My grandfather had two rules for golf. The first rule was “miss ‘em straight”; meaning, if you hit a bad shot, at least make sure the bad shot was in the general direction of the target. The second rule was “learn how to listen to the grass grow”. That one was a little bit more complicated. I guess I could have chalked it up to general weirdness (he also suggested washing your hands with “hot soap and water”), but I really think it was meant as more of a statement of grand philosophy.
I’m not someone you would call “relaxed.” I’m always thinking, fidgeting, or thinking about fidgeting. I like to be constantly bombarded with stuff – information, music, pictures, stories, etc. It’s not that I can’t relax (I relax with the best of them). I just seem to do a lot of stuff while I’m relaxing. Last night, after I got done mowing my lawn, I decided to just lay out on the couch. Before I knew it, I was drinking a beer, watching the Tour de France on TV, flipping back and forth to the Mets game, facebooking, texting Ace, and browsing internet message boards. Not exactly the tranquility that I had in mind. Since golf is a lot like life (but more complicated), I really have to teach myself to listen to the grass grow when I’m not on the golf course (since I seem to have learned to do it on the course – 37,38,38,38 for my last four 9’s).
One of the things that helped me this year is not dwelling on my last shot. It’s awful easy to screw up your next shot because you’re thinking about how horrible the previous shot was. In golf, your mind works better when it has a short memory: logical forgetfulness. The way I got there was a bit of a mental shift. Instead of thinking “I’m in this damn bunker because my last shot was so shitty”, I’ve started thinking: “Here I am in this bunker, how can I get this shot close?” It’s not a very drastic change, and it can easily be applied to other areas in life. Instead of thinking, “Damn, my relationship sucks because of this shitty thing I did”, it’s better to think: “Okay, here’s the situation I’m in now, how can I make it better?” The quicker you can make the transition from reflection to preparation, the easier it is to move on.
Another thing that has helped me this year is that I always make sure that I’m well fed (usually a sandwich before the round). And I always have a beer around the 4th hole. Somehow it’s easier to listen to the grass grow when I’m not starving and sober. Ace will tell you, when I’m hungry, it’s like a Snickers commercial. Also, it has been found that heavy drinking is more healthy than totally abstaining from drinking, possibly because of social reasons. So who’s up for a margarita!?!?
Finally, right before I swing, I think to myself: “It’s perfect”. I don’t know if this actually does anything, but I generally find that if I have a bad thought – “I’m going to slice it into the trees”, “I’m going to chunk this chip 2 feet in front of me”, “I’m going to hit it in that pond” – it almost always comes true. So, I figured that the opposite couldn’t hurt. I think this seems to work for me off the course as well. When I have a bad feeling walking into a casino, I generally lose money. But when I expect to win, I seem to do pretty well. I think this is one of the reasons that people accepted “The Force” as a possibility in Star Wars. The mind is pretty powerful, and it doesn’t seem too far fetched to believe that an enormous intergalactic planet-sized space station can be destroyed because some teenage kid trusted his “feelings” on the final shot.
I don’t really think that these steps are what my grandfather had in mind to improve your golf game. Otherwise, he would have just said that the secret is a short memory, food, confidence and alcohol. Wait a minute . . . Maybe that is the secret to a great golf game!! And a great date! For that matter, it might be the secret to a great business meeting, wedding, bowling tournament, poker game, bachelor party, sporting event, or parole board hearing! I mean, sure, this type of lifestyle might turn us into a nation of fat, forgetful, overoptimistic drunks, but some people would say that we’re already there. Which brings me back to the Grandpa’s first rule: As long as we’re going in the general direction we want to go in, it’s okay to miss every once in a while. Just make sure your next move is perfect.