Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Golf Sportsmanship: Thou Shall Not Bitch, Whine, Moan or Throw Clubs

There’s a saying I made up some time ago to help me have a positive attitude towards the outcome of any swing I produce on or off the course  and it goes like this “you can only complain about your round (or life situation) equal to or less than the amount of practice (or work) you put in.”  For example; let’s say I never practice putting and now I have a 3 foot putt for birdie.  I get up to hit without reading the line because I never practiced it before and I completely miss.  Regardless of where it missed do I really have any right at all to bitch and moan because the ball didn’t drop?  If I never practice hitting a fifty yard shot and in a moment of rarity I turn into Barry Bonds sending the ball into orbit from only fifty yards away, do I really have any room to yell and cuss and throw a club?  The answers are the same and it’s no I do not have any right to complain about those things I am not working to change.   Too many times I have heard, mostly men, yelling and cussing about a bad shot that I am sure they assumed would have somehow been resolved in their fifteen minutes of warm up before their round started.
I bring this up for two reasons and the first is that it is mentally and physically not good for you.  Golf is very much a mental sport.  It doesn’t require huge muscles or amazing coordination to play.  Think about it, the ball doesn’t move, the hole doesn’t move, no one is blocking your shot, no one is yelling at you when you’re swinging, there are no fans of the opposite team waving those annoying sticks to distract you.  The most important part of golf is played between the ears.  If you can play that part well then the rest of it is as they say a cake walk.  If you decide to release your anger after missing your three foot putt by yelling and getting angry I think you should accept that you’re going to miss the next three foot putt.  You’ll be thinking about the last one and how you missed something so easy and you’ll probably send the ball six feet past the hole.   Your mental game dictates your physical game.  If you’re mentally in a bad place your golf game will be horrible (i.e. Tiger Woods). 
The second reason I bring this up is because I’m tired of hearing it.  Get over it.  So you missed a shot.  So what? Are you less of a human being because you missed a shot?  Will your work fire you because you missed a shot? Is your life over for missing that shot?  Trust me no round was ever ruined because of one single shot.  A round is ruined due to continually doing the wrong thing over and over and over.  P.s. there are no quick fixes to a round that is fundamentally flawed.  You’re round sucks because your mind is not in it.  Focus, relax, let go of the tension, see the shot, believe in your ability to execute, accept the outcome before it happens, and then swing and weather good or bad you’ll know that everything that could be controlled by you was and the rest was left to the Golf Gods.

Please stop yelling because you’re hurting my ears.
And that’s the way I see it….

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Golf Tempo: Playing Through to Become Captain Hook

Scenario: Has this ever happened to you; you’re playing reasonably well and surprisingly quick golf.  Not only are you impressed at your speed of play but at the accuracy with which every putt is moving towards the hole.  You have now played so quickly that the foursome ahead of you is waving you up.  I don’t know how that moment plays out for all of you but for me it is as if I no longer know how to play the game of golf.  Hooks and slices have out of nowhere reestablished themselves as dominating forces over my game. 

Question: Why did that happen?  I was doing so well.

A book I have come to love and highly recommend to everyone (Zen Golf by Dr. Joseph Parent) does a magnificent job of explaining why this phenomenon occurs.  In a nut shell when we try to play through we speed up our tempo.  Especially if we’re playing well the pressure to maintain our level of performance on the through shot seems to weigh extra heavy.  Unlike the holes previously conquered, you now have a gallery that in your subconscious mind continually chants “your feet aren’t lined up, your club is too closed, don’t cast your hands, don’t push, don’t hook, don’t slice, don’t choke…” and so on.

Whilst playing a round of golf at a local course the other day this added pressure was something I had quite the experience with.  Let it be known that this pressure to change one’s tempo can also happen if the people behind you are playing quickly.  This was the scenario that I had the chance to enjoy just the other day. 

The way I see it is this, you paid the same amount to play and therefore those around you can wait.  That is however assuming you’re playing within a reasonable amount of time.  If you take 5 minutes just to top the ball 50 to 100 yards over and over my suggestion to you is go back to the range and get your swing sorted out.  However if you’re playing within a reasonable time and people want to be rude and hit into you, don’t be afraid to let them play through.  Other players hitting into you doesn’t necessarily mean you’re slow, it could mean they are playing quickly.  Let them go through.  What will it hurt you?  If your mind is in the right spot then someone playing through won’t throw you off your tempo.
On the other side, if those in front of you are not playing the same speed you are and you feel the need to play through don’t forget to breath.  Before you hit that tee shot be sure that your body is feeling the same tempo you were just playing at.  There’s no need to speed up.  Just follow the same routine you have been and take deep breaths, this will slow down the blood pumping. 

Side note: if you feel like you’re nerves are going to get you because of some pressure to play well as you’re playing through don’t be afraid to hit a club that you’re very comfortable with just to reassure your body and mind that you know what you’re doing.
And that’s the way I see it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Golf Etiquette: Is your presence being felt by more than the ball?

Scenario: It’s a crisp summer-feeling morning.  Because summer hasn’t hit quite yet it feels neither warm nor cold out on the course.  The smell of freshly cut grass is inescapable.  Without even knowing it your body and mind are already becoming synchronized as you anticipate that “tuning fork ring in your loins” (Tin Cup) feeling from the perfect contact.  In your mind you know that today is the day that Goliath (the course) has met his match. 
The view from the first tee further cements the fact that you are a force to be reckoned with, unstoppable, determined to conquer at whatever the cost and no matter the bloodshed.  Has a golf glove ever felt so perfect?  Or has a golf club ever felt as much a part of you as it does now?  It’s not a golf club… in your hands it’s an instrument of death with such precision that bogeys flee in fear!  You are a warrior with the tools to squash the adversary with the efficiency of a professional... you are a professional. 
Stepping away from the ball you just teed up to the perfect height, you take in the sublime feeling that has penetrated your very soul from no direction in particular. It is everywhere and nowhere at once.  The feeling consumes you from head to toe.  It is as if the course has consumed you and now, you are a part of it.  This sensation is neither forceful nor overpowering but rather inviting and encouraging. “Come and get me, come and get me” (City Slickers 2), it beckons to you. 
In your mind’s eye, as you’ve trained yourself to do over the years, you feel the line of where you will send the ball. It’s not a question but rather a statement to the ball, “you will do this.”  You feel the swing required to accomplish your task.  This swing is no stranger to your arsenal; instead it’s an already perfectly grooved fluid motion rehearsed thousands of times prior.
Upon mentally and physically committing to your intended line of attack, you address the ball ready to attain perfection.  Everything in the universe feels perfect in this moment: perfect line, perfectly stable, perfect grip, and perfect day.  You pull your club back, arming your weapon with as much power as possible. This is it, the moment of truth, what you’ve trained for.  Remember, you are a professional without limitation in the universe of golf.  Mishit isn’t a word that exists in your world. 
In the millionth of a second that your mind decides to transition to the down swing  - out of nowhere, in some reject region of the universe of golf, you hear what appears to be a burst of stupidity and self-centeredness. It somehow manages to weasel its way into your perfect golf utopia causing you to cast your hands, turning your torso too early and snap-hook the hell out of the ball into the lake to your left separating the 1st and 9th fairways.  Painfully, you now sit three from the tee.
Etiquette:  a code of behavior that delineates expectations for social behavior according to contemporary conventional norms within a society, social class, or group. (Wikipedia)
Question: At what point in one’s endeavourer to “play golf” does one begin to enact etiquette? Does one wait for the first green? Perhaps one should begin using one’s best etiquette as soon as one has stepped foot on the first tee? Maybe the answer is something completely different all together.
The way I see it you should be on your best behavior upon arrival at the course.  I was taught that golf is a gentlemen’s game.  Plain and simple - you should refrain from acting like a fool.  I don’t care about loud pants or shirts.  If John Daley is your fashion designer go with it.  I believe that looking good while playing is part of the mental game.  Dress for success has been around for eons.  However no one that I know of, has ever taught that it’s okay to be loud and obnoxious at the golf course.  I don’t care about how many beers you’ve downed before, during or after your round.  You are still located on a golf course and should respect those around you.  No, it’s not okay to yell at your buddies while people are trying to putt on the practice green.  It is those self-centered individuals that make too much noise, while others around are attempting to perfect their game, that have given public golf courses a bad name. 
I know this is going to come as a huge shock to many so please, brace yourself for impact… YOU ARE NOT THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE!!!!!  For the love of Pete!  Shut up when I’m on the practice green!  You want to know why they created private golf clubs that only those with money could join, look in the mirror.  You are the problem.  Sure obnoxiousness might occur at private clubs however I believe it to be a mere fraction of what happens at public courses.  Note to the overly loud and stupid people at the golf course - you are not on the set of Caddy Shack. 
Let me be very clear, I have no problem with cheering when that 30 foot snake drops and you get to write down a birdie.  Or maybe you saved par and just had the best round ever.  Congratulations and well done.  I encourage you to get excited about your game.  I do not, however, endorse morons that think it’s okay to act as if they’re at a frat house, in their own home, or swear up a storm because the ball did exactly what they made it to do however it does not align with the image their mind created before swinging.
All I ask is that one has more respect for those around them.  Think about the kind of concentration you desire when you practice or play and give that to those around you.  Remember, the sun is the center of the universe… not you.
And that’s the way I see it.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Get Ready to Feel the Thunder

Welcome to my ever growing collection of experiences on the green. I may not be a pro - but I love this game! ~AJ

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