As caddie to elite professionals including Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, Colin Byrne has been at the pinnacle of golf. Now the Irishman wants us all to benefit from his experience.
Byrne and friend Karl McCullagh have co-written The Little White Ball, a small but perfectly formed guide to strategy, aimed at maximising potential in amateur golfers.
Produced at a size which can be comfortably taken out onto the course during a round and concise enough to be absorbed quickly and effectively, as all the best sporting lessons are learned, Byrne is passing on the sort of advice that helped Goosen win the US Open at Shinnecock Hills in 2004 and guided Irish rookie Gavin Moynihan to the biggest cheque of his fledgling pro career at the Irish Open in May.
“I worked with Retief Goosen for five years. He didn’t have a coach but if he had a problem he went back to his set-up, he went back to basics, and that’s what the book is about,” Byrne told the Irish Examiner. “It’s not the fancy stuff, not about where the clubhead is midway through your swing, it’s about the basics and that applies to everyone.
“I suppose in a way it’s like having me at your side, caddying for you and what I would say to you from a strategic point of view.”
Byrne took a break from the day job at Royal Troon as he helped Scotland’s Richie Ramsay prepare for this week’s 145th Open Championship to explain the concepts behind The Little White Ball.
“I’ve seen an awful lot of instruction books but they were for coffee tables, nothing you could use on the course. So the idea was to do something completely different.
“The first thing we did was ring the R&A to see if it was legal to be used out on the course and then we came up with the small design which you can fit in your pocket or stick in your golf bag. Also from the stuff we’d read in instruction books there’s so much in them. So our mantra was less is more. Keep everything really concise and simple.
“I think one of the first quotes we use is golf is an art, not a science. In the modern era, the game has become more scientific and I’m sure it’s got a use but there needs to be a balance so in The Little White Ball I hope to bring it back to more of an art.”
Byrne and McCullagh’s intention is the book can be read in under an hour and if it has not been absorbed the bullet points are simple enough to help you play and not hold anyone up. That was one of the stipulations of the R&A, you can’t hold play up, which is another issue. Apart from the fact no-one’s got time to play golf, I think people play better if they play quicker.
“They don’t over-think things or suffer from paralysis by analysis. It’s the same for these guys as it is for 36 handicappers, the talent may be different but the principles are the same. The book is not designed for elite golfers but these guys would do everything in there.”
One of Byrne’s major themes is the importance of having a process and routine to introduce consistency of play.
“We all need it. It might not be as refined as an elite golfer’s but we need to have something to help us make a decision and once we make a decision we have to have that routine.
“What we try to do in the book is not to teach you to be something you’re not, you are who you are, but maybe teach you to do something you’re not good at doing for a few moments so you can make a good decision and try and execute a good shot.
“You need to be able to enjoy it but you should try and find that balance to maximise your potential and that’s the idea of it.”
*The Little White Ball by Colin Byrne and Karl McCullagh is available in bookstores and online at Amazon or from www.golfinthemind.com
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