As a golf coach and Alexander teacher, I
was asked to review Roy Palmer’s new book Golf Sense.
I have not met Roy personally and, when reading the
Acknowledgements, found out Roy does not play golf. So I was
intrigued to find out if this book could, in fact, help me
find and consistently be in ‘the Zone’, the Holy Grail in
golf, a place where one would like to be, but a place so
difficult to find that many golfers never find it, and for
the few that have experienced the phenomenon, so difficult
to return to.
I have read many books on the mental side
of golf. All have had a chapter on the Zone, all have
similar ideas, but none goes into such detail as Golf
Sense. I am looking forward to trying to find the Zone
and playing in it, after reading the book. The book is nice
to feel and easy to read, with simple illustrations which
are easy to understand.
Alexander wrote, in The Use of The
Self, a chapter on the golfer who cannot keep his eyes
on the ball. He wrote: "Strange as it may seem, I have
always found that a pupil who uses himself wrongly will
continue to do so in all his activities". Golfers are, by
nature of the game, severe end-gainers, as they are trying
to get the ball in the hole.
Palmer starts by using a table of practical exercises which
would be of great interest in a workshop on the Alexander
Technique: the chair, head balance, semi-supine, spiralling,
walking, and a number of ways to try to find ‘neck free’.
Getting into ‘the Moment’ is right on for ‘neck free’. Where
Palmer slips up is in mentioning the dreaded ‘monkey’ word,
a horror in the golf world. Golfers do not like to ‘do the
monkey’. In the world of golf there is the ‘set up’, the
position a golfer adopts when preparing to hit the ball. In
our world it is ‘the monkey’. Golfers are taught to do the
movement, and when they can do the movement, they practise
it over and over again to create a habit and put it in their
memory banks, using what they call ‘feel’. They try ‘to
feel’ the swing.
Tom is an imaginary golfer working
through the book: his thoughts in the last chapter are a
non-stop check-out of instructions, making the mind totally
confused. This is the opposite of what is trying to be
achieved, i.e. of being in the Zone, a place of being able
to maintain a relaxed concentration on what you are doing.
I asked a non-golfer to read the book and
give me feedback: she said it was interesting, but it kept
going over things in the same way. The book seems to make
trying to do nothing very complicated, as we teachers all
do, sometimes, when saying too much in an Alexander lesson.
Moreover, there is a tendency to refer to pages yet to come
and pages which have passed, which interrupts the thread of
Also, at the end of the book, under
Useful Resources, there is a reference to audio
instructions and videos which are available from Roy’s
website, but they had not been set up when I accessed the
site. To use technology to your advantage, you must be sure
What will be the reaction and
understanding of the golfer when taking this book off the
shelf? In my mind, they may find it complex and confusing.
There are a number of practical exercises, including Playing
in the Zone, Body Basics, Seven Experiments -all very complex to the golfer, who is, by nature of the
game, an end-gainer.
Who would benefit from this book? I think
it, and the work which went into it, is of great interest to
all of the Alexander Technique community. It is a detailed
study of Inhibition, and one I have not seen before in our
world. We should all have a copy on our bookshelf, next to
As for me, I can get into the Moment, and
find the book very helpful for that, but the Zone is still a
very occasional companion.
© Martyn Jones, 2011