The book is an invitation to explore both the physical and the inner sides of golf. It will give you practical and easy to follow drills, as well as offer you a way to transform your way of approaching golf. It offers short stories, anecdotes, and some philosophy on golf. It also includes a workbook section for helping you track your game plans and progress as you transform your golf from its present state to a more enjoyable way of playing.
The game of golf has always afforded the individual the opportunity to explore the possibilities that life has to offer. It has challenged the individual to find balance between life's inner and outer worlds. Many have spent a majority of their time trying to tackle these challenges through only golf's outer game. But, this approach has left these individuals unsatisfied with the extent of their discovery. History has proven there must be a balance between both the game's inner and outer influences. We know of all great players that they had a unique ability to focus their attention on the task at hand. We also know that they commanded great control over their physical abilities. Some argue that if you master the outer, the inner will follow. While others believe that golf's inner activities must come first. It is my contention that without one you cannot have the other. Without the physical world, there would be no game. But, without the inner there can be no purpose to the game. Thus, the game is a blending of both the games inner and outer worlds.
Therefore, this book will explore the mysteries of golf's inner realms as well as establish a natural approach to the game's outer foundation. As you read through this book, you will notice that the prescribed approach does not fall along traditional lines. This approach will make it clear that the nature of the game is deeply rooted in the way we learn and perform.
By understanding how we perform anything well, we can learn much about the game of golf. I am going to begin this approach by expounding on the very essence of the game. That is, I am going to try and describe the feelings, events, and experiences we encounter while we play. I am going to do so in an effort to assess the reasons why we play in the first place. Lastly, it is my hope that an inquiry into these happenings will illuminate even further the need to cut away any unneeded information.
In this way we can begin with the game's true imperatives. Then around these imperatives we will develop our fundamentals. With the fundamentals established we will have accomplished our first goal. That is, creating an outer foundation from which we will journey inward. This outer foundation will help provide confidence in our approach, and will create a home base from which we will have the courage to venture into the unknown - golf's inner game.
To complete this journey you will have to commit considerable time to the development of your physical skills as well as your mental ones. During the beginning stages of your development, you may find this work tedious. But, with continual practice you will become more and more proficient with the drills, you will solidify your outer foundation, and more significantly will internalize the importance of the inner side of your game. You will also find a balance between mind and body, as well as performance and experience. In the end, this whole process will provide you with a much more productive and enjoyable way to play. I hope you find this approach to the game insightful, inspirational, natural, and if nothing else enjoyable.
Chapter One: The Games We Play
Throughout history man has played many games. However, only one has attracted so many to its challenge. Ancient Romans played a game with curved sticks and a small ball. The object was to play the ball continually until you struck a pole a designated distance away. Although a primitive representation of golf, it was definitely among the family of golfing games. This is not the only story of golf like games predating modern origins. There are many theories as to where the game originated. I like to believe that the game simply evolved from a variety of different sources, some of which arose spontaneously without influence of each other. No matter what historians might argue, the modern game is generally accepted to have originated in Scotland.
The game has such a lure, that even in ancient Scotland, where the modern origins are so strongly rooted, it was once outlawed. Golf became so popular that the people of Scotland preferred playing the game to practicing archery. Since archery was the country's main line of defense, something had to been done about golf's overpowering influence on the population. Hence, golf was declared illegal. What a testimony to the game.
The game is like a huge cultural beacon, luring all to its mystique. In every part of the world, and across numerous cultural boundaries, golf has become the most unifying of games. No matter where you are from, what language you speak, and what ideologies you might hold true, the game of golf touches all. Players in one country can watch players from another, and still understand the inner struggle all golfers go through. If you are a golfer, you certainly understand the type of strife every other golfer experiences while engaged in the golfing journey. Thus, even though you search for your own answers, you also sympathize with everyone else's struggle. Throughout this process you are sure to understand the yearning to master what's truly possible for your game. Although you may believe your goal is to master the external the game, you must realize that you are truly trying to become the master of your own destiny, and you search for mastery by engaging in the game and testing your understanding of life.
For most individuals, the best way to mastery is the natural way. One of the fundamental premises of the natural way is that the game should be played and controlled by your natural hand.
Throughout the ages, all sports have been designed to challenge, or test our natural abilities. The challenge was to heighten our awareness by utilizing our senses. The test is to apply this awareness under the most adverse conditions. In order to achieve these goals, you must command the sensitivity of your body, the mentality of your mind, and the fortitude of your inner resolve.
Among all the available challenges, I believe golf to be the ultimate test. The physical demands are of a most precise and technical nature, while the inner challenges are the game's greatest attraction.
The greatest challenge in life is not competing against an opponent, or facing death. It's enduring, adapting, and overcoming your own internal struggle. It is finding out what makes you truly happy. It is discovering the limits of what you alone can do. It is finding fulfillment out of life. It is deciding for your self what success really is. Furthermore, it's achieving peace of mind. You must find these things out for yourself, and yourself alone. Along the way, you must face your fears and uncertainties head on if you are going to find meaning in your life.
The reason golf is so luring, is that golf is one of the only games which provides you with the opportunity to accept total responsibility for your actions. The way you deal with the enfoldings of the game is your responsibility alone, and it is the product of your internal actions. This is not to say that you have total control over what is going to happen, it is merely to say that you must make your choices, and live with them, without placing blame. With this in mind, I believe each player knows for himself that only he is to blame for his poor play, even if he does not outwardly admit it. Since you must accept sole responsibility for your actions, you alone deserve the pleasures of success. However, as you watch others execute extraordinary performances, you too may rejoice. Since you can sympathize with others struggles, you can also celebrate in their glory. This is partly because their success renews our beliefs in what is truly possible for our selves.
Golf's field of play is the most interactive of playgrounds. It combines the elements of nature, the pressures of conflict, and our own internal struggles. Our position in relation to the hole is always changing, and the possibilities are infinite. The elements of nature provide us with the struggle for survival. This struggle challenges us to endure, to become adaptable, to have courage and fortitude.
The opponents we face may not be those who we compete against. It may be the person who developed the course design. Many golfers never compete in tournaments. They simply enjoy the gifts the game provides. However, these players too have an opponent. It is often said, "The player must play the course." When we play poorly, we often say, "The course got the best of me today." Well, isn't it really the golf course architect who got the best of you that day?
Architects design our fields of honor, by assessing the lay of the land and integrating it through their skills and knowledge, into an immense playground of opportunity. The architect himself knows the quest, because he himself is looking for the answers to his own questions of life. The architect imagines what others might fear, as well as utilizes his own uncertainties. Thus, whether consciously or subconsciously, he expresses his desires through course design, challenging us to clarify our deepest doubts.
The fact is, no man enters this world completely enlightened. Therefore life becomes a journey, or quest, for such understanding. We are, however, born with the skills necessary for meeting the challenge. Along the way, some hide from the invitation, while others feel life's fire burning deep in their soul. Some give up at unassuming moments along the way, others give everything they have to honor life's quest. No matter who you may be, whether hider, or voyager, all know the adventure while playing on the fields of honor. In other words, Golf affords us all the opportunity to both pursue and experience, the most valuable lessons of life. As you encounter each pole, you must assess for yourself what you must do next. In this manner you cannot escape your own uncertainties. Thus, even without the elements of nature, and the architect’s choreography, you would still have to face your own mentality.
Although most of us think we know why we play the game, I believe it's because of the reasons we are not yet aware of that keep us coming back. It is precisely because we have not answered the most allusive of life's questions that we renew the search another day. No matter what level of accomplishment you reach, the game always seems to have more to offer. Furthermore, whether we want to or not, everyone brings all aspects of their life to the golf course. For golf is life, and life is golf. Whether happy, sad, frustrated, arrogant, or humble, you cannot put aside your emotions, or your character. Thus, you come to express your inner self through the game. As you begin to express your inner self you come to understand that you are truly in search of balance throughout your life and golf. You also realize that the product of this balance is peace of mind, and that the only way you can achieve this peace of mind is by becoming truly open with yourself. Once at peace with your self, the world appears as a totally new environment, an environment that is more vivid and intriguing. It is at this point that life becomes extraordinary.
Chapter Two: The Golfer's Journey
The golfer tees it up at the first. He shows himself in front of the clubhouse, the world, and God. At this moment he cannot remember a time he felt more naked. For, the events leading up to and surrounding the first tee experience are sure to expose the depths of the player's character. The way the player tees up his ball, the club he chooses to play, the time he takes to prepare himself, the undertaking of his practice swing, and the mannerisms induced by the awareness of such exposure, all illuminate the extent of the player's character. The golfer instinctively knows that the quality of his tee shot will disclose much more than the level of his golfing accomplishment. It shows whether the player has the courage to overcome the uncertainty of even further exposure. It shows whether his Will is strong enough to overcome his fears and doubts. It shows whether he has enough confidence to take a chance with his inner self. It shows whether he has trust in his destinal resolve. Furthermore, the way the player reacts to his play further illustrates the fortitude of the Self.
As the golfer prepares to play his first shot, he's overwhelmed with feelings of uncertainty. For within the next few moments the possibility exists the player will reveal much more than he wishes. The possibility also exists that something truly extraordinary might happen. Therefore, even though the player may have to face the consequences of his insecurities, he is compelled to take the chance that he will express his potential. Hence, the essence of the game is rooted in the dubious nature of the golfer's journey. Consequently, to say that the score is the important thing would truly be an injustice.
Even though every golfer understands the mystery of the first tee, we all continue to accept the game's challenge. You might say the quest is an addiction. For although the game's side effects can be quite unsettling, the game's mystical flavor keeps us coming back for more. No matter how low our slumps may take us, the exhilaration of the highs keep our hopes for the future alive. It is precisely because the future provides us with the possibility that all the energies of the game will come together within one majestic moment that we are habituated to playing. The first tee experience is also like a trigger that sets the whole adventure into motion. For it is the anticipation of what might come next that compels us to forge our way off the tee and into the playing field. Once the trigger is pulled, everything that follows will inevitably unravel like a mystery.
As the player walks off the first tee, he embarks on an adventure that is certain to be full of discovery. Along the way, he is sure to come face to face with the rogue in himself as well as the dignitary, the coward as well as the hero, and the doubter as well as the venturer. Within his first couple of steps off the first tee, he feels as if he's passing through an invisible portal. It's as if he's stepping into another plane of existence. The air feels crisp, the colors of nature seem more conspicuous, and the sounds of the game seem to be more resonant. The game has a way of awakening our senses to a higher level of receptivity. We tend to notice the freshness of the grass under our feet, the warmth of the sun on our skin, the smell of the flora in the air, and we enjoy the courses whose aesthetic appeal reaches beyond the ordinary. When the views are spectacular, we seem to tap into some imperceptible source of cosmic energy. We seem to be filled with this energy, as if we are charged by the beauty of it all.
As the player approaches his ball, he has visions of grandeur. He imagines what it would be to experience his best round, and he calculates how he's going to go about realizing this vision. The player assesses the lie of the ball, and in doing so appraises the extent of his abilities. He finds some correlation between the difficulty of the lie and the level of confidence he has in himself. If the player gives in to the doubter, then he may find himself searching for a preferred lie. Where as, if he honors being a venturer, he will play it as it lies. With the decision made, his work is only just begun. He must plunge forward, finding some way to play the next shot.
Before playing the shot he must pin point his target, and evaluate the relationship between the ball, the target, and his talent for the game. He must assess the lay of the land, and determine the magnitude of the obstacles that lie ahead. He must establish a line of flight and formulate a course of action. The player can opt to be conservative by choosing a play that is entirely within his comfort zone, or he can dare to play beyond his present level of confidence. If his present goals involve the quality of score, then he would be wise to play within himself. However, if he'd rather experience the full extent of sport, then he may choose to take a more bold approach. If his goal is to expand the limits of his present horizons, then he should anchor himself well within the outer limits of his game while routinely braving the unknown that lies just beyond his present boundaries.
No matter what choice the individual might make, his sole responsibility is to accept the consequences of his decision. If he decides to stay within his comfort zone, he must accept the fact that he has passed up an opportunity to experience what's beyond his present understanding. If he chooses to dare the uncertainty that lies within the outer regions of the game, then he must accept the fact that he may become captive to the precarious nature of the unknown. Whatever path the player decides to tour, the eminent experience is sure to afford him the opportunity to expand the limits of his awareness as well as his state of mind.
As his second shot flies through the air, there is a feeling of anxious anticipation. For within the next few moments, the ball may come to rest within the safe haven of the green, or it may find some hazardous demise. As we watch the ball fly through the air, we truly wish it to find a generous position in relations to the cup. Even though this is the case, we will not be truly happy unless it reaches this position in the proper manner. No one is happy with a shot that is sculled up to the pin, nor are we happy with the shots that ricochet off pending obstacles. We may graciously accept the gift of good fortune. However, we know in our hearts that we are searching for much more than these simply random strokes of luck.
If the shot does not find the cradle of the green, then we are reminded of the fact that no matter how difficult the job, we must continue until the job is finished. We must find a way of forging on, making up for any misdirected efforts we may have encountered. Then once we reach the green, we are presented with precisely the task of finishing the job. We find solace in the act of holing the putt. Because, no matter what preceded the holing of the ball, the fact that we holed it shows that we've stayed dedicated to the basic commitments of life. Furthermore, it shows that we understand these commitments and value their gravity. There's a sense of completion, fulfillment, and integrity upon holing the putt, and until you do so, it would not feel proper to move on. For anything left undone is sure to weigh heavily on the future of confidently achieving our goals.
As the golfer continues to play, he experiences this process over and over. However, this is not all the game has to offer. During the course of play the golfer comes to know the individuals he plays with. There exists a sort of bonding that can only be understood by the golfer. We find new friendships in old relationships, and we find fellowship among strangers. Nowhere else in life have I seen such tremendous acceptability of strangers. Just as our own personalities come to the forefront, so do our playing partners. There's a type of joining in spirit there. A bonding that is understood, yet rarely spoken of. This sense of companionship continues until shortly after the turn. For some reason, we seem to fade into our inner relations on the back nine. This transition seems to take place around the middle of the back nine. I believe it has to do with the fact that all golfers inherently understand they must find a way of bringing the whole round to an auspicious conclusion. As we prepare ourselves for the task, we come to respect each other’s necessity.
The group as a whole becomes more quiet. This is partly because we all know we are running out of time. We know in our hearts that we must make the most of the day. If our play has been something less then magnificent, then we must find some way of finishing in as noble a fashion as possible. If our play has been truly majestic, then we must find some way of completing our play without the conclusion being anticlimactic. Finally, once we all finish out on the 18th, we proceed to congratulate and console each other, whatever the appropriate salutation might be. Then, if time permits, we take the journey one step further. We gather in the 19th hole, where we can discuss the mysteries of the day, along with the moments of splendor and humility.
This gathering at the end of the round has as much to do with the golfing experience as does the play itself. For it is within this gathering that we get to express the meaning of the game, and those experiences we just endured. As we rejuvenate ourselves with food and drink, we find a clarity that brings the events of the day truly into focus. There is something about this gathering that makes everything all right, no matter what the outcome of the round might have been. Even the sulker finds peace of mind, whether induced by drink or the reality that golf is just a game - a marvelous game, providing us with extraordinary opportunities, yet simply a game.
As the events of the day come full circle, we individually go our own ways. During the drive home, we once again sink into the solitude of an introspective view of the game. We search for the pieces of the puzzle that seem to be missing. We wonder whether the answers lie within the intricacies of the swing, or within the complexity of the psyche. No matter how much time passes before arriving home, we are inevitably unable to untangle the enigma. We may formulate some theories on the game. However, the future generally proves these conclusions to be little more then theoretical. At the end of it all, we are left with not much more than the solace that our hopes are still alive. This is because we understand that the game's possibilities will always exist, despite how we might play.
What this all means, is that our journey has brought us right back to where we began. Intrigued by the mysteries of the game, fascinated by the endless opportunities the game has to offer, and compelled to join the quest for such possibilities another day. This is true no matter what level of accomplishment you might possess. Whether winner or loser, competitor or novice, we all are left with questions that have not been answered.
This being the case, how then do we get a handle on the game, and how do we become content with our progress? These answers lie within your approach to the game. As you approach your play, you must find a way of playing as naturally as possible.
"Since the Dawn of Man we have explored the possibility of heightening our skills, awareness, and understanding. But, only one has persisted, providing us with the ultimate test. It's become the game for all ages, capturing the interest of the individual as well as the collective whole. It is GOLF - The Timeless Game."