The Wis­dom of Gary Player

Golf Digest Middle East - - Contents - BY ALAN P. PITTMAN

The in­domitable spirit of Player: His en­ergy, skill, longevity and men­tal acu­ity, even as he turns 83, is ev­i­dence of his re­solve.

THE BEST PUTTER AL­WAYS WINS. GOLF SHOULD BE RENAMED “MIND AND PUTTING.”

OARY PLAYER HAS WON 167 pro­fes­sional tour­na­ments in 15 coun­tries, in­clud­ing nine ma­jor cham­pi­onships on the reg­u­lar tour and six on the Cham­pi­ons tour. He’s one of five play­ers to cap­ture the ca­reer Grand Slam. He has de­signed 400 cour­ses world­wide. Through the Player Foun­da­tion, he has raised more than $50 mil­lion for char­ity. One of the ex­tra­or­di­nary peo­ple in golf his­tory has given Golf Di­gest mem­o­rable ad­vice over the years. Here we present some of his best.

I played with so many golfers who were way bet­ter than me, but I won ma­jors and they didn’t. The swing is not the thing. The mind gets you out of a bind.

Try to get winded 10 min­utes a day. Whether it’s climb­ing stairs in your house, rid­ing an ex­er­cise bike or jump­ing rope, the key is to get at least slightly out of breath for 10 min­utes. It’s prac­ti­cally im­pos­si­ble to be badly out of shape if you do this each and ev­ery day.

I can beat most 30-year- olds in the gym at my age. I don’t see my­self as old. I look at my­self as young. The more you ex­er­cise, the bet­ter you feel, and the more you can do for this coun­try.

Be smart about lift­ing weights. When other play­ers first saw my weight-train­ing pro­gram back in the 1950s, they thought I was crazy. Frank Strana­han, a ter­rific am­a­teur player, and I were the only ones do­ing it. In fact, lift­ing weights has made me a bet­ter golfer. Two sug­ges­tions: First, bench presses are very pop­u­lar, but I still pre­fer old-fash­ioned push-ups to strengthen the chest. Sec­ond, do your weight train­ing in the evening, and fol­low it with a shower— cold wa­ter, then hot. This will help your body re­cover faster, so you aren’t as stiff the next day.

De­velop both sides of your body. The per­fect golfer would look like Pop­eye: thin waist, pow­er­ful legs, huge fore­arms, with the left and right sides equally strong. When you per­form any repet­i­tive mo­tion like the golf swing, it’s im­por­tant to strengthen the cor­re­spond­ing mus­cle groups. Swing­ing a weighted club is a great ex­er­cise, but if you’re right-handed, make the same num­ber of swings left­handed. This will keep your back and hips in bal­ance and pre­vent in­jury.

Fo­cus on your hands and wrists. Henry Cot­ton once told me your hands, fin­gers and wrists can never be too strong. Hit­ting prac­tice balls will work out your hands, but you want to do spe­cial ex­er­cises, too. Sus­pend­ing free weights us­ing your thumb and each fin­ger in­di­vid­u­ally helps.

The best way to break out of a slump is to pre­tend you’re a player whose swing is rhyth­mic and beau­ti­ful. I fell into a ter­ri­ble slump in 1973, and I re­cov­ered just that way. I watched Christy O’Connor at the Bri­tish Open and stamped his sing-song swing on my mind. For the next few months, I ac­tu­ally pre­tended I was him. The fol­low­ing April, I won the Mas­ters, then took the Bri­tish Open in July.

The se­cret to chip­ping is to stand a lit­tle wide, shift your weight slightly for­ward, set the club and “light the match.” By that I mean you want to ac­cel­er­ate a lit­tle at im­pact the way you’d light a match.

Good vi­sion is un­der­rated. Your eyes in­flu­ence ev­ery­thing in golf. I wish my eyes were in as good of shape as the rest of my body; it’s my only sign of ag­ing. In my busi­ness, three yards might as well be a mile.

You can tell a good bunker shot by the sound. From pow­dery sand, you want a “poof.” From coarser sand, it should sound like you’re tear­ing a linen sheet in half. Strive to make the right sound, and you’ll be sur­prised at how fast you im­prove.

Get en­ergy from younger peo­ple. I try to play golf with younger peo­ple, the fit­ter the bet­ter. I think you tend to take on the char­ac­ter­is­tics of the in­di­vid­u­als you spend the most time with. Do­ing ac­tiv­i­ties with young, healthy peo­ple has had a way of mak­ing me rise to their level. The best traits of young peo­ple—their op­ti­mism, cu­rios­ity, alert­ness and en­ergy—are con­ta­gious.

Golf is the game for a life­time, but that life­time will be shorter if you’re over­weight.

Eat su­per foods. The biggest tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance in golf in the next 50 years won’t be equip­ment or ex­er­cise. It’ll be nu­tri­tion. Pro ath­letes will have “su­per di­ets” and will avoid starches, su­gar and most of the com­mer­cial foods avail­able to­day, which are loaded with all kinds of steroids and pes­ti­cides. Com­mon ex­am­ples of su­per foods are raw fruits, veg­eta­bles, nuts, whole-grain breads, av­o­cado and yo­gurt.

The worst sin­gle food in the world is ba­con, be­cause it’s pure an­i­mal fat. But I have a piece on oc­ca­sion. I’m not a mar­tyr.

Work on your core. Strengthen your core mus­cles, your stom­ach es­pe­cially. I’ve al­ways felt that my core es­sen­tially holds my body to­gether and pre­vents back in­juries. I still do sit-ups. I can do hun­dreds in a day as long as I break them up into two or three ses­sions.

A golfer chokes be­cause he fears be­ing ex­posed for some­thing less than he re­ally is.

Why did Jack Nick­laus, the great­est player in his­tory, change his swing ev­ery other week? We’re al­ways chop­ping and chang­ing. Golf is a puz­zle with­out an an­swer.

PLAYER WITH CADDIE AL­FRED ( RAB­BIT) DYER AT ROYAL LYTHAM & ST ANNES IN 1974.

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