The inspiration for this post came from three things I came across yesterday.
The first was a Paula Creamer tweet, “Had a great practice today. It’s amazing how close you are to something but so far away at the same time. Figured some good things out.”
And then, “No one ever said change was easy.”
Second, and amazing in its timing coming right after Creamer’s, was this tweet from Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey, “Lost my swing trying to find it and hopefully it will show up tomorrow!!!”
And third, was just an intuitive, post-round glimpse of Tiger Woods. He was on the putting green at this week’s Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, completely surrendering to his coach, Sean Foley’s, emphatic, theatrical gesturing on his putting theory. Foley had Tiger’s putter in his hands; Tiger stood submissively by, watching, listening.
I offer these three snippets as evidence that even the very best get lost in space when it comes to the game of golf.
The reason we get lost is because we are unaware of what’s occurring in our swings. If we let it, it can be frustrating and unnerving. We go through our pre-shot routine with no real confidence in where the ball is going to go. All that does is inject fear and its resulting tension into the swing. So not only do we have the mechanical flaw which is creating the problem, we have the resultant tension skewing it even more.
The first thing to do is fix the flaw. If we know a lot about the golf swing, we can watch our shadows when we swing, watch ourselves in a sliding glass door or mirror, watch ourselves on video or get ourselves to a good pro for another set of eyes. Each of these, even the pro, is a cheap investment against extending the fight against the unknown.
If you chose to go to a pro, keep the lesson focused on the ball flight you’re trying to fix. Many pros have swing theories they adhere to and their helpful intention is to remake your swing in their imagery. Spend virtually no time trying your amateur friend’s suggestions; as my former partner, Fred Shoemaker used to say, “Most people coach what they’re working on in their own games.” And this is sometimes true of coaches too.
And as important is the attitude with which you approach this learning opportunity.
Here’s Cameron Morfit writing at Golf.com on how Rory McIlroy’s friends helped him through the aftermath of a lost moment and how it’s indicative of how he approaches the game:
“…when a reporter referenced the photo of the 22-year-old standing dazed amid Augusta National’s cabins left of the 10th fairway, on the way to a triple-bogey 7, McIlroy laughed. He’s seen the photo; one of his friends sent it to him.
‘They have known me my whole life,’ he said. ‘They can still give me grief, and they can send me pictures of being lost in white houses at Augusta. It’s fine.’
Yes, but at least they waited to apply the needle, right?
‘No, no, they are brutal,’ he said. ‘But I give them the same stuff, so it’s fine. … That’s what you need after something like that. You need someone to have a little bit of a sense of humor about it and make you laugh.'”
And because of McIlroy’s light-hearted approach to the game (and a lot of talent), he came back two months later at the U.S. Open and won it by eight strokes. He is now on the brink of becoming the No. 1 player in the world, which he can achieve by winning the Honda Classic.
Contrast that with Stewart Cinq in this unattributed post at Golf.com, who has slowly, but inexorably fallen from No. 9 in the world after his 2009 British Open victory over Tom Watson, to No. 147 at the beginning of the year:
“I feel like I belong in World Golf Championships, playing late on Sunday. That’s where I’ve been my whole career,” he said. “It’s a little bit embarrassing. It’s a pride thing, almost shameful. Like it or not, golf – when you’ve done it as long as I’ve done it – becomes part of you. If you’ve got bad golf, that means something is bad inside of you. It hurts. When you play well for a long time, it’s frustrating.”
The path to constructive learning is more in Rory’s direction that it is in Stewart’s. What’s necessary for constructive learning is a still, quiet mind capable of paying attention to the physical motions. When you are embroiled in the perceived ignominy of your wanderings, your awareness is clouded adding still more tension, still more of a shroud.
As I have discussed early on in this blog in “Who Are You Really? ” and “Looking Into Consciousness,” confusing your ego with your golf is almost never constructive. The key is to distinguish your ego from your spiritual essence. Once you are able to see that you are your essence and not your ego, you can operate from the serenity and clarity you find there. You can operate from the certainty that you are capable of overcoming anything, even such mundane things as a balky golf swing.
To his credit, Cinq got himself to a teacher. What he discovered was that in trying to hit the ball with a draw, he had gotten so far inside the swing plane (seven degrees), there was no telling where the ball was headed.
Good information and a good attitude will inevitably lead you out of the darkness. You just have to stay comfortably in the process.