Sunday, October 30, 2005

What was I thinking??

At my course, we're blessed with an "executive" course: 18 holes with a par of 61. Once a weekend (sometimes twice) my wife and I play there, as it is not intimidating for her and it tests my iron and short game play severely.

Today couldn't have been a more typical November: low 60's, cool breeze, blue sky, no crowds.

But, right out of the gate, I take a double on the first hole, a 150-yard par three. The double came from a plugged wet-sand lie in the front bunker, over a head-high lip to a pin tucked not 10 feet off the front edge. The plugged lie came from hitting the same club I would normally hit on a calm 90-degree summer day. Worse... I knew the mistake as I made it. "I'll just hit it a little harder." What was I thinking?

Which brings me to...

As we move to temperatures in the 50's, balls don't carry as far as in the summer, and anyone knows you have to adjust your club selection. But I'm playing with new clubs (see the "Review" page) and one is always worried about — and paying attention to — "How far am I hitting these new clubs? Are they better than my old ones, or not?" What a time to be trying out new clubs! What I should have done is left them in the box (there's only a few weeks left in our season) and started fresh with them in the spring. What was I thinking? Should I go back to the Pro-Combos for now?

Second Hole...

My wife hits a ground ball off the tee that doesn’t make the fairway, and then a Mulligan dead right, also in heavy rough. "I think I'll play the first one," she says. I volunteer to pick up her second ball and the next thing I know, I hear her calling behind me, "Do you know where my ball is?" I look back and see her wandering around somewhere way left of the line her first ball took. I swallow my urge to say that I'm busy finding her other ball, trudge back and find hers right where it should be.

Now... we've had many discussions about watching where her ball lands, picking a landmark beyond the ball and on a line from the tee, and then walking that line until you walk across your ball. The question: should I remind her, yet again. I decide I have to, as she often holds the group up while we help her look. So, typical husband, I do. What was I thinking?

Her anger produces two awful hacks, and immanent disaster intrudes on the beauty of the day. "I'm quitting," she announces.

But, miraculously, we get it together. We pick up our balls, walk back and to the tenth tee, greet each other as though we've just arrived, make some small talk about our mornings, and then succeed in having a pleasant 9-hole walk in the park.

Our mental game score: several small defeats and one huge victory.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

November Golf: A Zen Exercise

November golf — it's wonderful! The weather is cool and crisp... the fairways and greens have recovered from summer burn-out... I'm comfortable in a sweater and don't leave the course refreshed, instead of dripping and exhausted... the leaves are turning and beautiful... and the course isn't crowded anymore. It is really —in my opinion — the best time of the year.

The problem: here in the North East, we're only weeks away from temporary greens, which will end my seasson and send me inside for the next four months and to another attempt at writing the next great American novel.

The exercise: can I focus on the beauty of the moment and not obsess about what's coming?

(New today: a personal review of Nike Slingshot irons)

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Podcast Page is Open!

Just up and ready! The Podcast page has it's first program posted. For the moment, you can only listen in real-time from this blog (it's only 13 minutes) but you'll soon be able to subscribe on I-Tunes, and then new programs will magically show up on your I-Pod as they issue.

Please listen, enjoy, and leave a comment.

(And... as a bonus... Friday is the day for a new Fortune Cookie)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

What's Important??

Yesterday, I sent out an email to all my contacts to announce this blog, and I got back a number of complimentary messages and heard from some old friends.

But I also got a shocker. One note was from a high school friend who I had just seen five weeks ago at a class reunion. (I won't tell you the number, but it is a Big one. Through the years, I hadn't done a good job of keeping contact, and we'd only begun to reconnect in the last few years by email. His wife was also a classmate, and our friendship extends all the way back to her second birthday party. We enjoyed looking at pictures of that long-ago party at the reunion.

My friends had been helpful to me in providing feedback and editorial advice on a golf novel I'd written, and we had been talking about getting together for some golf, as both of them play and live on a Hilton Head course. At the reunion I saw again what fine people they both are, and we renewed our vows to get together.

But that isn't going to happen. Two weeks after the reunion, upon going to the ER for persistent back pain, she was found to have cancer in her spine that had metastasized throughout her body. Nothing to do but medicate her for pain, keep her comfortable, and surround her with family.

What's this have to do with GolfingZen? Everything! Eastern Spiritualism teaches that we don't own anything, that nothing is permanent, that everything changes.

The lesson: if there is someone out there that you care about... that you'd like to share a round with... don't wait. Fill your today with people you resonate with, because that particular tomorrow may never come.

Good night, Sal.

A New Review

Check our "Reviews" page for a new golf instruction book by Pia Nillson and Lynn Marriott, Every Shot Must Have a Purpose. It's right up our alley... pure mental game.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Laser Range Finders - Now Legal

The USGA has just granted "legal" status to laser yardage indicators.

My question... is this good or bad?

Their reasoning is hard to question... they're are nothing more than electronic yardage books and they will speed up play. As someone who has to tromp around more than a little to find sprinkler heads on my home course, I can't disagree with that. And, have you played yet at a resort course that has GPS systems mounted in the golf cart? The newest versions not only give yardage to the pin, they give it to hazards and even to the carts for the slow foursome in front of you.

So... what could be bad about better information and faster play?

Well, I think it's a bit of a paradox. I go back to the time when shrubs were first planted along the rough to mark yardage in 50-yard increments, and there was more than a little controversy over them. Before that, you just had to eye-ball it: sight down the fairway to where you thought you could carry your wedge, and then count off 10-yard increments from there. A much more demanding game, certainly.

But, those yardage bushes worked fine, in their way. As you walked past the last bush before your ball, you counted your steps and that gave you a perfectly good yardage estimate... instantly! Maybe you can control your distances within a few yards, but I can't and most other amateurs can't either, so the pace-off approximation was just fine.

I see this as just another case of technology encroachment. In White Sulpher Springs, West Virginia, there is a 9-hole course, Oakhurst Links, that claims to be a faithful restoration of the first course laid out in this country. It's set on only 40 acres, you play with hickory shafts and gutta-percha balls, carrying your four clubs under your arm, and your maximum drive is 160 yard (after you learn to wait for the whippy shaft to flex). One special local rule: if your ball lands in sheep-dung, you get to clean and place.

Anyone who plays Oakhurst learns a sad lesson: all this new technology has cost us plenty in money, acreage, and playing time, without making the old original game one bit more fun or more challenging.

We need to be careful about our rush to the future.

Round One: Hole #1

Welcome to our new golf blog, dedicated to the mental side of the game. (Isn't all of it mental?)

Actually, this is the home page for a small network of related blogs. You'll find running commentary here and links to our related pages: essays and reviews. Check them out and return here to leave comments in our Guest Book.

Thanks for your interest... may the Golf God be kind to you.