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Archive for August, 2010

You’ve heard it said time after time by touring pros: I just have to be patient, when asked what they’re plan is for the upcoming round. But what exactly does that mean, especially in a society where few people seem to know what it means to be patient?  How many patient drivers have you seen lately? How many patient fans have you seen at the ballpark? Who’s patient at the DMV? And what about the foursome behind you? Were they patient when you last checked?

It is no easy thing to be patient. It has long been a virtue, as Emerson wrote in the mid 19th century,”Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience”.* I learned about patience on Buddhist retreats, (more…)

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Americans don’t like rules much. Generally, we follow them but we gripe along the way. They’re usually written in fine print or in legalese or in laws that we didn’t even know existed, so we don’t bother following them to the letter. We look for ways around them, hoping that our infractions are so miniscule that no one will notice. In sports, there are penalties for breaking rules. In football you can lose yards or have touchdowns canceled; in basketball there are foul shots; in baseball you can get thrown out of the game; in soccer there are penalty kicks; in horse-racing you can get disqualified; and in golf there are penalty strokes.

In golf, I’ve seen amateurs, including myself, break the rules in friendly games, like giving oneself a preferred lie on occasion
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I was playing with what might have been the worst golfer in the world the other day at the muni I frequent, Bennett Valley in Santa Rosa, CA, a really nice guy named Mike, and he turned to me and asked “Why do people keep returning to play this impossible game?” Mike might have the worst swing ever but he asks good questions. I myself have quit the game about 5-6 times out of total frustration, but returned every time although sometimes only after several years. Now, in my older age, I’m here to stay. So I have some direct experience with Mike’s question.

My initial answer was that golf is a good example of a theory of behavioral psychology, (more…)

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Four months ago I took on a demanding, full time job (after losing a higher paying part time job to budget cuts), changing my life dramatically, including my golfing life. I no longer had the time or energy to practice as much as I had been. And a strange thing happened. I started hitting the ball more solidly and scoring better when I played, which was also much less than before. With practice, I tend to get very technical and mechanical, losing the natural feel and flow of my swing, ignoring that basic connection of my hands–those sensitive hands and fingers that virtually define us as human beings–on the grip. The hands send millions of signals to the brain which in turn sends commands to the body to act in specific ways. And at some point, we must give that communication free expression. Sure, there’s a place for lessons and practice but if you get too mechanical, you risk losing that aspect of the game that relies on what we already know, but needs us to get out of our own way to see.

We practice to gain some sense of control over this impossible game. (more…)

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