Scorecard: Deepak Chopra
HANDICAP Not yet established
TESTIMONIAL "One of the greatest teachers of our time"—Jesper Parnevik
SALES More than 20 million books sold worldwide
CLUBS TaylorMade woods, irons and RAC wedges; custom-fit TaylorMade Rossa putter
HOME COURSE La Costa Resort and Spa, Carlsbad, California
BEST SCORE 83 at La Costa
Analysis by Claude Harmon III
Deepak Chopra is somewhat wooden at address, with the look of someone who is trying to make the perfect stroke. He starts with the ball too far back in his stance. In his take-away, there is no real freedom of movement, and his left wrist collapses at impact, causing his shoulders to open on the follow-through. To correct these faults, he should first move the ball farther forward in his stance. He should try to get more comfortable at address and take some of the tension out of his arms, allowing him to make a free stroke, back and through at the same pace, while keeping his body still. My advice to Chopra can be boiled down to one word: Relax!
Meet the Head Masters
A few years ago, sports psychology was for head cases only. Now Tour players keep inner-game gurus on the payroll, and scads of schools offer amateurs similar help. In May, Deepak Chopra and his top instructor, Mitchell Spearman, will offer a three-day, $6,500 Golf for Enlightenment seminar at the Chopra Center (888-424-6772, chopra.com). Here are six other institutions of higher-than-the-neck learning.
Balance Point Golf Schools Portland, Oregon (spring and summer); Palm Springs and Kauai (winter); 800-898-4563 or balancepointgolf.com
Tuition $775-$1,495 for three- and four-day "Great Shot" schools that offer instruction and range access. Student-to-teacher ratio: 4:1.
Motto Free your mind and the swing will follow. Balance Point founder Jim Waldron uses a mind-body teaching model to quiet distracting thoughts (like the dreaded Don't slice!), leading to focused, target-oriented golf.
Curriculum Waldron's offbeat approach (you'll hit balls blind to improve feel) includes Method-acting techniques designed to change your emotional state. "If you want to play like Tiger," Waldron says, "become Tiger."
Alumni Notes Portland's David Kopf, 49, wanted so badly to beat his brother-in-law Jay that he'd try impossible shots. In 1995, Kopf tried Balance Point, and his 30 handicap fell to nine. "I play Zen golf instead of scrambling, screaming golf," he says, "and I beat Jay so often he won't play me."
Canyon Ranch Golf Performance Center Tucson, Arizona; 800-742-9000 or canyonranch.com
Tuition $2,700 (per person/double occupancy) for a five-day package with an array of golf, lodging and resort and spa privileges. Student-to-teacher ratio: 4:1.
Motto Develop a preshot routine, not a preshank routine. PGA-certifieddirector of instruction John Bell seeks to quiet the riot of insidious thoughts that can sabotage the golf swing.
Curriculum Hit balls while reciting what you had for dinner last night. "It occupies your mind," says Bell, who also uses breathing exercises, hypnosis and a piston-powered gizmo that snatches the ball off the tee just before impact.
Alumni Notes First-tee jitters used to bedevil Irv Kannett, 82, who enjoys an occasional friendly wager at his club near Chicago. Kannett left Canyon Ranch with a new routine and nerves of steel—"and I don't buy lunch anymore."
Dr. David Wright's Mind Under Par Newport Coast, California; 888-620-4653 or mindunderpar.com
Tuition $1,365 for three days featuring range access, two lunches and two 18-hole rounds on the seaside Pelican Hill Golf Club. Student-to-teacher ratio: 3:1.
Motto Practice plus focus makes perfect. "Concentration is a golfer's greatest strength," says founder Wright, a PGA pro with two doctorates in psychology. "Tiger Woods is an amazing athlete, but his focus is his greatest strength."
Curriculum Know thine enemy. Students are taught to hit intentional hooks, tops and banana balls to learn the importance of shaping shots and to understand grip and swing path. Wright also stresses posture and alignment.
Alumni Notes Atlanta's Jim Smith, 60, spent more time in the woods than Paul Bunyan. Wright eased his tension. "I was skeptical," says Smith, a former 30-handicap who expects to break 90 soon. "But I learned to relax, and all the pieces fell into place."
Extraordinary Golf Carmel, California (May-November); Palm Springs (January-April); 800-541-2444 or extraordinarygolf.com
Tuition $1,350-$1,470 for a three-day school that includes instruction, range access, four meals and greens fees. Student-to-teacher ratio: 3:1.
Motto Relax and be the ball. Golf in the Kingdom fan Fred Shoemaker speaks of "embracing the chaos" and "letting go." "You don't build a swing," says Shoemaker, author of Extraordinary Golf: The Art of the Possible. "You find a swing."
Curriculum Throwing clubs is not only permitted, it's required. Pupils fling rusty secondhand sticks to a target thirty yards away, mirroring the swing's centrifugal motion and teaching them to aim for the target, not the ball.
Alumni Notes "It's like going through the looking glass," says Ben Byrd, 52, a Nashville cardiologist. On his first day, after being told to spend some quality time staring at his ball, he sank 15 straight four-footers. "It's a total California experience, but it works. Golf is fun again."
Switched-On Golf Columbia, Maryland; Lansing, Michigan; 757-431-1317 or teplitz.com/golf.htm
Tuition $195 for three-hour seminar ($295 for a day) includes range balls and access to putting green. Classes are held at various locales; see web site or call for locations and dates.
Motto Golf isn't rocket science—it's brain surgery. Instructor Jerry Teplitz, who holds a PhD in "Wholistic Health Sciences" but has no formal golf training, teaches exercises that "rewire the circuitry of the brain." Says Teplitz, "We go to the core of the problem."
Curriculum Inner peace is at your fingertips. To fight stress, Teplitz suggests pressing fingertips to the forehead, pumping blood to the logical part of the brain, which lets you laugh off shanks. For fatigue, tap your chest to stimulate the thymus, releasing energy.
Alumni Notes Tom Fox, 42, is a believer. "On the tee, I was positively neurotic," says the 21-handicap. "I needed a brainectomy." The operation worked: Two weeks after a Switched-On seminar, Fox shot a personal-best 88. "And I almost poked a hole in my chest pounding on my thymus."
Zen Golf Schools Santa Barbara, California; 888-874-9928 or zengolf.com
Tuition $1,095 for three-day school includes range access, lunches and greens fees at Rancho San Marcos Golf Course. Student-to-teacher ratio: 4:1. Corporate schools also available.
Motto Let your subconscious be your guide. Founded on Buddhist principles, Zen Golf "lets the intuitive mind produce the action, unfettered by the conscious mind," says founder Dr. Joseph Parent, Vijay Singh's mental coach and author of Zen Golf: Mastering the Mental Game.
Curriculum The preshot routine is vital, but Parent stresses the postshot routine, encouraging students to punctuate a good swing with a physical act—perhaps a fist pump and barbaric "Yes!"—to mark the occasion, imprinting a positive memory.
Alumni Notes Ruth Ackerman, 60, of Santa Barbara, was skeptical: "I thought, 'No way. This will never work. All I need is better mechanics.'" One visit later, she'd shaved 10 strokes thanks to Parent's "Zen parables" and her philosophical postslice mantra: "After a bad shot, I just say, 'How unlike me!'"