Shakespeare and golf. What, you ask, has the bard to do with Golf and breaking 80? That IS the question. The great man, or someone writing as him if you believe the controversies, wrote one of the greatest existential questions of our time; “To be or not be”…and that really is the question. It is the Buddhist paradox encapsulated in one perfect phrase. By existing we automatically affect the world around us, in our absence the world would also be changed.
Stop, take a breath, yes…this one is a philosophical one. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. This blog entry comes with full wanker warning. This blog entry is the blogic equivalent of (a man) being sat next to the hot girl at a dinner party only to discover that her only conversation is earnest diatribes about how man – and you quickly discover she means YOU – is an inessential part of the universe, that Rabbits are very spiritual, and that if we could only harness the power of the green bean we could live to be 150 and make love for fifteen hours straight (why do the hot crazy ones always mention sex, is it because deep down they actually know that this is the only reason they get spoken to at all?). She may even be right but it still doesn’t make the conversation any more enjoyable. Have I had this experience? MANY times…and as recently as a week ago. I am always put next to this kind of person because I am too polite to just walk away. In any case I just want to warn you ahead of time, as I wish my friends would when they know I will sitting next to another crazy hot lady, that this blog entry is unashamedly about the Mental Game, the philosophy of playing well, and prolonged exposure to its contents may cause your eyes to roll back in your head and drool to seep from the corners of your mouth; must try that next time I am stuck with crazy hot lady…would she notice? Probably not…but maybe I will try it next time.
Before I start let me show you some stats. It is undeniable that I am playing much better golf than at the start of they year, the start of my odyssey. People are surprised now when we play together that I have never broken 80…which is nice reinforcement for the superficial ego but is in some ways an indictment of my greatest golfing weakness; the Mental Game. My previous 10 games have been, in order of score not date 81, 82, 83, 83, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, and 87.
Great scores all and, to most weekend golfers, respectable scores. And I had an epiphany this weekend as I played the best golf of my life (yes, really) and shot an 83. In fact it was two epiphanies…wow…some people go their whole lives never having an epiphany and I had 2 after one game of golf. The first epiphany was a simple one; I realized that it is a sad day when the best golf you have ever played leaves you disappointed. The second epiphany involves how I ended up with that 83 in a round that included 9 pars, 2 birdies, a couple of near birdies for tap in pars, and a scorecard that had me at even par for 13 of the 18 holes. My epiphany is that in wanting something too much sometimes all you do is ensure that you never achieve it.
So how does this relate to the great bards existential question? The great Buddhist conundrum? To be or not to. To want or not want. To desire or let it go free. It is this; only by no longer wanting to break 80 will I ever have a chance of actually doing it. EVERYONE who play with me now tells me that this is the only way I will ever be able to do it now. They see me playing golf, they see me playing GOOD golf, and then they see what happens somewhere during the round. Then they say something like “Hmmm, I really thought today was going to be the day man. It is going to happen one day when you are not even trying.” Of this I am now also convinced. But the problem is that every time I go out to play golf I AM trying to break 80. Asking me not to try is like asking a dog not to poop outside. But I understand what they mean. And they are right.
Let me take you through my round hole by hole from last Saturday. “Wanker” warning is now being downgraded to “Anorak” level. Safe, but still a danger of early eye rolling. Stats, stats, and more stats…here is the scorecard, as usual done on GOLFSHOT GPS (No sponsorship, but it is worth a try!)
First thing you will notice is that there were nine pars. Those are the blue ones. NINE pars. This is quite good and well on target for a sub 80 round. My Stableford score off this round was a very healthy 40 points so I was playing well above myself.
Second thing you will notice is that there are two red ones. These are Birdies!!! So for 11 holes I was two UNDER par.
Third thing you might notice is that there are two green holes only, in other words only two bogeys. Not bad. keep the bogeys down to a minimum helps with the low scores.
And then…the black ones. This is double bogey or more. In my case…hmmm…more…so for five holes I was 11 over par. And this is where I fall apart…it is the intestinal fortitude – as my dear mother would have said – that I am missing…let me take you through 18 holes quickly so you can understand.
For those following the score card I started on the BACK nine.
Hole 10) After a delay of around 1 and a half hours we finally get to play. I have waited so long that I no longer care about golf. I have waited so long that I no longer care about living…but at least we all get to chat before we tee off. The best of golf is the friends you play with. I am relaxed so naturally I shoot a great shot off the tee, put my second on the green and two putt easily for a simple par. But it wouldn’t have mattered in any case
Hole 11) Feeling good from the first hole but still not thinking too much about golf I send a massive ball down the middle of the fairway only to bump slightly left and sit one inch into the rough. A good shot. Followed by a beautiful 5 wood to bring me within 80 yards of the green. And here is where it started to go wrong. The exact thought that went through my head is this, “Wow, I am actually playing quite well today. An easy chip onto the green and another par! This could be the day.” So of course I shanked it off to the side of the green. I managed to chip on but unfamiliar greens and an odd angle left me with a very long putt for par. Three putts later and I had a double. Forget about sub 80 for today…
And then…relaxed and without expectation I parred Hole 12 and 13, birdied hole 14, parred 15, bogeyed 16, and parred 17 to find myself 2 over after 8 holes. And then it happened. Someone mentioned I was playing well and said that I was only 2 over after 9 holes. I also started to think that I could do it today. And I got nervous…
Hole 18) I lined up feeling nervous but focused on hitting on the fairway. I even pulled out a 5 wood to make I would hit the fairway. And promptly sliced it out to the right and into the trees. My heart sank but I still felt strong and, on finding my ball stuck in the middle of trees with no easy route out, resolved to do the best I could. I punched a pitching wedge through the tree in front of me and got it back to the fairway with 60 yards to the green. An Easy chip and I could save par or at worst a bogey for a 39. I stood in front of the ball with an easy chip to a large green and realized that my hands were actually shaking. I had never really understood nerves before but here, in front of me, was irrefutable evidence that they existed. Three chips later and I was a believer that they really could influence how you played a stroke.
Holes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. And I never really recovered after that. An easy par hole on the 1st simply got me thinking that I could still do it. But the next four holes after that were played nervously, tentatively, constantly thinking about how I could get back in the game and break 80 today.
Hole 6) Having worked myself from 5 to 12 over in four holes I finally gave up the quest for today. And then something funny happened…I got my game back.
Holes 7, 8, 9 and 3 pars and a final 80 yard sand save birdie and I was playing like a guy who enjoyed golf and getting results because of it.
And so I come back to my Existential Shakespearean beginning. To be or not to be…the Buddhists and the Bard got it right…it is only when you no longer desire it that you can achieve it. I am sure they weren’t talking about golf but I will take whatever help I can get. I am now not just playing for me I am also playing for The Bard and my good friends at the Temple. I hope I do not disappoint them. But first I have to stop disappointing myself…and I can only do that if I stop wanting more than what I have. Doesn’t mean that I won’t ever break 80 but it does mean that I have to – like a great love, or fine wine, or anything worth doing – be patient and let it happen when it is ready.
Wanker alert downgraded to safe level…