This day is the first working day following the six day, new year celebration here in Taiwan. This celebration includes many traditions geared toward ridding one's home and life of the previous year's bad luck and karma and welcoming good luck into the coming year. From an eastern religious perspective, it addresses spirituality and creates hope. Because the celebration's spiritual purging relates to a golfer's unwavering hope that they can improve despite a few broken clubs and alarmingly deep divots, I would like to contribute a few thoughts that continue to improve my game. With a little practice, my hope is they can aid your golf experience in the new year...
You cannot force your ball to go anywhere, so trying to hard never makes your ball find it's way into the hole. "Making it happen" should be modified because a golfer can only do so by allowing the natural order of the universe to run its course. A great shot is a beautiful dance with the Golf Gods. Occasionally, players get away with hitting the ball close to the pin with multiple swing thoughts when they deliver their mighty cut.
This week on golfweek.com, Mark O'meara discusses how he won two majors “unexpectedly.” He says he didn’t try to win them. When he came down the final holes with the biggest tournaments in the world on the line, he didn’t try harder. He allowed the tournaments to come to him. He “played.“ While it is almost counter intuitive to "let go" instead of trying to gain control when your journey detours toward a more challenging road, it is spiritual and becomes more than a round of golf. It becomes a walking, athletic meditation; an opportunity for a golfer not only to recover from the stresses of the world and to truly enjoy the moment, but to have a unique, quiet experience that is theirs alone.
Buddhist Zen Masters say that it is only once you have emptied your cup, can truly enjoy your drink. A quiet mind is one that invites greater, deeper knowledge into your life. There is no analysis, there are only senses and your surroundings. It is a connection with something greater. You don’t choose the shot, the shot chooses you. I am not Buddhist, nor am advocating the average golfer needs to become a monk every time he tees up his ball. But Lesson 1 is simple because it can be summed up by that word: simplify. Quiet your mind in between shots and take notice of the spectacle around you. Even if your shooting 10 strokes or more over your handicap, you've definitely done it before and here you are, still playing golf with the hope that tomorrow, you will play 10 strokes under you handicap. This is just a learning opportunity and if taken as such, it actually moves you closer to playing 10 strokes below your handicap. Whether you have hit a shot and it has lodged itself into a sand trap or is three feet from the pin, my sports psychologist would tell you that the ball is exactly where it needs to be.
This approach will not only enhance your enjoyment of your adventures around the course, it will be a chance for you to improve your life. Most golfers I play with are in such a rush to finish, they forget to play. It's called "playing." It is a word associated with children and enjoyment. Golf is supposed to be a way to maintain youth and health. The best professionals I've played with are more mild-mannered and methodical than any weekend player I've ever golfed with. This should be the dead giveaway. This new year, empty your cup and "play" golf. You might be surprised to find the good rounds are better and the bad ones make those good ones all the sweeter.