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Top 10 - Jack Nicklaus Quotes

He has won 18 major championships and finished second in 19 others. It is not enough to refer to Nicklaus as a great golfer, for he’s more than just that. He is an excellent competitor. Not one to seek the limelight, when he does choose to speak about his accomplishments and what allowed him to accomplish them, people listen.

Here is a compilation of ten quotes which provide a glimpse into the golf genius that is Jack Nicklaus. These quotes not only allow us to develop a deeper understanding of what made him such a great champion, but also allows us to reflect on areas of our own game that we can seek to improve.

10. “Sometimes the biggest problem is in your head. You've got to believe you can play a shot instead of wondering where your next bad shot is coming from.”

Too many golfers play afraid of mistakes, thinking about what they don’t want to do rather than focusing on what they want to accomplish with each shot. This is much easier said than done, but becomes easier with consistent, intentional focus on taking each thought captive to ensure that they are positive.

9. “I'd rather be two strokes ahead going into the last day than two strokes behind. Having said that, it's probably easier to win coming from behind. There is no fear in chasing. There is fear in being chased.”

I find this a very intriguing quote. Jack is saying that he would rather be the leader going into the final round of a tournament, even though it is more stressful, and more difficult to win than when coming from behind. I can only make an inference, but this quote leads me to believe that Jack enjoyed the process of overcoming stressful situations. This in itself is a valuable lesson - enjoying every aspect of the game, no matter how difficult and stressful they may be. Enjoyment promotes desired results.

8. “Success depends almost entirely on how effectively you learn to manage the game's two ultimate adversaries: the course and yourself.”

There are so many aspects of this game which need to be controlled. We so often hear about the importance of controlling one’s own thoughts during the course of a round, and probably not enough about the importance of making wise decisions as you manage your way around the course.

7. “The biggest rival I had in my career was me. I couldn't control Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Tom Watson or Lee Trevino. The only person I could control was me.”

It is so easy to focus on the players you are competing against. Their performance does have an impact on where you finish come the end of play, but they should never have an impact on your personal performance. Like Jack has stated in the above quote, you cannot control what they do, your goal is to work to manage your own performance. When you allow your mind to deviate to thoughts of your competitors, you provide for them a competitive advantage. You allow yourself to be distracted from your own game, and thus hinder your performance. Golf requires thinking about everything needed to perform your best, but doing so in a way that keeps everything as simplistic as possible.

6. “Confidence is the most important single factor in this game, and no matter how great your natural talent, there is only one way to obtain and sustain it: work.”

Another jam-packed quote. Talent is fully realized when you develop confidence in your talents. On the other hand, confidence is fully realized through working hard to put yourself in situations where you can experience success.

5. “The longer you play, the better chance the better player has of winning.”

A fairly simple idea, but one worth reflecting upon. As you improve as a golfer, your chances of experiencing success increases the more opportunities you provide yourself with to compete. This is about more than just simple probabilities. I believe what Nicklaus is alluding to here is the fact that the more you compete, the more you learn how to compete well, and thus the greater the chances you have of winning. It is for this reason that more amateurs should play amateur events. Amateur Tours such as the Golf Channel Amateur Tour (which is available coast-to-coast in both the U.S. and Canada) provides golfers of all ability levels with the chance to compete. Even if you are a high handicapper, you can experience the success Jack is speaking of in the above quote because you are competing against golfers of the same ability as yourself. For more information on these tours, follow the links below:

4. “To sink a six-foot putt with thirty million people looking over your shoulder, convince yourself that, if you miss it, you will be embarrassed and poor.”

Every golfer will deal with the various circumstances that golf presents in different ways. Nicklaus found this way of thinking helpful for him, but each golfer needs to find the strategic way of thinking that works for them. Little strategies such as these can be very useful in allowing you to succeed in clutch situations.

3. “A big part of managing a golf course is managing your swing on the course. A lot of guys can go out and hit a golf ball, but they have no idea how to manage what they do with the ball. I've won as many golf tournaments hitting the ball badly as I have hitting the ball well.”

This is one of the major differences between good players and great players. Great players know how to perform with whatever swing they bring that day to the first tee. Developing this ability comes from knowing your swing, and how to manage it when it simply doesn’t feel right. Having a specific “go to shot” can be very useful. Developing the ability to hit a ¾ knock down, or a low fade when things get tough can be very helpful when you are having difficulty hitting your targets.

2. “Concentration blocks out pressure. If you make mistakes and look for excuses, you lose your concentration and feel pressure. I try to keep from doing that.”

It is important to accept the results of any shot and then focus on the current moment. Thinking too much about the past and making excuses for your mistakes allows you to make excuses for a lack of performance in the future. Simply accept negative results and expect good things to happen in the future.

1. “Professional golf is the only sport where, if you win 20% of the time, you’re the best.”

Golfers are known for being very tough on themselves. We play a game that is about making sure your misses are as good as possible, yet many of us often expect something close to perfection. This quote should help us relax and have a more realistic view of competitive golf. You are going to miss a lot of shots, accept it. You will often lose, accept it. At times you may win, enjoy it.

About the Author This article was written by Jonathan Carr (@jonathanwcarr) as part of our weekly 'Top 10' series. As a scratch golfer himself, Jonathan has a keen eye for what it takes to be successful on and off the golf course. His passion for golf is surpassed only by his passion for his faith and his family.

Read some of Jonathan's other articles here.

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