Breaking The Slump
by Jimmy Roberts
Teacher’s Comments: Good, but it could have been much more.
Breaking The Slump is a slim volume containing eighteen chapters on how sixteen professional golfers, one President and a professional skater first fell into—and then worked out of—a golfing slump. Written by television golf analyst Jimmy Roberts, it’s a fun, quick read, but ultimately ended up being somewhat less than I had hoped. The subtitle of the book, “How Great Players Survived Their Darkest Moments In Golf—and What You Can Learn From Them,” had led me to believe that Roberts would work harder to extend these lessons outside the world of golf. For the most part, he did not.
That said, there’s a lot here for the golfer and golf fan.
Fans and casual golfers will learn a lot about some of the most famous names in the game, including Phil Mickelson, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Steve Stricker, and David Duval. What makes it interesting is that Roberts gets them to tell about a part of their lives that we do not normally see—their failures. You can learn a lot more about a person in the way they deal with adversity than in the way they deal with success. That each of these golfers was willing (some more than others) to let the rest of the world in on their slumps speaks volumes about their character.
More serious golfers also can glean a degree of good advice from Breaking The Slump. Most of the players interviewed identified bad mental habits as the source of their woes. David Duval says that above all, you must protect your confidence. Justin Rose tells us to avoid negative thoughts. Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Miller got better by walking away from the game for a couple of months to clear their minds. Teacher Rick Smith got Justin Leonard to refocus on making shots. Dottie Pepper went back to basics by rereading notes from her original teacher, who had since passed away. Paul Azinger learned from a carnival boxer to imagine himself winning. Greg Norman stared at clouds.
All seemed to confirm Bobby Jones dictum: Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course … the space between your ears.
Two of the interviews in the book struck me as a bit odd. The President is George Herbert Walker Bush (41), a dedicated golfer who serves as Honorary Chairman of the First Tee, and whose father and grandfather served as Presidents of the USGA. He’s a nice guy, and a dedicated golfer, but I would have preferred another golf pro, especially another LPGA star such as Nancy Lopez, whose long career surely has had its slumps.
Even stranger was the inclusion of Olympic Skater Dan Jansen. Roberts makes a valiant effort to compare the skills sets of top flight athletes, but it just didn’t work for me. I know that in including Bush and Jansen, Roberts was trying to extend the lessons beyond the boundaries of the course. He just didn’t have the depth of insight to do so.
So in the final analysis, I think it’s a good book, that had so much more potential. Golfers and golf fans will enjoy it, but its not for a wider audience.