Expanding on nothingness

James wrote:

Great story, Cameron, and a great game. Would you expand on how you resisted reverting to classical thinking in the middle of the round? Thanks!

Here goes…

This was a breakthrough round for me – I don’t think I’ve shot 8 under before. The only other time I got to eight under the card I choked my bum off and threw away a special round. Tuesday was different – for the most part I was able to keep playing and managed to stay automatic.

The first nine holes was close to as perfect as I’ve played. I hardly missed a shot and wasn’t focused on my score. My focus was on playing golf, and trying to come up with some funny banter with Trevor – thoughts of score and results weren’t a factor. It wasn’t until I landed my ball on the 9th green (a par 3) that I studied the card. It was then I realised I was 5 under, and had a putt for 29.

It was here my focus was broken, if only slightly. I can remember the first putt on 9 quite clearly – instead of letting go 100% and freewheeling it towards the hole, I steered it to ensure it didn’t rush past the hole – my thoughts were,”don’t 3 putt now and undo all this good work”. This kind of thing is quite normal for many golfers – but if you really want to break into the ranks of true automatic golfer you’ve got to strive to be as free and loose as possible for all shots.

This is why non judgmental awareness is so important. Walking from the 9th to the 10th tee I was acutely aware what was going on. I was awake and instantly reminded to “keep playing”.

For me, this involves swinging (putting, chipping etc) like there is no tomorrow. I don’t want to “steer” the ball and swing in a way to avoid mistakes. It’s almost like I’m playing like I know I can’t miss – it’s fun and can be a little scary at the same time.

It’s not foolproof – I made an awful shot on 10 – but followed that up with three good ones. My putt on the 10th was the so different from the one on nine – there was no fear or controlled effort – I was simply putting the ball along the grass.

There was what I would call a “mini-slump” between the 13th – 15th holes. The thirteenth is a drivable par 4 and I made a bit of a mess of the tee shot. I had to wait for the green to clear and during this time all sorts of thoughts entered my head;

– don’t block it to the left
– don’t hit it out of bounds
– don’t hit the tree in front of you
– don’t top it
– for God’s sake, don’t snap hook it

These kind of thoughts happen all the time. I’m not sure if there’s any way of avoiding them altogether and plenty of people have tried. In these instances I just remind myself that it’s normal and it’s Pesky’s way of trying to protect me, albeit a misguided way.

Again, there are no guarantees. Despite my best effort of “going with the flow”, I hit the drive a bit off and clipped the top of the tree. From here I scrambled for a par 4.

The next hole was a little scratchy, I was “all over the shop” but hit a good third and sunk the putt for a birdie. This is golf – you’re not going to play your best golf all of the time, it’s just not possible. But, and this is a big BUT, if you’re able to keep playing freely and avoid over analysing, you’ll maximise your chances of shooting the best score.

My putt on 14 was a beauty – I looked at the line, walked in and stroked it without a care in the world. I was listening for the sound of club on ball – when I looked up the ball was rolling dead center.

The 15th hole didn’t suit my eye. The distance was 155 metres but it looked a lot shorter. The pin was back and I could tell over the green was “dead” – so I didn’t want to go long. I couldn’t settle on a club – my head was saying a 7 iron while my guy was saying a hard eight.

I went with the 8 iron but came up short. Such is life. Sometimes golf isn’t an exact science and you’re just going to have to deal with this kind of stuff. I could have taken a 7 iron and made a mess of it – I was playing to avoid the huge trouble spot – it’s somewhat conservative but I’m never going to birdie every hole.

After a lucky chip I was full of confidence. It’s such a stupid game and there are so many ways to play it. My last three drives were the best of the day – I absolutely nailed them, leaving short irons to the green. It would have been nice to make another birdie or two but I did play a little conservatively with the approaches. I was happy with my days’ work and wasn’t trying to break any records.

Here’s a summary of the ideal golfing way;

– Work out what you want to do
– Choose a club that can get the job done
– Go for it. Swing like you’ve already made a successful shot
– Repeat. Keep going to you get to the bar

All the mental interference is just a distraction. If you keep your objective simple and swing freely you’ll do just fine. It’s not a perfect game and you’ll always hit bad shots and come unstuck – your mission isn’t to stop the bad shots but to move on quickly and not let them bother you.

You’re also NEVER going to be able to stop the negative thoughts and Pesky. So stop trying so hard – learn to accept these things as part of the game and you’ll reduce the mental anguish tenfold. And here’s the contradiction with golf that’s missed by many – when you learn to accept this stuff you’ll have way less interference. You’ll be closer to the perfect “nothingness” mindset more of the time.

I hope my ramblings have answered the question. For a full rundown on the automatic process please get a copy of the Golfer’s Nightmare.

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  • James Smith

    Reply Reply January 17, 2013

    Thank you, Cameron. Your phrase “non-judgmental awareness” really stands out to me. I want to explore that further. I’m playing today and will let you know what I find. Also, I highly recommend your book, “The Golfer’s Nightmare”, to everyone. I have the electronic version. Are there printed copies available? James.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply January 17, 2013

      James: the book is available in hard copy. Let me know if you’d like a copy.

      The hard part is no to try too hard with this approach. I recommend a few quiet games where you’re free to explore before unleashing this enthusiasm onto the golfing public.

  • Steady

    Reply Reply January 18, 2013

    The key Cam is
    “- Go for it. Swing like you’ve already made a successful shot”
    This negates any negative thought pattern and allows a free flowing swing.
    Ta Steady

  • James Smith

    Reply Reply January 18, 2013

    As it turned out, today was a great day to experiment with Automatic Golf. The weatherman predicted rain, high winds, and dropping temperatures, but since they are hardly ever correct, I kept my 1200 noon tee time. I was disappointed that the rest of our foursome didn’t show. They all have college degrees. I’m just an enlisted man and can’t be expected to know any better. 🙂 Another sign that something wasn’t right should have been that when I got to the course there was no one else out playing; unheard of for a Thursday afternoon in Augusta, Georgia. The kid in the pro shop let me play, so off I went. I had the whole course to myself! It was about 70, slightly overcast, and there was a gentle breeze. Heaven. The rain started on the third hole, and by the time I finished the round the wind was blowing fifteen to thirty knots out of the southwest and the temperature had dropped into the mid-forties. But, the golf was amazing! It was no 8-under-par, mind you, but, when I was able to let myself play “automatically” it was astounding. Since I realized right away that today was not going to be the day I shot my age (I’m 54 :-)), I didn’t even think about the score. Most of my “automatic” shots were recovery shots, pitches, chips, and a lot of putts, but I also hit some really good full shots as well. And it was fun, in spite of the poor conditions! Although, I think you need to put a disclaimer on your book. Automatic Golf is not for the faint of heart. When you play Automatic Golf it’s going to be a wild and exciting ride! James.

  • James Smith

    Reply Reply January 20, 2013

    …and, yes, I would like to purchase some printed copies of your book. I want to give them as gifts to my golfing buddies. 🙂

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