Energy Express: Think in Pictures: Pearls from Earl, a Pro Who Pitches the Mind-Body Connection

Creators Syndicate | 5/20/2014, 8:55 a.m.
The news about golf is as disturbing as my recent attempts to hit out of a sand trap. Golf is ...


The news about golf is as disturbing as my recent attempts to hit out of a sand trap. Golf is still one of the top 10 sports in America, but the numbers are slipping. Some would say plummeting.

Golf's lost 5 million players in the last 10 years. Twenty percent of the existing 25 million golfers are likely to quit in the next few years. And the 35-and-unders aren't even starting.

Fore! The growing complaints about golf chip away at its stellar reputation as one of the most intriguing and mystical of games: It's too hard, too unforgiving, too many rules.

And -- oh, no! -- it takes four or more hours to play a round, which turns out to be one of the great gifts of golf: four quiet, undisturbed hours in nature, untethered to technology, just you and that elusive little white ball, heading for the hole.

Let's make the hole the size of a 15-inch pizza, say some in the growing Let's Modify Golf movement. Let's allow more do-overs! Why humiliate yourself trying to hit out of the sand when it's so much easier to just throw the ball toward the pin? And why a golf ball? What about kicking a soccer ball from hole to hole?

All these proposed changes make sense to some golfers and scare the Bermuda shorts off others.

My own solution to making the game of golf less stressful and more F-U-N is to study with a master teacher, someone who connects you to your natural ability to swing the club in a way that feels good, sounds divine, and leaves you smiling and happy.

Meet Earl Svenningsen, a PGA pro with many years of experience teaching women to golf. "Women really do learn differently than men," Earl said in Sedona, Arizona, where we signed up for a few days of lessons. I've loved the game ever since my mom drove our golf cart into a duck pond, whereas my novice pal didn't know a bogey from a hoagie. "Guys want to go out there and kill the ball. Women are more interested in enjoying golf."

And oh, boy, did we. Earl, former playing pro, now head of VIP Golf Academy (, is a born teacher: very patient, extremely positive, and his ability to get you to think in pictures is a huge plus when it comes to connecting mind and body.

"What the mind believes, the body will achieve" is one of Earl's favorite quotes. He's a big believer in relaxation and visualization and learning to stay in the flow of the present moment. My man!

When you're first learning golf or improving your game, your mind should be in what Earl calls "Learning Mode": "active, inquisitive, judgmental, impatient."

That's how you learn. You concentrate on where your body is in space and -- this is so Earl -- you slow down to half-speed and focus on the feeling you get when your alignment is just so, and the sweet thwack!of the ball tells you it's a great shot.