiger simply saw a still picture out in front of him and would “Swing to the picture.”  The challenge is to find your own way of visualizing that works for you.

Example 2:  Relaxation

I once heard of an actress who would calm herself down by peaking out between the curtains and saying to the audience, “I love you, I want to give of myself to you.”  Then I heard of an actor who said basically the opposite: “I hate you, all of you.  You don’t think I can do this.  Well, I’ll show you.”

Two performers, two different ways of calming down.  Determine the thought process that works best for you in calming down when the pressure is on?


Dr. Tom Dorsel, who lives on HHI, can be found at

and on Facebook at “Sport Psychology of Hilton Head.”

His latest book is “Golf: The Mental Game.”