A Life Well Played: My Stories by Arnold Palmer

arnold palmer bookDate Finished: February 2018
Did I Like It? 9/10

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The late Arnold Palmer is one of the most recognisable golfers. Even non-golf fans know him with his personal brand extended beyond golf. The book doesn’t focus only on golf as Palmer had many interests outside of golf, and throughout he drops many applicable life lessons.

Click here to the index of sports autobiographies.

What I Highlighted:

Just relax, it’s not a hard par five. You’re in good shape. Just play smart and you’ll finish second.

Arnold could not have been nicer to me, and again showed his grace by offering to split the gate that historically went to the winner. Arnold was a sportsman to the end, congratulating me with genuine sincerity. (Jack Nicklaus)

It was hard for anyone to compete with that kind of charm, and I was smart enough to know that. (Jack Nicklaus)

Yes, we had our backs up, you might say, in the heat of competition, but we also had each other’s back if ever one of us needed the other. (Jack Nicklaus)

My father would come to be the most influential person in my life because of the amount of time I spent with him from an early age, and what he taught me was everything that came to be important about how to play golf and how to live my life.

Pap taught me the proper fundamentals of the stance, alignment, and the basis of the swing.

He taught me a discipline that things should be done a certain way—as well and as hard as you can.

What he rarely passed on to me were many compliments.

Winnie was truly my better half, someone who was supportive of everything I was trying to do and knew me almost as well as I knew myself.

Golf is a world in itself. It’s an experience that’s really worth living.

Then I heard Penna say, “Well, better tell him to get a job. With that swing of his he’ll never make it out here.” I really burned inside at that remark.

No one was more critical of my game than Ben Hogan.

Well, because I believed in myself and in my golf swing. And I had such strong determination. And I knew deep down that I was playing well enough to win.

And I owned my swing, including that high finish with that bit of a windmill action at the top, which I began using in high school to fight off a strong draw

But the reason my golf swing worked so effectively goes back to a few fundamentals, and not just the proper grip.

Especially important was keeping my head very still; it’s almost impossible to make a bad swing if your grip is good and you keep your head in place.

Wouldn’t it be just wonderful if we had a sport that was a more prominent means of solving problems around the world? What if golf could be something that brought us together? It might even be that sport could be the focus of political situations, and that it could help solve disagreements, that it could replace war and strife on the front pages of newspapers. I know all of that sounds quite fanciful, but that was how I was thinking.

They are competing in sport, and that is honorable, and it’s a far sight better than seeing people going at each other on a battlefield somewhere.

Has it solved a lot of world problems? Well, unfortunately, the answer is no, but I won’t give up thinking it can get the conversation toward problem solving started.

I was truly motivated to be a great player, and I didn’t feel like you could be a great player if you couldn’t win internationally,

Golf has brought people together and generated a common interest and a bond that so many of us are able to share.

I remember my first trip down Magnolia Lane: I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. It was perfect. I don’t think I’d ever been more in awe.

I think because it was purely devoted to golf, and so was I.

Jack wrote in his autobiography that he still uses that tip.

That goes back to what my father said about not listening to what other players tell you because they might not have your best interests at heart. But in that case, I figured Jack was worth listening to.

But everyone has to decide for himself if a piece of advice is worth using. The first order of business is to know your game well enough to be able to make the right decision.

Just like my golf game, I was always trying to improve my equipment, too, and that gave me the sense that I was improving on me as I improved on them. I think that is the essence of life—always striving to do something better. Or even perfectly.

EVERY TIME I’VE EVER HIT a shot, I tried to hit it in the hole.

You think hard enough about hitting the ball in the hole and you tend to actually do it.

Next time you play, let your goal be to try to hit it in the hole. It will simultaneously sharpen your focus and yet free you up to make a swing that is less mechanical or self-consciously driven.

Every teacher thinks he has the system he thinks is best, and there are so many that you can’t count them. But eventually you have to figure some things out for yourself.

Is another set of eyes a good idea? I think so. But if you can’t go out on the range and make some adjustments on your own, build your own set of fundamentals and depend on yourself, you still might do pretty well, but I would argue that you’re never going to be a consistently good player.

Honest and fair competition is a wonderful thing, and as central to the American way of thinking as anything, and Jack and I are two intensely competitive individuals who had the same pursuits and goals in our professional lives.

All that being said, there was nobody I ever wanted to beat more, and I think Jack felt the same way about me.

This is a conversation that I’ve had a few other times since then. I’ve always tried to tell the younger guys that if they want the perks of stardom, they have to accept the responsibilities, too. Everyone wants to make the money, to be adored and cheered, to be treated special everywhere they go. It’s understandable. It’s fun. And it’s pretty soothing to the ego. But you can’t just go through life taking.

Playing boldly is a philosophy of play, not a style. Boldness doesn’t mean playing strictly with power. You can play boldly with chip shots and putts, too. My feeling is that boldness should be a liberating philosophy, not a confining one.

My belief always has been that you have to play every shot to the hilt, as if your life depended on it. That was my game. And I always found that the harder I worked at the game the more it relaxed me.

In golf, as in life, you get some good breaks and some bad breaks, but if you’re going to depend on the breaks always going your way, you’re in for a surprise.

In order to prepare yourself for success, you have to prepare to encounter problems along the way.

But no, it’s the total quality of your work in that particular session that matters.

The harder you work at anything, the more it will relax you. Just make sure the work is productive.

GOLF IS A SPORT—and a darned hard one.

I only cared about how much success I had against my golfing peers.

I was always mentally receptive to a fast finish; I was receptive to the idea that there was always time to make up some ground right to the very last hole.

It takes a lot of strength of mind and discipline, especially when you’re a competitive individual, to say that you’re not going to play until you feel ready.

The secret of concentration is the secret of self-discovery. You reach inside yourself to discover your personal resources and what it takes to match them to the challenge of the game.

For a lot of players, golf is a way of making a living. For me, golf always has been a way of being alive. And nothing compared to the feeling of going for a victory. I never felt like I had to win at all costs, but I went all out.

I would never have felt good if I had not experienced losing, because losing is part of your life.

Golf gave me the opportunity to make a significant impact in the world, to invest in the health and well-being of children.

The greatest part of The First Tee I learned was its promotion of nine core values: honesty, integrity, respect, sportsmanship, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy, and judgment.

I have thought about the game all of my life, and that is that golf can be used to better society. I would like to restore a kinder, more gentle atmosphere to this world of ours.

“The icons we remember and revere are not always the guys with the best stats or the slickest end-zone dance. They’re the ones who played the game like it was an expression of who they were and taught us how to be big-time with grace, style, and swagger. They’re the guys we never got tired of watching. And never will.”

I’m a dreamer. I freely and readily admit that. But I consider that one of my strongest qualities.

To hope is to wait for things to come to you. To dream is part of the process of setting goals and then striving to achieve them. You first must dream of doing things before you can do them.

Good parenting is the most important endeavor a person can undertake. But the rewards surpass anything else you do in life.

Naturally, I am very proud of my career record as a golfer, to have realized the kind of success that I dreamed of when I was just a child. But a legacy of helping children means so much more to me.

Golf is a clean game that can give a youngster an opportunity to discover that work and determination will produce improvement and success.

I believe that you really show respect for others by adhering to certain proprieties.

A good, long walk is good for the body and it really clears the mind. You can do a lot of good thinking on a long walk.

Things do happen for a reason and work out for the best. You might not see it right away, but they become clearer in time.

KNOW YOUR PRIORITIES. Know them and live them and you’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish, how much time you have for things you don’t think you have time for, and how fulfilling your life can be.

Family was first. Always.

It reminded me that if I’m going to be successful, I must continue to grow with a balance of confidence and humble appreciation for all the people involved in making it possible.

In the end, I never left IMG out of a deep sense of loyalty—and a deep sense of friendship that never waned even if we saw less of each other.

The concept of trust always was important to me. It was the basis of my agreement with Mark and with all my business deals. But I thought it was a crazy idea. My business was golf. I told Mark,

I’ll admit that for a time I didn’t prioritize my golf and business in an effective manner. Eventually, however, I managed to strike a balance, and this was a year that proved to me that I could handle all of my responsibilities in a way that allowed me to flourish in both

IF YOU DON’T LIKE what you’re doing in life, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

Have pride in yourself and set goals that reflect that pride. Do that and you will succeed, whatever it is you choose to do with your professional life.

Move forward if you’re presented with an opportunity that matches up with the things in your life with which you are familiar and which line up with your overall philosophy.

A good, strong grip works well in business as well as golf.

There will come a time to speak your mind. That might take a few minutes or much longer.

But you can only learn from listening, and I have applied that rule of thumb to situations big and small.

THE ABILITY TO LEARN how to say no forcefully or graciously or with conviction is an indispensable attribute for someone as busy as I have been through the years.

Throughout my career I had these back-and-forth struggles within myself about when to say no to people. Or if I should say no. And how to say no.

No matter how long you have been doing something, you can always learn something new.

Winning never gets old, as they say.

But my thinking has always been that if I stop being active I wouldn’t last very long.

I never cared for the nickname “the King.”

I do like being called an ambassador of the game.

I have been asked about what my legacy might be, and, honestly, I’ve never really given it much thought.

So, if I enhanced the game and people’s enjoyment of the game, I would feel like I have accomplished something.