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Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Getting Out of Your Head

There have been a number of books written on playing golf out of your mind; having a Zen-like approach to playing the game.  Golf is such a head game.  I think that may be why Bobby Jones said that golf was the one game that became more difficult the longer you played it.  

As a kid, you tend to play golf, focussed initially on figuring out a way to hit the ball in the right general direction and trying to get it in the hole; hopefully in fewer strokes than your playing companions.  You may have been given some rudimentary instruction, such as how to grip the club, and how to align your body and/or clubface to the target, and you swing away.  Hopefully, you have a decent mental image of what a good swing looks like, either from watching good players at your club, or the pros on the television, and you try to imitate that swing.

The ball gives you feedback, and you learn by trial and error, and by feel, as you go about "hammering that pesky ball" trying to make it behave.  That is the experience of many golfers, especially those who started the game young as I did.  But eventually, if you show some aptitude, and begin to really get hooked on the game, you start to think about things other than just trying to hit the ball where you're looking.  You read articles and books, and watch videos on the golf swing.  If you're not careful, you become caught up in the "science" of the swing, rather than the "art" of the game.

I have the sort of mind that can't resist, even though I know it's wrong, thinking technically about the golf swing.  I often go to the course actually wondering what swing I'll use that day.  I have a number of swings I'm inclined to use depending on how I feel and how the ball is reacting, or how it reacted the last time I played.  Sometimes I'll use several swings in the course of playing a round.  And, all the while, as I'm thinking about my swing, I'm forgetting about the target.  Not completely forgetting about the target perhaps; but if I'm thinking about my take away, or my shoulder turn, I'm certainly not totally focussed on where I want the ball to go.

My best rounds usually come after much exasperation.  Tired of being consumed with swinging the club correctly and getting less than perfect results, I just hit the damned ball.  I essentially stop giving a hoot.  Suddenly, I can play again; at least until I start thinking again.  I just wish golf were really that simple.  I wish I could always have an attitude like Moe Norman, where it was all so easy.  As Moe would say: "You just hit this dumb thing--the ball--with that dumb thing--the club--over there--the target."  If only it were that simple.  And yet, it really is that simple if you can just stay out of your head. 

There is no one prescribed way to swing a golf club.  Until we are all the same, our swings will all, by necessity, be different.  So, why do I waste so much time trying to swing like someone else, or like I believe I should? I just wish there was a way to stay out of my head; to go back to being like a kid, just hitting it and chasing it.  Oh, to be able to have no thought about how; only where, and how many.

Golf really does get harder the longer you play it.  It's a simple game that is endlessly complicated if we can't stay out of our head.