I tell you when it is NOT time to give up playing golf…when you have just shot the best birdie of your entire life, over a tree with a 60 Degree wedge (My Mistress loves me again, she is fickle but rewarding in her affections)…
But that is exactly what I did this week…and these men MADE me do it….
And a mental note to self when dressing for golf next time…don’t put a golf ball in your front pocket when you are going to take a photo. And don’t suck a lemon just before you take the photo either. And don’t wear a Cossack hat to play golf either…this may possibly be the strangest assortment of golfers ever to take up a club. It’s almost as if, hmm, they don’t want to be there.
More than 12 golfers started the day…and only 4 made it to the course. The wind was howling up a storm…cumulus clouds gathered menacingly in the south and a storm looked fit to break…but I knew that if I did not play golf today I would be missing out on something special. And special it was…
450 yard drives to the South and 150 yard struggles coming back. Every hole was either a par 2 or a par 10…it was THAT windy. And I was playing well. The best I have played all year. Only shot a 44 on the front nine but it was one of those very satisfying 44s that we all know but for the grace of <insert your own higher power substitute here> it could have been magnificent. It was almost impossible to totally control where the ball would land and in what direction it would travel but I managed somehow just to do that….
And then it struck me…it was the absence of desire, the lack of expectation that made me enjoy it so much. I had no expectation of result. I knew that I could not hope to play well in that gale and so, ironically, I both enjoyed the playing and played the better. It all culminated in a very Zen Birdie on a par three where I put my first 6 iron over the back of the green and then, fearing it was OB, I put a 7 iron over the back of the green too just for good company, only to find my first ball in-bounds behind a tree and subsequently lob it up OVER a fourteen foot tree and side spin it into the hole for two. Is it legal to marry a golf club? It must be in some US states right? Happy? Think Heineken advert again…love that advert…(Depending on the time of day and your age please conform to whatever legal requirements your country may have on the mentioning of Alcohol brand names in public documents)
A final very unlucky double bogey (the drive was perfect but the wind swirled at the last moment and pushed it into a tree bouncing it back 6o yards) and I walked away with my head held high and a respectable cyclone-beating 44 over the nine. And then they (see those cold chaps above) decided to “go in”…they had had enough…I felt like the minister in the movie Caddyshack who is playing the game of his life in a huge storm only to be hit by lightning on the last hole. I knew it was going to be a great back nine…oh well…
And therein lies why it would have been a failure…my front nine was so great because it exceeded my expectations (or lack thereof). The back nine would have been disappointing exactly because I HAD expectations. I recently read a book called Zen Golf – yes, really, and I heartily recommend it by the way, a bit cerebral but interesting – and it talks about this idea of expectation. The instructor teaches golf as buddhist principles (I knew I had a soul…I am a spiritual person, golf is my religion!) and starts out by talking about three key concepts: (note that I am paraphrasing…not quoting)
1) forgetting the scorecard,
2) clearing out everything you thought you knew, and
3) thinking bigger.
This is cool stuff. Honestly.
I didn’t believe it myself until I had that great round in the rain. I couldn’t have any expectations because my only goal was just purely and simply to play golf; the scorecard was irrelevant. And I had no frame of reference either because I had never played in wind like that before. There was no prior learning; it was all new and I was open to all of it. Zen Golf (by Joseph Parent if you are looking for it) is one of those simple little books that you find yourself thinking “well, yeh” or “duh” and yet…it makes sense. It seems simple but we often don’t follow what we already know to be true (how else could you explain Steven Segal continuing to make movies when it is obvious it is time to stop). It is unreasonable for many of us to expect to shoot par every hole and yet golf is built on this basis that anything less is unacceptable. Make 6 YOUR par if that is what you normally do…and allow yourself to enjoy getting a 6.
And the other idea is the “unlearning”. Golf is one of those games where we get into a cycle. We repeat and repeat and repeat until we stop changing; I always slice, or I usually hook, or I can’t do sand shots etc. Ask any golfer and they will be able to tell you what everybody else is doing wrong with their game but many of us have stopped learning or trying to change ourselves. The author’s concept of four kinds of “cups of learning” is way to complex for my simple little blog but basically it boils down to being open to new ideas whilst maintaining your own clarity. (Note to my usual readers – I tried to stop myself writing “be the ball” but I had to put it in here somewhere so you know that I know that I am perilously close to being a wanker right now. But in my defense it is okay to think sometimes and Caddyshack is a great movie!).
The third idea is to think bigger. This one for golfers is VERY COOL. It applies most when you are on a green when the putt looks a LONG WAY AWAY from the hole. Just THINK BIG. A mile is a long way if you are in a hurry and you have to walk there. But if you have all the time in the world and the journey is 20 miles…then one mile is not very far at all. Look way PAST the hole not just AT the hole…if you think like that then the shot is always a smaller part of something bigger and there is no such thing as a long putt…and more importantly they are makeable.
And if you do miss it…then refer back to concept “one”, forgive yourself, and forget about it. Can’t go wrong…I may never break 80 but life does feel so much happier this way!
Next game on Saturday – weather permitting…