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Are You…an Iceman?

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Beware readers, we are delving into the furthest reaches of coolness as it pertains to golf. No one has ventured into golf’s innermost cool zone since David Duval shot his final-round 59 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic all of thirteen years ago. Since that time, golf has changed much and there are many harsh truths that we have forgotten when it comes to what is and what is not cool in golf.

In the past, the art of “cool” was slowly introduced to golfers by other club members as they took up the game. The rich tradition of reserved play, quiet confidence and sharp dress is a gift to golfers of all walks by the golf gods themselves. However, as more and more people abruptly took up the game, the uninitiated are overwhelmed by consumerism and walk as sheep among the wolves (OEM’s I love you, but really?). There is little mentorship in golf right now… but I digress. We have forgotten what is cool in our sport, my friends, and we need an Iceman to set us straight.

Who is an “Iceman?”

There have been relatively few Icemen in golf, and yet it seems like there has always been one around in any era of play…except for this one. You may already have formed your own thoughts regarding which players I am referring to, at least to an extent. In addition to David Duval, you could also include Raymond Floyd, Ben Hogan, Lloyd Mangrum and maybe a few others.

Let’s take a moment to make some observations about what made the aforementioned players “Icemen.”

David Duval

First, there are the sunglasses. You never knew what this guy was thinking at any time because he covered most of his facial expressions in a pair of wrap-around shades. If “the eyes are the pathway to the soul,” you would never see Duval’s through those shades. And you weren’t going to get much else from the way he comported himself.

Nothing throws other players off more than a quiet dude wearing shades who doesn’t let on that anything bothers him. You just can’t read the emotional ups and downs, so you push harder to get a reaction out of him and end up doing something stupid in your match – just like he planned. Even if he is playing poorly, you wouldn’t know from the way he reacts; and this bothers some players who expect to see some kind of reaction. We all know that once we see a “defeated” looked on someone’s face during a match that we have already practically won it. After all, competitive golf includes a degree of gamesmanship. It makes things tougher when an opponent never shows a defeated reaction to you. It is the quiet suggestion that, “I will never give up, you will never get in my head, and I will not give you any satisfaction.” That is as tough as it gets, folks.

Raymond Floyd

Ahhh…the infamous Floyd stare, or glare. Young dudes, have you seen this before? The opposite of Duval, in that many might have preferred that Floyd actually put on a pair of shades so they wouldn’t be creeped out by the look on his face when he was “in the hunt.” Floyd maintained this cold glare throughout every match, although it wasn’t always directed at people; it looked more like he was trying to frighten the golf ball into obeying him. He was the picture of concentration; the only thing that was going to bother Mr. Floyd is if he didn’t hit the shot he wanted. In any case, the expression never changed.

Do YOU have that level of concentration and commitment when you get over each shot? If you did, what would it tell a playing competitor if you could appear that “steely” and still not get upset even if you made a poor shot? I’ll tell you; it would say that, “If you were hoping I was going to make a mental mistake or get upset, you might as well give up now. YOU can’t win this match – I can only lose it.”

That is powerful stuff people, but is hard to pull off every time. I see many younger golfers (or at least new golfers) these days that can’t bring themselves to make consistent eye contact with another person. It takes a lot of confidence to simply stare right at someone on the tee when they are looking back. There is something immediately uncomfortable about it. I don’t want to put too much emphasis on gamesmanship (because it is only cool to an extent), but every once in a while, it can give you an advantage if you can somehow send the message to a competitor that you are keenly aware of what they are doing in their own game, and that it doesn’t throw you at all. For Floyd, it was all in the stare.

Ben Hogan

The “Wee Ice Mon.” Mr. Hogan earned that title by sharing his dislike of the greens at Carnoustie in 1953. That alone is a quality of an Iceman – simple honesty with yourself and with others. People simultaneously hate and crave honesty, but often are not fond of those who candidly share it. Mr. Hogan is usually described as something of an introvert, but apparently spoke his mind when asked. It is definitely cool to speak openly when invited to do so (if even people get riled up a little), however an “Iceman” would never simply go around sharing random thoughts in order to get attention. That would be tragically “un-cool,” and definitely not Hogan-worthy. Being honest lets you know whom your friends and where others stand in relation to you.

Another point about Mr. Hogan that puts him in the “Iceman” category is the amount of work he put into himself. After the round, are you the type to sit around getting tipsy at the clubhouse, or are you the lone wolf over at the range working on his swing? Can you say you know more people on the maintenance staff than you do in the pro-shop or clubhouse? Do you leave a 5-by-5 inch  divot “signature” out at the range each day? A true Iceman could and does, because that person doesn’t care for after-round bragging or unimportant small talk. No, he or she is more interested on what is happening on the course, reflecting upon the events of their round, and putting in the time to correct weak spots. Such a reputation makes its way around the membership. Hard work earns respect. Competitors know they are going to have to get lucky with such a player, because they certainly did not put in as much time into their games or preparation for a potential match.

Lloyd Mangrum

Lloyd Mangrum earned the name “Mr. Icicle” due to the relaxed way he played on the course. During World War II, Mangrum was offered a head professional position at Fort Meade that would have kept him out of the fighting…but he declined. He earned two purple hearts and was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, taking shrapnel to his chin and knee. He was also part of the D-Day landings and was one of only two surviving members of his original unit during the war. I challenge anyone to mention a tougher professional in the history of the game of golf (Okay, maybe Larry Nelson).

Mr. Mangrum once said:

“I don’t suppose that any of the pro or amateur golfers who were combat soldiers, Marines, or sailors will soon be able to think of a three-putt as one of the really bad troubles in life.”

I have never served in a combat situation and would never pretend to know, truly, what Mr. Mangrum’s words really mean. However, my humble (personal) interpretation as it pertains to golf, is that there are no true risks taken in a game, as there are in real life.

While I am not suggesting that golfers should go out and play shots that are not consistent with good strategy, I do feel it important to point out that – it is just golf. I have always found it funny how announcers describe shots as “dangerous.” Well, there are NO shots in golf that are actually dangerous, so at no point should a golfer be fearful or nervous about playing a shot.

No “buts,” either. It IS just that simple: No guts, no glory. There are no college scholarships, there are no first place checks, there are no long drive payouts…unless you perform the shot. You have nothing to lose, because you haven’t yet earned anything. So, step up and make it happen!

Sometimes when you play against other golfers, you are forced to play a shot that you are uncomfortable with. So my question to you is, are you going to whimper and worry about what you may or may not be able to do, or are you going to be a cool customer and rip it close? Golfers who are Icemen keep things in perspective. Fear is detrimental and needless – there is always more golf to be played, and you will always get another shot; if not this year, then next year; if not here, then somewhere else. There are things to be afraid of in life, but golf is not one of them, so be fearless in your play, and don’t be afraid of performing poorly (or well) in any given scenario.

Who is NOT an Iceman?

Like I said earlier, there aren’t many of these individuals and we haven’t seen one recently in pro golf. So few possess the inner confidence, fearlessness, top-notch games, mature perspective, soft-spoken demeanor and true humility all at the same time. It definitely is a tall order, especially as the “team sport” mentality has crept into both professional and fan mentalities alike. It can be hard to properly categorize an “Iceman” when you suspect you see one, because there are so many types of criteria. Here are some ideas that can help you weed out the wannabees from the true cool customers.

Dress and Overall Appearance

This is going to be a tough one for some folks. While I don’t wish to offend anyone, there simply are do’s and don’ts when it comes to playing it cool. If you are the sensitive type, skip to the next section on “Equipment.”

Rule 1 – Don’t dress like the circus came to town. I have gotten eye-strain from playing with certain folks just because they are trying to do the whole bright, mono-color thing that is big on tour now. Oddly enough, I see more middle-aged men doing this than the kids the clothing is actually marketed toward. I will be the first to admit that I am not an expert on fashion, but I am a child of the 70’s. I submit to you that, if people wouldn’t dare wear clothing with certain color schemes in the 70’s, then YOU shouldn’t be wearing it now. Let’s move forward from that dark era, shall we? Don’t become your own caricature.

Rule 2 – A belt buckle is not a codpiece. A CODPIECE is a codpiece. If there is one thing I know from growing up playing 80’s metal, is that any substitution for a decent codpiece, or loincloth, screams “poser.” It happened when Poison got the edge on Judas Priest (the band) and it is carrying forward now. It is even worse when those who don’t have a physique that really supports wearing such an accessory (like me, but I don’t) try to wear them. Let us consider carefully the disadvantages as well as the advantages of wearing such accoutrements. If you aren’t man enough sport the proper jewel-encrusted, leather codpiece out on the golf course (OR the grocery store), you aren’t going to make up for that with a three hundred dollar belt buckle either. Such are the woes of life.

Rule 3 – Don’t put your name on your gear. You want the nice, big staff bag? Fine. You want the Tour Issue baseball caps? Fine. You want the customized wedge with all the distracting symbols (and no good grinds)? Fine. You want the shiny belt buckle…nnn…well, that is NOT fine. Just…don’t put your name on them. No one wants to remember who you are unless you are on a professional tour. An Iceman would never invest in gear and apparel that cost more than your average used car. A good game should speak for itself, so why would you go about turning yourself into a billboard? Let’s face it, in any one given round with a total stranger, we are all likely to shoot poorly or medium-style at best. Why sign your name to an “epic fail” that others will (now) remember long after the round is done?

Equipment

A real Iceman would have a bag that avoided “trend” like a mid-cap tries to avoid the shanks…um, I mean…the U.S. Ryder Cup team tries not to lose…ummm, well you know what I mean. In any case, I believe my distinguished colleague Jeff Singer described how best to build an intimidating bag of clubs that is free of poserness, so I will refer you all to the proper thread…

Let me say, however, that an Iceman would never let his/her clubs speak for their game when ability alone should have that honor.

(and, finally…)

The “Teeth Test”

Do you ever notice that we are seeing more teeth in golf than ever before? I am tired of seeing TEETH! I don’t need to see your food tools, thanks, OR be reminded of how poorly you floss. No Iceman is going to engage in open-mouthed, self-congratulation at any time out on the golf course. If you want that kind of thing, go to a football game, sit with the drunks, and wait for an end-zone dance. Oddly, even the NFL has rules about self-celebration while the PGA Tour apparently does not.

An Iceman would never do this, as the focus on “self” is…well…selfish. A winning round, or losing round, should look no different than if you finished in the middle of the pack. Putting on a “show” is disrespectful to those you are playing with, as well as those you might be playing against. This truly is sportsmanship 101, and it is a shame that we have forgotten.

Seriously, could you ever imagine Jack Nicklaus putting on a fist-pumping spectacle on the 18th green of a major? Could you imagine Ben Hogan “riding the bull” during a Ryder Cup match? No, of course not! I bet some of you actually crossed yourselves and closed the shutters when you read that, didn’t you? This is team-sport behavior, and an Iceman is the antithesis of that. So, if you ever see a player giving him or herself a personal cheering session, they likely won’t pass the teeth test. A quiet smile or acknowledgement to the fans or gallery is one thing; roaring at the top of your lungs and riling the masses for your own benefit is another. Let modesty reign!

Why Do We Need An Iceman?

Stated simply, a golfing Iceman is the manifestation of the sum total of all that is cool in golf. He or she serves as the point of comparison that all golfers use to determine whether their actions, mannerisms, equipment selection, style of play, etc. fall on the “cool” side, or the “lame” side, of the spectrum. There have been no real Icemen on the PGA Tour since Duval, which is supported by the clear reality that we are inundated with equipment, apparel, marketing, and on course behavior that doesn’t pass the straight face test.

We need to bring “cool” back to golf. Not just cool, but principle and sportsmanship coupled with great play. The “Iceman” represents the best aspects of all of these, but we don’t currently have one. (No, Jason Dufner doesn’t count. He apparently doesn’t have a problem with people referring to him as a furry, burrowing mammal. Sorry, but some nicknames are cooler than others. His isn’t. You have only yourselves to blame.)

The golfing Iceman is a figure so inherently cool and reserved, that he or she pulls you into being a fan as a matter of course. No image enhancement, no Facebook pages, no Twitter, no “rep,” no BS. What you see is what you get, but what you see is the coolest person you could ever imagine playing golf. Not being a fan is almost harder than being a fan.

Weird Iceman “Facts”

(okay, they are MY facts, but what else have you got to do?)

  1. Only one professional (male) golfer has ever finished at the top of the money list and still been considered to be an Iceman, and that was Ben Hogan. Let’s face it folks, it is tough to be great and still look like you aren’t interested in how good you are.
  2. You can lose your Iceman title if your coolness drops below a certain point. Just look at poor David Duval. One of my favorite players, but he has (for now) lost his game. The title of Iceman comes with great expectations.
  3. Icemen hate the lead in a match. Simply put, it is cooler to chase than be chased.
  4. All Icemen are good putters. See how rare they are? I am guessing you had hopes there for a minute, didn’t you?
  5. Icemen will never show you their true distances with any club. Just assume there is much more in the tank than what you see.
  6. Icemen will only be found playing with others who are equally focused on their games. They may not be Icemen themselves, but are individuals who don’t place an emphasis on the social aspect of the game. As such, Icemen might be found in regular groups or as singles most often. If they are spotted as a single, they will NEVER crowd you; if they are in a foursome, you will never catch up to them.
  7. Icemen rarely talk about golf when they are away from golf. Sounds weird but also sounds totally true, right?
  8. Icemen are mostly self-taught and are skeptical of formal instruction.
  9. Icemen don’t take practice swings or look at their ball flight for more than a second or two.
  10. You will never find more than one Iceman at any club or on any professional Tour at any given time. They are very territorial, it seems.

There it is. What is YOUR opinion?

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum.

 

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I am a professional musician, educator and researcher, in addition to being a golf coach for Hampden Academy in Maine. Currently, I am pursuing a Ph.D., in curriculum and instruction at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. My past academic achievements include a Bachelor's degree (in music performance) from the University of Maine, a Master's degree (in jazz performance) from Florida State University, a second Master's degree (in education) from the University of Maine, and K-12 teacher and school administrator certifications in Maine. My current research interests include overlapping content points between music and golf, as well as studying/comparing/contrasting how people learn in both endeavors. I have worked in education for 12 years, including public school education and university instruction. I have taught in the Maine public school system, and at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, the University of Maine at Fort Kent, Florida State University, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison. My main area of musical endeavor is drumset performance with an emphasis in jazz, where I have performed with Chuck Winfield (of Blood Sweat and Tears), Dr. Billy Taylor (of the Kennedy Center), Yusef Lateef (jazz legend), and numerous local and regional groups in the New England area.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. winstonalan

    Jan 14, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    This is amazing. From a fellow educator, thank you for breaking the monotony of benchmark exams.

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What’s the one breach of golf etiquette that gets under your skin more than anything else? Equipment expert Brian Knudson and GolfWRX Editor Andrew Tursky discuss what drives them crazy. Also, Knudson talks about his first round with new irons and a new shaft in his driver.

Follow @tg2wrx on Instagram to enter the Bettinardi inovai 5.0 center-shaft putter giveaway.

Listen to the full podcast below on SoundCloud, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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“I Love You, Tiger!” At Big Cedar lodge, an outpouring of affection for Tiger Woods

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What a difference a year makes.

About one year ago, Tiger Woods was in Branson, Missouri at Big Cedar Lodge to announce that he was designing a golf course there; Payne’s Valley, his first public course. That day was attended by hundreds of national and local media, the Lieutenant Governor of Missouri and Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops owner and the visionary behind the amazing golf complex that has been established at Big Cedar Lodge.

That day, Woods had not played competitive golf for awhile, and he was recovering from multiple surgeries. Woods took a couple of ceremonial swings, the last of which clearly left him in physical distress. Days later, he was in surgery again and his playing career looked to be all but over. The situation became worse when Woods was arrested for driving under the influence, found with multiple substances in his system. It seemed as though the sad mug shots from that arrest might be as prominent in his legacy as the smiles and fist-pumps that accompanied his 79 wins and 14 major championships.

Fast forward to yesterday, where Woods was back in Missouri to do a Junior Clinic at Big Cedar. An estimated crowd of over 7,000 kids and parents showed up on a school day to catch a glimpse of Woods. The atmosphere was carnival-like, with sky divers, stunt planes making flyovers and rock music blaring from giant speakers. When Woods finally arrived, the reaction was electric. Mothers and their kids were chanting. “Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!” at the top of their lungs. Photographers battled soccer moms for position to get a picture of his swing. Some of the kids were as young as 6-years-old, which means that they had probably not seen Woods hit a meaningful shot in their life. At one point, when Woods was hitting shots and explaining how to execute them, a woman shouted, “I love you, Tiger!” Not to be out done, a woman on the other side of the crowd, who was their with her husband and kids, shouted “I love you more, Tiger!” Maybe the only people with more affection for Woods would be the people in the golf business. A senior marketing official in the golf industry leaned over at one point in the event and said, “God, we could use just one more from him.”

Woods swing looks completely rehabilitated. He was hitting shots of every shape and trajectory on-demand, and the driver was sending balls well past the end of the makeshift driving range set up for the event. But even more remarkable was the evidence of the recovery of his reputation. Surely there are still women out there that revile Woods for the revelations of infidelity, and no doubt there are those that still reject Woods for his legal and personal struggles. But none of them were in Missouri yesterday. Mothers and children shrieking his name confirmed what we already knew: Tiger Woods is the single most compelling person in American sports, and he belongs to golf.

Unlike a year ago, Woods is swinging well, and seems as healthy and happy as he as ever been as a pro. Add to that the unprecedented outpouring of love from crowds that once produced a combination of awe and respect, but never love. Fowler, McIlroy, Spieth and the rest may get their share of wins and Tweets, but if the game is to really grow it will be on the broad, fragile back of Tiger Woods. It’s amazing to think what can happen in one short year.

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12 reasons serious golfers don’t realize their potential

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What stops serious golfers from realizing their potential? If you are an amateur who wants to get better, a young player trying to achieve more, or a young professional with big dreams, this article is for you.

I’ve made a career out of helping athletes maximize their abilities, golfers in particular. And the things I see young playing professionals doing prior to our work together is often what is holding them back. The reality is that most young players, no matter what their level, have three key problems:

  1. They’re distracted by what’s not important
  2. They have no detailed structure and plan to reach the targets they determine are important to them
  3. They have no formal process to develop mindset and attitude

In the list below, I share what I see working with these young players and some common blind spots.

1. No real plan and steps to achieve targets

Most players do not know how to create a long-term and short-term plan that outlines all steps needed to reach targets. Players should have yearly plans with targets, steps and actions and weekly plans to organize/schedule their time and prioritize key needs.

2. Not focused enough on the object of the game

This goes hand in hand with No. 1. Surprisingly, players seem to forget that the object of the game is get the ball in the hole in the least amount of strokes. Trophies and checks are not issued for the best swing, the best putting stroke or most balls hit.

3. Not enough pressure in practice

Most young players have loose practice. The intensity of feelings between the practice tee and the course are too different. Focus and intensity must be a part of all practice. Add competition and outcomes to sessions so some urgency is created.

4. Too much practice time on full swing

The data is clear — most shots in golf happen from 100 yards and in from the green. If the majority of practice time is not spent on these shorter shots, practice time is wasted.

5. An obsession with the look of the swing

Players are not generally prepared to own their own swings and embrace the differences that make them unique. Obsessing over swing mechanics is a major distraction for many players. Many players convince themselves that if it doesn’t look “good” on their iPhone, their swing won’t get results.

6. No structure with the driver

Since scoring is the main goal, a consistent, reliable shape to each shot is important. My experience has been that if players are trying to go both ways with the driver, that is a sure-fire way to elevate numbers on the card. Pick a shape and eliminate one side of the course. Predictability from the tee increases a player’s confidence to put the ball in the fairway more often, creating more opportunities to score.

7. Expectation that they will hit the ball well everyday

Many players have the unreasonable expectation that they will hit lots of fairways and greens every time they play. This expectation leads to constant disappointment in their game. Knowing that the leading professionals in the game average about 60.6 percent driving accuracy and 11.8 greens in regulation per round should be a good benchmark for the expectations of all players.

8. Trying to be too robotic and precise in putting

Some players get so caught up in the mechanics of putting that their approach becomes too robotic. They become obsessed with precision and being perfect. Feel, flow and instinct have to be a central part of putting. This can get lost in an overly robotic mindset trying to be too precise and perfect.

9. No process for assessment and reflection

Players do not have a formal process for assessing practice or rounds and reflecting on the experience. The right lessons are not consistently taken away to ensure step-by-step improvement. Knowing how to assess practice, play and ask the right questions is key to development.

10. Getting in their own way

The voice inside of most young players’ heads is not helpful for their performance. It’s often a negative, demanding voice that insists on perfection. This voice leads to hesitation, frustration and anger. The voice must be shaped (with practice) into the right “emotional caddie” to support efforts and promote excellence over perfection.

11. A focus on the negative before the positive

A default to the mistakes/flaws in the round before looking at the highlights and what worked. When asked about their round, most players highlight three-putts, penalty shots and any errors before anything else. Emphasis should always be on what went well first. Refection on what needs improvement is second.

12. The blame game

Young players love excuses. Course conditions, weather, coaching and equipment are a few of the areas that are often targets, deflecting responsibility away from the player. Many players do not take full responsibility for their own game and/or careers.

I hope this provides some insights on roadblocks that could get in your way on the path to reaching your targets in the game. Whether it’s lowering your handicap, winning a junior tournament, working toward the PGA Tour — or just general improvement — considering these observations might help you shorten the road to get there.

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