I’m not a writer, but I wish I had some skills as I’m envious of those who can. I read articles on the writing process but never do anything with them, that is until now.
Below is a “before” and “after” something that happened to me on the golf course a few weeks ago. I wrote it as part of an exercise I learned from an article I read. I thought I would publish on my blog in the symbolic gesture of putting my pen done, indicating my completion of the exercise. As I re-read the results of my labor, making edits and re-working portions of it, I felt nostalgic remembering how many good times I’ve had on the golf course. Hopefully, after reading this, you will be able to look through a small window of a single shot that plays out 70, 80, or more times each week as I play the game I love.
On the 3rd hole, I pull hooked my 6-iron tee shot into the woods assuring me a bogey at best, but more likely a double bogey.
I stand on the tee of the third hole, 2-under par after a birdie-birdie start. I survey the medium length par 3 measuring 165 yards from the gold tees. My eyes slide to the left inspecting the wall of trees that conceal the Harpeth River which silently flows at the bottom of a steep slope. I try not to think how many shots I’ve hit into that damn river, the anxiety starts to build. I try to divert my racing thoughts by focusing my attention to the right where a pond sits, not really in play, with the banks over grown by native trees. The green is wider than it is deep with no bunkers protecting it. Today, the pin is on the left side in the middle of the green. The flag lay limp with no sign of a breeze.
My stroke average on the hole hovers around 3.4 over the course of the 400 plus times that I have played the hole. Despite some past successes on the hole, all I can think about are the failures. And it happens, thoughts of double-bogey come roaring up out of my gut and into my head, negating my fast start. My arms tense up and my breathing shallows and full blown panic sets in. I try to conceal it, but I know my playing partners sense it. They have seen this rodeo before and their shoulders slump as the inevitable gets underway.
“How can this be happening again”, I scream in my head. I have hit thousands of six-irons 165 yards before, but this time, the distance might as well be 250 yards to the hole as I have no confidence I can hit the shot. As I stand behind the ball, I try to focus on my target, a tuff of grass about three feet in front of my ball which, if you were to draw a straight line to the hole, sits between me and the hole. But thoughts of all the pulled shots fill my head. I make a meeker attempt to change my perspective by picturing a high cut shot landing softly next to the flag. The thought lasts but a split second and all I can see in my minds eye is the ball bounding into the river and out of play.
I close my eyes, take a deep breath and try to focus, reminding myself that my past is the past and has nothing to do with the current shot. But, despite my best efforts, I wearily step into the shot, shuffling my feet a bit to make sure the stance is even. I try to shake the stress out of my arms with a few waggles. I look at the tuff of grass I used to line up my shot and confirm that my feet, hips, and shoulders are all pointed toward it. As I look back down at the ball, everything goes out of focus. “Crap”, I’m staring at it again, a sure sign that I’ve broken my concentration and I’ve gotten lost in the moment. I think to myself, “I’m screwed”, not the ideal thought you want when standing over the ball, ready to pull the trigger.
I blink hard and bring the ball back into focus and I say to myself “swing smooth, swing easy, and fire the hips through the shot”. And with that, I take the club back, all noise vacates my head, nothing is visible except the ball on the tee at my feet. I’m in the zone and there is no turning back. As I drop the club back toward the ball, I feel it. The club is dropping as it supposed to but my hips are stuck, the lack of rotation of my lower body through the impact zone starts the familiar song of a pull hook playing through my head. It is to late, I can’t stop, I’m striking the ball and my fast birdie-birdie start vanishes as quickly as a rain drop disappears as in lands in a puddle.
I let out groan from my belly as I straighten up to watch my ball hooking hard toward the woods, it is happening again, my ball is destined for a watery grave and the thoughts of double-bogey start become a reality as they dance through my head. Before the ball disappears into the woods and down to the river, I start screaming in my mind, how in the hell did you do it again? And with that, the inevitable groans of my playing partners fill the silent air before the ball reaches its apex. They to have heard this song before. One partner turns away, unable to watch. Another starts to laugh and the other stares in disbelieve. I helplessly watch my ball flying from right to left, disappear into the woods missing it’s target by at least 50 yards, ricocheting off a couple of trees and ultimately coming to rest in the river.