For most golfers, visions of our last worm-burning drive, shanked iron, or lipped-out putt fill our brains as we stand over the ball trying to persuade our tension-cramped bodies to swing the club. White Plains sports hypnotist Peter Solana has the solution: replace those negative images with beautiful ones, forgive your mistakes, and allow yourself to make a par—at least mentally.
“Hypnosis gives you the ability to go into the zone whenever you want to,” Solana says. “The zone is that state of mind in which you’re able to block out external distractions like squawking birds or fellow golfers, as well as internal ones like memories of the last disastrous slice you hit.”
Hypnosis, he says, trains your mind to focus on positive images like a ball rolling into the hole for a birdie. The 73-year-old Solana, who has a BS degree in commerce from Rider University, studied the techniques at the National Institute of Hypnosis. He has worked with the St. John’s University men’s golf team, as well as with athletes including New York Yankee Paul O’Neill. Dozens of leading local golfers, including Carl Alexander, director of golf at The Golf Club of Purchase, Ben Hoffine at Wykagyl Country Club, Mike Diffley from Pelham Country Club, and Andy Svoboda, four-time club champion at Winged Foot Golf Club, swear by Solana’s mind-altering approach.
“We golfers tend to get in our own way,” Diffley says. “Pete can put you in a place where you can perform the way you know you can.”
A beginning course of three one-hour sessions is $600. Solana can be reached at (914) 949-0154.
Most lovers of the game know golf should not only be played on foot, but in the company of a caddy whenever possible. Among all the other things a caddy does, he (or she!) will be your psychologist, your swing coach, and your biggest cheerleader. I once eagled the second hole at Pebble Beach with a lucky chip, and I swear my caddy was so happy he almost wet his pants. What a great aid to my mental game that day!
Schlepping your clubs is the least important thing your caddy does, so don’t treat—or tip—him like a pack mule. If you’re playing at an unfamiliar club, ask the starter or caddy master (it’s a good idea to slip him a few bucks, too) what caddies usually get for a round. Fees in Westchester range from $45 to $90 per bag, excluding tips. A fore-caddy, who accompanies players who ride a cart, will generally get about half that amount for each golfer. Don’t skimp on the tips, either—25 percent should be a minimum. These guys aren’t hauling your junk up and down all those hills just because they like to walk around outdoors with guys wearing spiked saddle shoes.
When you’re the guest of a club member, it’s extremely good form to pay both his caddy and yours—you’re also more likely to get invited back.
There are three general classifications of golfers: great players; good amateurs and pros with single-digit handicaps; and the rest of us. Most of us hackers realize the only way we’re ever going to get into a PGA Tour event is by buying a ticket. But hope does spring eternal that we could actually join the second group of good players. How? We asked the experts.
John Buczek, the new head pro at Winged Foot, says to start with some instruction, then apply it with copious amounts of practice. “Work ethic along with a certain amount of talent separates the good player from the hacker,” Buczek says, pointing out that Gary Player claims to have hit more than 11 million golf balls.
Cheryl Anderson, director of instruction at Wykagyl and the 2006 LPGA National Teacher of the Year, recommends patience. “Good golfers are more patient. They realize golf is a journey where they’re going to have peaks and valleys. They stay patient through the valleys.” Most of us have been in those valleys—and in the woods, streams, and tall cabbage, too—but we don’t cope with it very well. “Tiger can hit maybe two fairways and still find a way to break par,” Anderson says. “Good players never quit.”
Or give into boredom, National PGA Champion Ron Philo, who will be teaching at Hudson National this year, says. “The game is a combination of persistence and attitude.
You have to keep working on the same boring things—posture, alignment, your short game.” Philo comes from a family of high golf achievers. His father and uncle both played in PGA Championships, his sister, Laura Diaz, is a standout on the LPGA tour, and Philo himself has appeared in seven PGA Championships, the US Open, and will contend six times on the PGA Tour this year. That has made him a believer in the value of good golf instruction. “A big challenge of my business is fighting the tip of the day that the player gets out of a golf magazine.”
Rob Labritz, director of golf at GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, puts his faith in the mental side of the game. “You have to be smart and dumb at the same time,” he says. “There are a lot of good players who aren’t the brightest bulb on the tree. They play great golf because they think it’s real simple: you just get the ball in the hole.” He may have something there; don’t think; just hit the darn ball. “I’ve played with plenty of players who have the most terrible golf swings,” he adds, “but they shoot sixty-fives because they just get the ball in the hole. They don’t overcomplicate it.”