Letting Go

The key factor in playing high-quality golf, no matter your level, is to play in a state of equanimity.

e·qua·nim·i·ty (noun) mental or emotional stability or composure, especially under tension or strain; calmness; equilibrium.

That state is fostered and enhanced by being more interested in “what” happened and not so much “why” it happened.

“What” is the objective assessment of the shot in the air and where it comes down. Just knowing those objective facts is enough for the miracle and magic of the human computer to bring order to the swing without conscious thinking about it. The best “ordering” comes from watching for the difference between the vision and the execution. The body will clean up the differences as long as each vision is strong, detailed and sustained through the entirety of the shot. Intention counts for a lot.

“Why” is better left for the big, obvious physical mistakes you can feel on the fly and exploring subtlety and nuance on the range. So, for example, if you can feel that you obviously didn’t finish your swing, use that awareness to “allow” the swing to finish next time. If you start fiddling with your swing in mid-round, you run the risk of starting a daisy chain of swing changes, each one impacting other areas of the swing in unimagined ways. You brought a swing you could defend yourself with from the range, let it fall into place by watching shots rather than by trying to force things.

So that’s the big picture. The next thing is to discover how to foster an environment that will allow you to achieve that kind of freedom.

It’s “letting go.”

Letting go allows you to be more interested in the shots than concerned about ego-related considerations, the primary one being, at its core, “Am I embarrassing myself?” The amount of energy invested in something nobody cares about but you is astounding when you stand back and look at it.

When you are finally able to see that most people could give a hoot about your shots — they’re just happy to be with you and content to deal with their own problems — a whole other level of peace descends over you. A peace that allows you to pay attention to what really matters, uh, the shot in the sky. A peace that allows a Tour player to play in front of thousands of spectators honed in on their every move down to what clothes they wore that day. Imagine for a moment playing in that fishbowl.

The inspiration for this post came to me after thinking about yesterday’s round on the
Cochise course here at Desert Mountain Club. I remembered sitting in the Men’s Grill, spent in a satisfying way from walking in the morning heat, but filled with satisfaction by the way I played.

It was all the more satisfying because by total coincidence, I ended up playing with one of the men who had witnessed Saturday’s extraordinary, 11-putt round at Outlaw. And so the first thing that crosses your mind is, how are you going to follow that? I was able to see that whether the putts were going to go down in Tuesday’s round too had nothing to say about my talent as a putter. I was still going to be the same guy who had that amazing day.

The other thing that ran through my mind was that in Saturday’s round, I had not been as devoted to my targets and shots as I just prescribed above, a fact I didn’t discover until just before I pured my tee shot on 18. So on Tuesday, I set out to be much more committed to my targets. And the difference was remarkable. I didn’t fiddle with my swing at all. I just took two practice swings looking out at my target and then, holding the target in my mind as my gaze came back to the ball, I merely made a swing that felt on plane without any attention on the details. But even then, my attention was more on the target than the plane.

The highlights were a perfect 7-iron that flew over the perfect pin for it on the 1st hole by 15 yards, a 3-iron that never left the flag and flew the steep front bunker on the 17th and an assertive 4-iron I had to cut up and around trees (Bubba would have been proud) to get to an 18th green that I couldn’t see. Given the amount I had to move that ball, I was thrilled to get it in the left bunker and confident that I could try for a bigger cut next time. You can’t hit those kinds of shots thinking swing thoughts.

Letting go doesn’t just work in golf. It works everywhere in life. I labored until 11 PM last night trying to come up with a creative post. I trolled all of my usual sources, but nothing jumped out at me. At that point, even if I did come across something worthy of comment, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to finish the post, publish and notice it until 2 AM.

And so I just let go and went to bed. And the idea for this post came to me at about the time my head hit the pillow.

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