This is a very unusual golf instruction book, not the least because it was written by a guy who admittedly doesn’t play the game. Indeed, Roy Palmer says, in addition to helping golfers, he’s also coached tennis, horseriding, fencing and basketball—but doesn’t do those sports either.
So how does claim to be able to do this? It turns out that Palmer is a proponent of what’s known as The Alexander Technique for increasing your coordination by increasing your awareness of what you’re doing at any particular moment.
The Technique takes its name from a 19th century Shakespearean actor, F. Matthias Alexander, who had developed hoarseness and breathing techniques. After doctors could find no particular cause, Alexander began observing himself in mirrors, eventually coming to the conclusion that a series of habitual movements was at the root of the problem. He altered those movements, and the throat issues disappeared.
Alexander then went on to write four books and found a series of schools teaching his techniques. At its core is the idea of achieving a level of self awareness that allows you to eliminate detrimental habits.
Palmer begins with a series of exercises designed to make you more aware, such as noticing what you do when you get out of a chair or in folding your arms. The techniques are designed to help you realize that you are doing a lot of things that you don’t realize with every action. And by extension, he says, that goes to the golf course.
Then, Palmer takes you through some exercises designed to “get you in the moment.” He recommends that before taking a shot, you become aware of “Your toes in your socks, the ground under your feet, the touch of your clothes on your skin,” etc. This is all supposed to get you into the “zone.”
Palmer also offers a series of seven exercises such as developing body awareness while lying flat on the ground, facial relaxation techniques, practicing the standard “athletic position,” and working on twisting and twisting.
I found it interesting that one of the things he recommends is paying attention to your body as you walk:
“Walking provides an ideal activity in which to experience effortless movement while releasing tension from the shoulders and lower back. It can also help to remind you of the location of your hip joints. That, in turn, will improve your stance.”
That may explain why I feel as though I play better when I walk rather than ride. If he’s right, I subconsciously work on tension, balance and rhythm while hoofing it around the course.
I think that the techniques described might be most useful in solving a case of the yips with the putter. I’ve always believed that putting is the one aspect of the game that can be continuously, consciously and permanently improved. Since putting is so slow and deliberate in comparison with the rest of the game, being entirely self conscious can really help.
In the end, Golf Sense offers a lot of interesting food for thought, but I think I would be more comfortable with this if it came from someone who actually had used the techniques to improve their own game. Knowing that Palmer is a non-golfer had me thinking throughout the volume that it was all just a bunch of mumbo jumbo packaged to sell to desperate golfers (and we are ALL desperate at one point or another). I don’t know how he can say that it’s valuable to do this- or that- when he doesn’t know exactly what it feels like.