In last week’s post, “Running Other People Down,” I wrote about our humanity, in this instance, the tendency of our egos to be on the defensive in our interactions with other people. And going a step further, how this defensiveness preemptively turns into “attack thoughts” toward other people. When you expect the worst in others, you usually find it.
And I pointed out that the way to move beyond this behavior in yourself is first to recognize it for what it is and then realize that safe harbor lies in getting in touch with your spiritual essence…and then to recognize that essence in others. Our egos are who we are in this world, a fallacious superstructure built upon the spiritual essence we arrive with and to which we will return.
That’s the condensed version.
And so a reader who also listened in to my segment on my NBC Sports Radio segment last week wrote:
I agree 100% with what you said on the show. Fighting constantly with finding peace in the game I love so much. Playing with guys that “compete” on the course takes the fun out of it.
And it broke my heart.
It broke my heart because I love the game in the same way that the reader does and have been able to turn it into a joyful exercise in mastery. I play the game with rapt curiosity instead of frustration. In today’s round, after pretty much cruising through the first 14 holes, mistakes and all, I launched a push/cut drive into a deep ravine to the right that I would have needed two days and pack mules to find.
But because I was so deep into quietly being aware of my body and the club, I simply re-teed and piped my second drive right down the middle with no concern or drama.
But I did not come to that state of mind by accident. Here’s a list of things that I have done over the years to turn the game into an enjoyable and satisfying experience:
- At the front end of my adventure to qualify to play on the Champions Tour, I used mastery, transformation and commitment principles to reduce my handicap from a 7 down to a 2…in just four months. I knew that wasn’t good enough, but it was good enough to at least be competitive while I waited for the process to play itself out. I never calculated my handicap again because I did not want to do anything to diminish my belief in my athletic ability, my sense of myself as a golfer or the process. As a professional, I didn’t need a handicap.
- For the same reason, I never kept score while playing practice rounds on the road or at home unless I got a hot round going. All I had to do was shoot 68 in a qualifier to get in and I knew that lightning in a bottle was just a whisker away. Why discourage myself? We all know what quality shots look and feel like; that’s a more relevant and satisfying measure to me than a score.
- I also stopped betting and playing competitively in practice rounds. I was trying to learn a golf course while continuing to refine my swing for Mondays, the day that competitiveness mattered. Besides, playing while covering all of my expenses without a sponsor was more than enough of a gamble all by itself.
- I worked assiduously on my world-class short game. It kept good rounds going and was a lifeline to my sense of my golf instincts. With diligent work and a keen sense of the clubhead, anyone can develop a competent short game. The shots are mostly small swings with close at hand targets.
- With the help of my coach, Dale Abraham, every couple of months or so, I continue to expand my awareness of what’s going on in my swing and how I can make it more consistent. Our problems as golfers stem not from knowing what to do, but rather not knowing what we do. So the best part of my sessions with Dale is to be able to see what I can’t feel in video replays and to groove the corrections.
- Now this is where it might get squirrely for some of you: because I have high confidence in my golf instincts, I rarely play a trouble shot that doesn’t interest me. There’s not a lot to learn from ruining my wedges playing out of the desert, from playing out of some person’s lousy rake job in a bunker or bending a shaft or hurting myself paying out of a bush. Having said that, today I had a ball plugged so high in the face of a deep bunker, I could only get to it by coming down from the top of the face with all my weight on my right leg. My gouge to two feet and my rake job were exceptional.
- I play with friends when they invite me, but because of my late-night schedule, I almost always sign up as a single in the late morning hoping that others will join me. I started doing this as practice for playing with amateurs in pro-ams and I have rarely been disappointed with my surprise partners. And when I am, I treat it as another mastery exercise in acceptance and patience.
This is not a definitive list and will certainly be problematic for those of you who have to maintain a handicap to play in amateur events. There are iconoclasts who will be appalled at my liberties with the game and say that I am not really playing golf as it was meant to be played.
But I have suffered the ignominious slings and arrows that conforming golf has to offer — I detail the most interesting ones in my forthcoming book, Generating Miracles: A Spiritual Adventure on the Champions Tour — and my version is more fun and creates a better environment for learning the thing I am most interested in, building a quality swing that repeats.
And I’m getting really close. My satisfaction level is not as high as it will be when I finally arrive, but it is quite high nonetheless and a good place to be while the process continues.
It’s truly a great game.