World-renowned PGA instructors Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott joined Adam and Mike on the November 24 episode of the Stick and Hack Show. Pia and Lynn are the authors of multiple books, including Be A Player and Every Shot Must Have Its Purpose. They are also the founders of VISION54, a mindset to score a birdie on every hole and shoot a total of 54. 

The following excerpt has been edited for space. Check out the full interview here.

S/H: Shooting 18 birdies and shooting a 54. That’s insane. I mean, let’s just be honest. Can we just say that’s crazy? Where did that come from? And where does that mental drive for near perfection in golf come from with you guys?

Pia: Actually that began up in February 1991, when I was the head coach in Sweden. I was getting frustrated that many young Swedes had all these excuses why they couldn’t play great golf — with our winter and our greens not being good enough, and Americans and others are so far ahead. So it just came in the way of challenging them. 

Most of them had made birdies in each one of the holes of the whole course. So what would it take to make those birdies during the same round? With 54 being possible, how would you do it? So it began with changing the mindset, but it’s one of the smartest things we ever did because it changed all the players. 

Annika [Sorenstam] kept the 54 headcover ever since she heard that. It got us as coaches to step up to become better. I started doing more things with Lynn and she had the same mindset. So 54 is the number, it’s a mindset for all golfers to look at possibilities. 

S/H: Golf is full of all kinds of people with helpful advice and tips and tricks, but what kind of classic golf tip do you find is mostly ineffective in a golfer’s game

Pia: “You came out of it or you lifted up, keep your head down,” and things like that. It’s so uneducated because it’s what’s visible to the eye, but there can be so many reasons why something is happening, so you need to actually know. Is it because of physical limitations? Is it because I’m too outcome obsessed? I don’t stay with my focus? There’s so many different things that could be going on. So sometimes they just say the obvious because they think that’s all it takes — it drives me a little crazy. 

Lynn: You guys had a blind golfer on your show a while back, and the one that drives me crazy is “keep your eye on the ball” because it really has nothing to do with it. The first time I saw this blind golfer hole out a 70-yard pitch shot, I was like, how did you do that? He’s like, I have the target in my head. I know where I’m going. It has nothing to do with keeping his eye on the ball.

S/H: So you said “outcome-obsessed golfers,” which is such a great phrase. All golfers are outcome obsessed. They see a shot and the outcome is the only thing they can hang their hat on. They did the right thing at the right time and everything worked right. The outcome of their game or a shot as a whole. The connection of the mind and body in the game of golf is mostly overlooked, and that’s kind of what you’re saying, that the mind over the body in most cases can produce tremendous results, i.e., our blind golfer friend as well as anybody who might not have all of these skill sets in a swing. The mind over the body is most important. How is that overlooked in the amateur game? And how do you get somebody to understand that?

Lynn: It’s simply this: the mind/body is a reality and what you think is going to affect your body and what your body does is going to affect your mind. We look at it as let’s deal with reality.

Pia: It’s actually more than that because you have the emotional components and all of that. We take a bigger view of things. We are these humans out on the golf course so what’s that all about? It doesn’t matter if you’re a 30 handicap or playing on tour, every time I play golf, I have my body with me, I have my mind with me, and I have my emotions with me. So we have to find the most efficient way of supporting golfers. It makes it a lot easier when we see them all interacting with each other, and we’re not separating them. Getting all the physical and technical things in place first and after that, we might look at other components. It’s such a slow process. 

Lynn: I think the separation of the two has hurt so many golfers. I think it’s why people stay hacks. Like Pia said, the process becomes so slow when you just deal with the fact that every time you hit a golf shot is a mental process, it’s a physical process, it’s an emotional experience, it’s a social experience. We need to address all tha

S/H: Tell us about the power of visualization and positive thinking. What do people need to do when things don’t go right? 

Lynn: I like to say it’s imagery versus visualization. Using all the senses. You’re preparing the nervous system for success. So all you’re doing is just imagining the possibility of this success. It doesn’t need to be an expectation. People will sometimes say to us, “I visualized myself birdieing the first hole and the second hole and the third hole and then I went out and played and made a triple on the first hole; it doesn’t work.” I’m like, you’re missing the point. You don’t take visualization and make it an expectation, you’re just preparing yourself for what you want.

S/H: If you had 10 players lined up in a row, it is said that you would find 10 different swings, but would they all need 10 different fixes or are there a couple that could help all 10 of those swings?

Pia: Well, actually we don’t like the word fixes, but right.

Lynn: Possibly, everybody needs a different solution. For some it might be a physical thing that they need to do, and for some it might be a mental or focus thing that they need to do. For some, it might be an emotional thing — you need more adrenaline, less adrenaline — and some it could be technical.  

Pia: There are some things we could do that we know would help all of them. If there are 10 lined up, and we have them all make swings like fast tempo, medium tempo, slow tempo, we know all 10 of them are going to dial into something that works for them. 

Lynn: Or all 10 of them try a really tight-grip pressure, a medium-grip pressure, and then a light-grip pressure. And again just kind of scaling it, figuring out how do I hit my best shots? Stronger pressure or maybe lighter. Not everybody needs to hold it like a baby bird. 

Listen to the full episode to hear more about this dynamic teaching duo and their mission to change the way golfers approach the game with their mind and body. Also listen in to hear Adam and Mike debate which fast food restaurants are Stick or Hack!

Key Takeaway: Don’t take visualization and make it an expectation. — Lynn Marriott