What if it was possible to start over? What if all the baggage you drag around about your golf game disappeared? Not so much your swing fundamentals, but your mindset, beliefs and opinions about them.
I had a friend who once asked me, “Do you ever hate your swing?” What had the game come to for her?
Since our exploration of the principle of mastery here looks specifically at being able to pay attention to what’s occurring in the moment with a calm, clear and inquisitive mind, hating your swing or even just being chronically frustrated by the game isn’t going to get it done for you.
So, chronically frustrated or not, what better time for a breath of fresh air? Here are some ideas to get your buzz going again, your mind sharper when you play.
Get your clubs regripped. I do mine twice a year and it’s like playing with a brand new set of clubs.
Get your shoes respiked. Everybody knows that “it’s the shoes.” However subtly, just feeling more connected to the ground reinforces what the game is about. If you need new golf shoes, this is the time to buy them.
Buy a new golf glove. Even if you don’t need one yet, you will. Nothing to make you feel like a great player on the first tee than having fresh grips, new spikes and a brand new, snugly fitting glove.
Find a good club repair guy and have the lofts and lies checked on your irons.
If you really get into the spirit of this renewal process, find a good club fitter and get properly fitted for a new set of irons. Most people never did. As with checking the lofts and lies, there’s nothing like knowing the equipment is right. On the other hand, this will eliminate one of your excuses.
Play a side game of “Left-Right.” On both the tee shots and approach shots, alternate playing the left side of the hole on odd-numbered holes and the right side on the even-numbered holes. You may not be playing the hole “correctly” from a strategic point of view, but you’ll be playing with intention and hitting it in the “wrong” place will encourage you to “play” instead of being a swing robot. A penalty point for each miss, play from where you hit it, fewest point wins.
Play a side game of “Short-Long.” Alternating holes, deliberately play short of the green and then over the green. A penalty point for not missing the green. A point for each up and down, high score wins. This again reinforces playing with intention and sharpens your short game. Island green or other unique green design? Hit an appropriate layup and get it up and down for a point.
Play a game of “Bunkers.” Aim at any greenside bunker, a penalty throw into the bunker if you miss. Get it up and down and win a point. This also reinforces intention and bunker play. Getting above zero is a good start. No bunkers on the hole? Play short and get it up and down for a point. It’ll cover up your bunker play.
With all these games, as the television chefs say, season to taste. The point is not devotion to made-up rules, it’s to the process.
Any time you play, before leaving for the course, walk into the bathroom, look into the mirror and say aloud, “I am so lucky to be able to play this game.”
Play the game in gratitude. Be grateful for the golf course, the people in the shop and the people who maintain it for your amusement, enjoyment and, one hopes, golf improvement and personal development. They give you a great laboratory to play in each day.
Call the three friends you most enjoy playing with, tell them that, and then just revel in their company for the day. Paying attention to other people gets you out of your head. If they are people you love, tell them that as you walk off the 18th green.
To reiterate, none of these things are intended as prescriptions in and of themselves. They are targeted at breaking up the staid mentality we fall into when we find ourselves sucked into the black hole of searching for the perfect swing.
Have as the top item on your golf bucket list getting your head out of the bucket. Playing the game will always get you further down the road than playing golf swing.
Have fun, be gentle with yourself and Happy New Year!