The Desperate Golfer – part 3

So far the story of the desperate golfer goes like this;

Learned to play fairly naturally and instinctively in a horse paddock – hitting balls back and forth. From here formal golf lessons disrupted the pattern, but there was a brief interlude with a young pro who was excellent. If you want to check out the previous posts, you can do so here.

But I still had a long way to go as the next chapter in the story shows…

You’d think that once one worked out a successful approach to better play that would be it. You’d turn up to the golf course, take your clubs out of the car and then go play. Sounds pretty easy but this isn’t always the case. Our adult mind is too active for it to leave well enough alone.

– it wants to get better
– it never settles
– it keeps looking for the “secret”
– it’s never happy

So it goes on searching and quickly forgets what works and what doesn’t. Before long you can be lost at sea with no idea where to turn to next. This is definitely what happened to me. I wasn’t satisfied with my “instinctive” approach to playing the game and always thought deep down that a more conscious approach would give better results. It didn’t. Every time I went back to a natural way of playing I would unlock something special. But it never lasted because I would fidget and fumble around, looking for something new.

And this went of for years. I would go back and forth. Taking lessons. Changing clubs. Trying a bit of this and a bit of that. My game was inconsistent and I didn’t have much of a clue. Things took a turn for the worst when I teed it up in a bigger competition. Here’s the story.

“SHIT!”, I screamed at the top of my lungs. I then smashed my driver into the ground. Hard. I didn’t feel much better.

I just hit my 5th lousy drive of the day. I was used to playing badly, but this day was different. It’s the State Foursomes Championships and my poor play was affecting Gary, my playing partner.

Gary was exceptional. Some would call him a natural, a guy with a strange swing who could hit all the shots and get the job done. His unorthodox swing caught many by surprise and one of Gary’s favourite things was taking on the “young guns” and giving them a lesson. This happened so many times it was no fluke. The guy could really play.

There was a lot to like about Gary but compassion and understanding wasn’t one of his strong suits.

“Strachan! You’re making me look bad. Get it together or I’m going home”.

“You’re a disgrace. Can’t you hit the bloody fairway?”

“F#$%! I can’t believe how bad you are playing today”.

It was all too much for me. The pressure of competition, trying to play half decently and keeping Gary happy finally got to me.

By the 15th hole I was a mess. I couldn’t hit the ball in any sort of fashion that resembled golf. I had lost it. Gary wasn’t speaking to me and was looking for the clubhouse. I knew he wasn’t any chance of turning up to complete the afternoon round (it was a 36 hole event).

This was the lowest point in my golf career. Playing badly is one thing, but upsetting and letting my unsympathetic mate down was something different altogether. I felt like crying and couldn’t wait to get off the golf course. Embarrassment is not the right word. I just wanted to hide and get out of there.

Keep in mind that automatic golf and the power of natural learning was still new to me. I really had no idea about it and wasn’t sure of what I occasionally could stumble upon. This thing wasn’t the norm and I didn’t like being different – I wanted to be like everyone else.

But there is one thing about failure. It gives you a clarity and a sense of desperation. Something you’re probably not going to find if your golf doesn’t hit rock bottom. When you’re really struggling you’re more likely to look inside and take an honest view of the situation.

At this moment I realised the typical golf world had failed me. The lessons, the swing changes and my approach was not working – I was ready to try something different.

The week after golfing hell

On the Monday morning after hell day I woke with something bubbling away inside me and a resolve to do better. I had a big tournament the following weekend and was determined not for a repeat performance.

I was a serious golfer and had a part-time job in a metal foundry that helped pay my way. Each morning I would get up at 6am, drive to the factory and cut 6 metre lengths of steel in half. It was a horrible job, but funded my golf addiction and gave me perspective on life (at least that’s what my parents told me).

Work lasted 4 hours. There was a 10 minute break at half time and then straight back into it. During the worse days the steel was heavy and the clock slow. Some days were definitely better than others. On the good days my mind would race as I’d solve the problems of the world and try and figure out my golf game. The four hours would fly by and I’d be outta there. I’d be changed and on my way to the golf course in 30 seconds. I never did one minute of overtime or felt bad for the workers who had to hang around for the rest of the day. Catch ya later…

This day was going to be different. Today was the day I was going to work my golf game out. But there was a small problem.

I was just standing there, staring down the practice fairway, not sure what to do. It was a blank canvas, the world was my oyster but I didn’t know where to start. You could call it a golfer’s version of writer’s block.

Has this ever happened to you? You’re on holidays or recently retired and you think that now is the time to work on your game – but when you get to the practice fairway you don’t know what to do. Strange, isn’t it?

Experience tells me that many of us start hitting balls for the sake of it. There’s little objective or plan. We get exercise rather than any sort of improvement. It’s also a waste of time.
Things were different for me now, I was fed up, I had drawn a line in the sand. I wasn’t about to start wasting time and making the same mistakes. I really wanted to get my game back. I was desperate to get this golf thing sorted.

Gun to your head golf

If someone pointed a gun to your head and said,

“Righto, hit that ball to that target. If you miss I’m gunna pull the trigger”.

What would you do? Do you have enough trust in your golf swing to perform or would you panic and start to shake?

It wouldn’t be a nice situation to be in, but this was the way I was thinking. I was desperate and needed answers. Take no prisoners if you will.

Here’s what you wouldn’t do.

You wouldn’t worry about your swing. And you wouldn’t care about HOW pretty the shot looked.

Your focus would be on the target – not on the swing. You’d be focused with a clear goal (ball to target). All you’d want to do is find the target and your wouldn’t care how.

But this is not how most of us think. We like pretty. We’re obsessed with HOW we do it. Most of the time we’re so focused on HOW that maybe we forget what we’re trying to do in the first place.

Hit the ball to a defined target.

Now we’re getting somewhere. Golf is all about hitting the ball to a defined target. We get to choose the target and the club that will do the job. Sometimes this is not easy,

“is it a 6 iron or a 7?”

or

“Should I layup or go for it?”

But you have to choose. Not choosing only leads to confusion – you’re a rudderless boat or a small business without a proper plan. You’re destined to fail.

Do you always have a clear goal on every shot? And don’t get lazy and say yes because you’re always trying to get the ball into the hole. Perfect shots are nice, but they’re not realistic. You miss a lot more than you make so you need a plan that represents this.

My little brain worked something out rather profound here. I realised that my game had no direction. I was playing a lot but not getting the results I wanted because I never defined them. I was too lazy to even choose a target. I was hoping for the best and getting a mixed bag of results – mostly crap. Does that sound familiar?

To be continued…

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