Jack Nicklaus is facing down the last hole of the PGA Tour event.
A birdie will put him in the playoff. An eagle will win it. He has a three wood over water, requiring a fade to the pin. Nicklaus stares at the gap between the ball and the flag, his eyes tracking the lines. He approaches the ball, settles in, waggles and then hesitates. Instead of taking the shot, he steps back, places the three wood in the bag and wipes his hands.
The swelling crowd holds its breath as Nicklaus finally returns to take the shot. He steps back into his routine, staring down the line between the ball and the flag, tracking the ball’s imaginary flight. He swings, sending the ball flying over the water. It bounces onto the green toward the pin, now just five feet away. He makes the putt, an eagle. Nicklaus has won the tournament.
Later, in the press room, everyone wanted to know: what were you doing for so long before you hit that incredible shot?
“I went to the movies,” he said. Nicklaus explained that just as in a movie, he watches himself performing the shot correctly with the ball flying toward the pin. His body responds by creating the feeling he needs to hit the desired shot. He had lost the feeling during his first attempt, so he went back to the movies, found the feeling and trusted it.
The Four Boxes is similar in his approach.
It is a pre-shot routine that organizes and simplifies our thoughts into a feeling that we must trust.
- Rest Box is the biggest box, filled with the many thoughts that we need to simplify. Here, we begin breathing systematically, becoming aware of any tension and eliminating it.
- Memory Box is a smaller box, and here we choose to remember a similar shot that was successful. We picture it, and dwelling on it triggers positive emotions and feelings.
- Think Box is even smaller, where we consciously execute the moves required for the desired shot. We practice with the purpose of creating a simple and encouraging feeling. We take only that feeling with us into the final box.
- Play Box is the smallest box. No other thoughts are allowed here; we are focused only on trusting the feeling.
Learning to lean into the joy of playing golf is what it’s all about. Come join us out on the green!
By Doug Weaver
North Carolina and South Carolina PGA Teacher of the Year, Doug Weaver is the Director of Instruction at the Palmetto Dunes Golf Academy. He conducts “Where Does the Power Come From?”, a free interactive clinic and demonstration every Monday from 4-5 p.m. at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Course. Call (843) 338-9598 or (800) 827-3006 or go to www.palmettodunes.com for more information.