‘Bring Me the Head of Sergio Garcia’ Tom Cox – review of perfect book with perfect title

tomcox

“Here. Listen to this bit ….. After he was disqualified for playing the wrong ball he drove off thinking of the only consolation he had. The only hole he had played properly. Listen – “I smiled to myself: the first hole was supposed to be the hardest, and at least I could give myself a pat on the back for completing that. As if on cue, my clubs fell off the back of the buggy.’”. I stood there waiting for my partner to laugh or cry – she did neither. She didn’t really get golf.

“So what about his cat? “, she added. “This was before the cat… well he peed on his bag…. but it doesn’t matter. Oh forget it.” She really didn’t get golf.

Bring me the Head of Sergio Garcia’ is an amazing book. It’s the perfect blend of stupidity, humour, pathos, stubbornness and golf. It is the first novelish / biographyish book about golf that really works. I had, unfortunately, been given one of Dan Jenkins’ appalling tomes a few months ago and it had almost ruined my taste for any golf books.  I’m so glad I bought Tom Cox’s book. It restored my faith in writing about golf and made me incredibly jealous at the same time. He writes so effortlessly and apparently casually that you know it has taken a long time and a great deal of care. It’s pitched (pun intended) perfectly for all of us middle aged, used to be good at something once, sportsmen / writers who want to believe ‘they could have been contenders. It’s hilarious. Buy it. Now.

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Learn Welsh With Byron – Lesson 1

bale

Lesson 1 – How to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in Welsh

It’s quite straightforward.

Just follow the table below (kindly provided by clwb malu cachu ( www.clwbmalucachu.co.uk ) ) – assuming of course you know whether you want to speak in existential present, past or future, imperfect, imperfect preterite, or inflected preterite or, of course, inflected future.

We’re simple folk.

Next time – How to swear in Welsh.

Interrogative Yes No
Existential present
is/are there? oes? oes nac oes
Existential imperfect (past)
was/were there? oedd? oedd nac oedd
Existential future
will there be? fydd? bydd na fydd
Present
am i? ydw i? wyt/ydych nac wyt/ydych
are you? (wyt) ti? ydw nac ydw
is he? ydy/yw e? ydy nac ydy/yw
is she? ydy/yw hi? ydy nac ydy/yw
are we? ydan ni?/(yd)yn ni? ydych/ydyn nac ydych/ydyn
are you? (y)dach chi?/
(yd)ych chi?
ydw/ydyn nac ydw/ydyn
are they? ydyn nhw? ydyn nac ydyn
Imperfect (written)
was i? oeddwn i? oeddet/ oeddech nac oeddet/ oeddech
were you? oeddet ti? oeddwn nac oeddwn
was he? oedd e? oedd nac oedd
was she? oedd hi? oedd nac oedd
were we? oedden ni? oedden nac oedden
were you? oeddech chi? oeddwn/oedden nac oeddwn/oedden
were they? oedden nhw? oedden nac oedden
Imperfect (spoken)
was i? o’n i? o’t/o’ch nac o’t/o’ch
were you? o’t ti? o’n nac o’n
was he? oedd e? oedd nac oedd
was she? oedd hi? oedd nac oedd
were we? o’n ni? o’n nac o’n
were you? o’ch chi? o’n nac o’n
were they? o’n nhw? o’n nac o’n
Future
will I (be)? fydda i? byddi/byddwch na fyddi/ fyddwch
will you (be)? fyddi di? bydda(f) na fydda(f)
will he (be)? fydd e? bydd na fydd
will she (be)? fydd hi? bydd na fydd
will we (be)? fyddwn ni? byddwn na fyddwn
will you (be)? fyddwch chi? bydda(f)/byddwn na fydda(f)/fyddwn
will they (be)? fyddan nhw? byddan na fyddan
Inflected preterite (simple past)
did i…? -es/-ais i? do naddo
did you…? -est ti? do naddo
did he…? -odd e? do naddo
did she…? -odd hi? do naddo
did we…? -on ni? do naddo
did you…? -och chi? do naddo
did they…? -on nhw? do naddo
Preterite of ‘bod’
have I been (to)? fues/fu^m* i? do naddo
have you been (to)? fuest ti? do naddo
has he been (to)? fu(odd) e? do naddo
has she been (to)? fu(odd) hi? do naddo
have we been (to)? fuon/fuom* ni? do naddo
have you been (to)? fuoch chi? do naddo
have they been (to)? fuon nhw?/fuont hwy* do naddo
*more formal
Inflected future
will I? -a i? do naddo
will you? -i di? do naddo
will he? -ith e/o? do naddo
will she? -ith hi? do naddo
will we? -wn ni? do naddo
will you? -wch chi? do naddo
will they? -an nhw? do naddo
Galla – can
can I? alla i? gelli/galli/gallwch na elli/alli/allwch
can you? alli/elli* di? galla na alla
can he? all e? gall na all
can she? all hi? gall na all
can we? allwn ni? gallwn na allwn
can you? allwch/ellwch chi? galla/gallwn na alla/allwn
can they? allan nhw? gallan na allan
*elli di is more common
Medra (north) – can
can I? fedra i? medri/medrwch na fedri/fedrwch
can you? fedri di? medra na fedra
can he? fedr* fo? medr na fedr
can she? fedr hi? medr na fedr
can we? fedrwn ni? medrwn na fedrwn
can you? fedrwch chi? medra/medrwn na fedra/fedrwn
can they? fedran nhw? medran na fedran
*often pronounced ‘fedar’
Gallwn – could
could I? allwn i? gallet/gallech na allet/allech
could you? allet ti? gallwn na allwn
could he? allai fe? gallai na allai
could she? allai hi? gallai na allai
could we? allen ni? gallen na allen
could you? allech chi? gallwn/gallen na allwn/allen
could they? allen nhw? gallen na allen
Medrwn – could
could I? fedrwn i? medret/ medrech na fedret/fedrech
could you? fedret ti? medrwn na fedrwn
could he? fedrai fo? medrai na fedrai
could she? fedrai hi? medrai na fedrai
could we? fedren ni? medren na fedren
could you? fedrech chi? medrwn/ medren na fedrwn/fedren
could they? fedren nhw? medren na fedren
Byddwn – would
would I? fyddwn i? byddet/byddech na fyddet/fyddech
would you? fyddet ti? byddwn na fyddwn
would he? fyddai fe? byddai na fyddai
would she? fyddai hi? byddai na fyddai
would we? fydden ni? bydden na fydden
would you? fyddech chi? byddwn/bydden na fyddwn/fydden
would they? fydden nhw? bydden na fydden
Baswn – would
would I? (fa)swn i? (ba)set/(ba)sech na (fa)set/(fa)sech
would you? (fa)set ti? (ba)swn na (fa)swn
would he? (fa)sai fo? (ba)sai na (fa)sai
would she? (fa)sai hi? (ba)sai na (fa)sai
would we? (fa)sen ni? (ba)sen na (fa)sen
would you? (fa)sech chi? (ba)swn/(ba)sen na (fa)swn/(fa)sen
would they? (fa)sen nhw? (ba)sen na (fa)sen
Dylwn – ought to/should
ought/should I? ddylwn i? dylet/dylech na ddylet/ddylech
ought/should you? ddylet ti? dylwn na ddylwn
ought/should he? ddylai fe/fo? dylai na ddylai
ought/should she? ddylai hi? dylai na ddylai
ought/should we? ddylen ni? dylen na ddylen
ought/should you? ddylech chi? dylwn/dylen na ddylwn/ddylen
ought/should they? ddylen nhw? dylen na ddylen
Dylswn – ought to/should
ought/should I? ddylswn i? dylset/dylsech na ddylset/ddylsech
ought/should you? ddylset ti? dylswn na ddylswn
ought/should he? ddylsai fe/fo? dylsai na ddylsai
ought/should she? ddylsai hi? dylsai na ddylsai
ought/should we? ddylsen ni? dylsen na ddylsen
ought/should you? ddylsech chi? dylswn/dylsen na ddylswn/dylsen
ought/should they? ddylsen nhw? dylsen na ddylsen
Hoffwn – would like
would I like? hoffwn i? hoffet/hoffech na hoffet/hoffech
would you like? hoffet ti? hoffwn na hoffwn
would he like? hoffai fe? hoffai na hoffai
would she like? hoffai hi? hoffai na hoffai
would we like? hoffen ni? hoffen na hoffen
would you like? hoffech chi? hoffwn/hoffen na hoffwn/hoffen
would they like? hoffen nhw? hoffen na hoffen
Leiciwn – would like
would I like? leiciwn i? leiciet/leiciech na leiciet/leiciech
would you like? leiciet ti? leiciwn na leiciwn
would he like? leiciai fe? leiciai na leiciai
would she like? leiciai he? leiciai na leiciai
would we like? leicien ni? leicien na leicien
would you like? leiciech chi? leiciwn/leicien na leiciwn/leicien
would they like? leicien nhw? leicien na leicien

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“My name is Byron and I am a golfer.”

itreallyworks

 

 

I believe this - “When you play a golf ball that is properly fit for your game, your shot execution will improve and you will shoot lower scores.”

and will buy this – 

“Even Softer Feel, More Distance and Longer Lasting. Tour-proven around the globe, the Titleist Pro V1® golf ball is engineered to deliver exceptional distance, consistent flight, very soft feel, Drop-and-Stopgreenside control and longer lasting durability. The multi-component construction of the Pro V1® golf ball utilises a softer compression ZG process core technology, features a responsive ionomeric casing layer, and an improved high-performance Urethane Elastomer cover system with a 352 tetrahedral dimple design.”

titlist

I believe this -

“When you slip on this specially structured compression shirt you will feel a sensation of “connection” which is exactly what the best ball-strikers feel as they are swinging.”

and am willing to look to like this

golfswingshirt-300x336

I believe there are things out there that things can help my putting accuracy, muscle memory, driving distance and decrease my scoring average by 10 shots in a week. For example -

the X is a very clever helper. A mini-computer that clamps to your driver (a putter version is being developed), it takes a million measurements per second to track the crucial speed of the swing right up to when club head meets ball. Slowing down the swing before impact is said to be a major problem for players of all levels. So, using the X, it’s possible to self-correct and gain those crucial extra yards.

and I am willing to buy things like this -

 

golfaid

 

I read about things like this-

“a kinaesthetic golf training aid which can be used at home or at the golf course. It develops your muscle memory of the optimum golf swing, helping you feel what it’s like to hit the perfect shot.”

 

and will buy things like this this-

 

golfaid4

Why? It’s no different from anything else – stopping smoking, writing that novel. We want a magic way to move from a hacker to a single figure handicap without  all the time, effort and application. 

It’s pathetic really – as if the clothing wasn’t bad enough. There is some hope however -

I read this -

“It’s a true innovation in getting the most out of each trip to the restroom.? Get one for the office and one for home.? Finally, you can play some golf without all those bothersome people? ”

But  didn’t buy this -

bathroom_golf

 

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Poker Players say the funniest things

GodsPlayPoker

“In a game of poker, I can put players’ souls in my pocket.” – Beausourire

“Poker reveals to the frank observer something else of import—it will teach him about his own nature. Many bad players do not improve because they cannot bear self-knowledge.” – David Mamet

“In the absence of any mathematical explanation, one thing is for certain; if you engage in games of chance long enough, the experience is bound to affect the way you see God. Successfully draw to an inside straight three hands in a row, and you’ve got to be blessed. But if you’re the person drawn out on, the one whose trip aces just got snapped for the third time, you will go home feeling cursed. ” – Andy Bellin

“Poker’s a day to learn and a lifetime to master.” – Robert Williamson III

 “Poker is a microcosm of all we admire and disdain about capitalism and democracy. It can be rough-hewn or polished, warm or cold, charitable and caring, or hard and impersonal, fickle and elusive, but ultimately it is fair, and right, and just.” – Lou Kreiger

 “In life’s poker game, the optimist sees the pessimist’s night and raises him the sunrise.” – Robert Brault

“Cards are war, in disguise of a sport.” – Charles Lamb

“No matter how much you may want to think of Holdém as a card game played by people, in many respects it is even more valid to think of it as a game about people that happens to be played with cards.” – Phil Hellmuth

“I believe in poker the way I believe in the American Dream. Poker is good for you. It enriches the soul, sharpens the intellect, heals the spirit, and – when played well, nourishes the wallet.” – Lou Kreiger

 

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Golfers say the funniest things

pretentiousgolf

 

“In no other sport does the nature of the contest allow the players to be so free of jealousy and enmity, so willing to help and support each other and be so sincere in their acceptance of each other’s success.– Jack Nicklaus

“Golf is a game, not a sport” – Larry Ramirez

“To find a man’s true character, play golf with him.”- PG Wodehouse

“Golf has made me and shaped me into the person I am here today.” – Tiger Woods

“Golf is a spiritual game. It’s like Zen. You have to let your mind take over.” - Amy Alcott

“The main idea in golf as in life, I suppose is to learn to accept what cannot be altered and to keep on doing one’s own reasoned and resolute best whether the prospect be bleak or rosy.” – Bobby Jones

“Eighteen holes of match or medal play will teach you more about your foe than will 18 years of dealing with him across a desk” – Grantland Rice

“Yes, I did talk to my players, but my vice captains were very instrumental in making decisions.” – Tom Watson

“What other people find in poetry or art museums l, I find in the flight of a good drive.” – Arnold Palmer

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“What would Tom do?”

Kicking Racism Out of golf ( eventually)

Kicking Racism Out of golf (eventually)

Waiting on the 2nd tee the discussion invariably was of the Open. In essence the argument was on who’s camp you were in. It was not Tiger v Phil Mickelson, but rather Phil Mickelson v Tom Watson. It was agreed (by some) that Tom Watson was ‘a real gentleman’ whereas Phil Mickleson was a bit arrogant, cocky and fundamentally too ‘smiley’.
“He doesn’t look like he suffers enough” said someone.

It became a theme of the round after that “What would Tom do?”. It seemed to have a profound effect as in the round we let a junior 2 ball though and waited for a green to clear before we drove off. Ah, the power of Tom.

This prompted me to do a little research on Tom. I had read that he had done at least one good thing in Kansas City so I looked for more tales. For people who don’t know Tom Watson had resigned from the ‘ultra-restrictive’ Kansas City Country Club to protest the club’s blackballing of Jewish tax-preparation tycoon Henry Bloch. Although Watson is not Jewish, his wife, Linda, and their two children are. Watson was quoted as saying that his conscience had forced him to resign “out of respect for my family—my wife, my children and myself.”

Well done Tom.

Then I read that Tom had been a member of this Country Club that had secret membership that seemed to be discriminatory for many, many years. So, why did Tom wait until a Jewish millionaire friend was rejected before he spoke out?

I looked for more Country Clubs Tom had resigned from or criticised because of perceived racist or religious discrimination. I was disappointed.  I read that earlier Tom had said that people should “chill out” and that private clubs had the right to choose their members.

I found other reports of Tom and controversy though. Apparently at the 1993 Ryder Cup pre-match dinner Sam Torrance picked up a programme and in a gesture of camaraderie walked over to ask Tom Watson for his autograph. Tom refused. He said that he didn’t want his players bothered by autograph hunters.

This seems as childish as the report of the 1969 Ryder Cup captain Eric Brown telling his players not to look for American balls in the rough.

He doesn’t seem to be popular with everyone; Los Angeles Times columnist Larry Stewart called Watson a “backstabber,” while Jonathan Rand of the hometown Kansas City Star settled for “stuffed shirt.”

Watson criticised Bill Murray for inappropriate antics in a charity Pro-Am.

He managed to get Gary McCord the sack for on-air quips by sending a handwritten demand to CBS director and producer Frank Chirkinian to “get rid of him, now.”

In a positive article John Garrity describes him;  “Watson always seeks the middle ground. He likes Rush Limbaugh……….”

Tom said of Tiger Woods, “I feel that he has not carried the same stature as other great players like Jack Nickolas, Arnold Palmer, Byron Nelson or the Hogans, in the sense that there was language and club throwing on the golf course. You can grant that of a young person that has not been out here for awhile. But I think he needs to clean up his act and show the respect for the game that other people before him have shown.”

Tom Watson is a real old-fashioned, 18th century gentleman. He is a man from a different age. A man with real Victorian values. It’s no wonder he’s so popular with so many golf club members around the world – including Bargoed.

Mr Happy – not if he came to Bargoed

Phil Mickelson on the other hand is young and wore a bleeper during the 1999 U.S. Open when his wife Amy was expecting the couple’s first child (“Wouldn’t be allowed in Bargoed”)

In an article on Mickelson ArtSpander says “It bothers some that Mickelson plays without a scowl, waving at the fans who yell his name, eating up the approval…..Phil is outwardly gracious when asked about Tiger’s success, affirming him as the world No. 1. He’s agreed that, in the previous five months, with Woods not around, golf was poorer in his absence.

His personality is pretty well summed up in ‘Shanghai’s Oriental Morning Post ‘:
“Without a doubt Mickelson is the most approachable star at Sheshan. When he hits a good shot he rewards fans’ applause by smiling or tipping his cap. When he goes through the crowd, if you put out your hand he’ll even give a ‘high-five.’ (“Wouldn’t happen in Bargoed”)

* first published 17/7/2010

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“Why don’t you relax and take up golf?”

angry

“Moderate exercise, such as playing a round of golf, may help protect people against future anxiety and stress.”  – a study by the University of Maryland

“Relax and have a game of golf,” people say. They could just as well say “I hear that your uncle’s been eaten by a tiger. Why don’t you take your mind off it and take a trip to the zoo?”

There should only be tips about reducing your stress whilst playing golf, not assuming that the very act of playing golf will somehow automatically reduce your stress. It is nonsense. Luckily, I’ve carried out a little research and have examined the top tips for reducing stress and tried to apply them to golf;

Tip 1. A good way to reduce your stress levels is to set yourself realistic targets

Sounds like a good idea. In principle I would be delighted to shoot a few shots under my handicap each time I play. However, when I’m playing the stroke index 3 par 5 and I’ve hit a glorious drive leaving me 200 yards from the green it would take the combined strength of Samson, Hercules and She-Ra to get the 3 wood out of my hand and make me hit me a mid-iron. The overwhelming majority of golfers play golf because of those rare, rare moments when they hit a shot as good as a Rory McIlroy or a Bradley Dredge. Most of us know that a 7 iron, wedge and 2 putts will give us lots of stableford points but that really isn’t the game is it? There are those amongst us that calculate the chances of success at each shot and play the percentages. These people often win tournaments and are ‘good clubmen’ (they will be men). However, they are solid, sad, unloved, boring. Their only aspiration in life is to be in the top 10 % best handicap secretaries in the South Wales region (South East valleys area).

Tip 2. When you have completed a task take a few minutes to pause and reflect before you start a new one.

It seems that many golfers are already doing this judging by the amount of time it takes 4 people to walk 10 yards to a tee and hit a ball in the general direction of the next green.

Tip 3. Address problems as they occur. Don’t let them build up.

Let your stress out as you go along – If you miss a putt … let it out. If you top a tee shot… let it out. Don’t save it all up and go home and kick the cat. Sometimes you can take this too far; I once saw someone on the 7th par 3 at Dewstow. He was having a bad, bad day after a number of bad, bad weeks and after topping 3 titleists into the pond he followed this us by sending his bag and golf clubs after them. He stormed across the course toward the clubhouse. He had only stormed about 100 yards before he turned back and walked sheepishly back to the pond. He walked right past us and into the water. He waded towards his bag where he pulled out his golf bag. he unzipped the pocket and brought out his car keys.

This aspect of letting go of  your emotions doesn’t seem to be too much of a problem for golfers at Bargoed Golf Club. I know what the groups 3 holes in front of me are doing every shot of their round.

Tip 4: Stay in the ‘here and now’

OK this sounds very another lot of pschological twaddle but I really like it. If I were calling myself a consultant psychological sports guru and charged you £2,000 per day you’d listen to me if I told you this. It really means hit one shot at a time. Often we’re hitting a shot and worrying about the putt, or the next tee shot, or the winners speech. When I was very new at the game a pal of mine who was also new, and quite a good player was always wide on par 3s. He eventually told me that he was worried about getting a hole in one and having to buy everyone a drink as he was invariably skint. So – hit the ball. Find it. Hit the ball. Find it…..

Tip 5: Avoid all drugs including tobacco and alcohol

Oh please….

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The picture non-golfers have of golfers

old_time_golf

The picture most non-golfers have of golf is odd.

They believe that golf is a Victorian game of etiquette, politeness, civility and manners;
“After you.”
“No after you. Please. You go if you’re ready.”
“Well only if you’re sure.”
“Oh I insist.”
“Charmed I’m sure.”

They believe that golfers are the most polite people in the world. They are incredibly patient and especially helpful to newcomers. Golfers will  spend an entire round standing behind a new 28 (with a star) handicapper watching closely to determine which side of the fairway to begin the search. We’ll do this without a thought of resentment.

They believe that golf is an unusual game where winning isn’t everything. It’s a game where ,they have read, someone gave up the prize of a new car in order to retain their amateur status. They believe all golfers would do this. It’s a game where players call fouls on themselves. It’s the only game where you form a queue, wait your turn and smile.

This is not entirely true 100% of the time.

Some golfers are human. Some cheat – yes you heard it here first. Some golfers lie, complain, moan, grumble, curse and fight. They have their own agendas and will look to get away with things if they can.

I feel guilty now. I feel like the child in school who told you there was no father Christmas and your parents were, basically, lying to you. I’m sorry.

 Golf is a game. Like all games it’s a test of character and there will be times when you will be tested. I know that but please.. some sort of reality check. If golf is played by such a wonderful divine bunch of angels why are there so many rules?

I do love the game but can’t really buy in to this sacramental vision of it though, as you may have gathered. People who play golf are frequently humans and as such are a bit like us – they have that fatal flaw – they are human. Golf has far fewer problems than many other sports – this is true. The amount of cheating and bad behaviour that goes on in golf is infinitely less than most other sports.

I have played with people who cheat – and heard about golfers who cheat. So, why are there less cheats at golf than at football?

I don’t believe it’s because it’s generally played by people with more money.
I don’t feel it’s because it is still an elitist sport in many places.
I think it makes a difference that it is a game that can be by people of all ages and abilities.
I also think that the way people are introduced to the game helps a great deal;
The game of football tends to be picked up as a child as you grow up playing against peers. The values are the values of your group – in most cases groups define their own rules, their own standards. As a child playing football it was acceptable, even expected, to shout and argue for throw ins, free kicks etc.. It’s what you do. In our version of football tough tackling was the norm and sending off’s were non existent.
In golf people tend to be taught one at a time. They are indoctrinated into the game through the mores and values of the group. Generally a group of established golfers who were inevitably introduced individually by a group of similar individuals. The values are handed down and generally these standards involve no cheating. Added to this the stigma of being caught cheating can be incredibly devastating. But hey let’s not be silly about it, Jack;

“In no other sport does the nature of the contest allow the players to be so free of jealousy and enmity, so willing to help and support each other and be so sincere in their acceptance of each other’s success.” – Golf and Life – Jack Nicklaus

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Golf Philosophy : Lesson 1. Looking Good or Getting the Job Done ?

lookingnotgood

Lesson 1. Looking Good or Getting the Job Done ?

There’s a concept I’ve recently come across in the training room that helps to explain a fair amount of my inability to break 80 with any regularity (I’m currently playing off 18). I learnt this pearl of wisdom attending on a training course run by a psychologist. He was talking to us (a group of trainers, consultants, personnel folk) about management, and more specifically the relationship managers have with staff, customers, etc… In his words (and Freud’s) “It’s all about relationships”. He discussed how the quality of the relationship you have with a client is a measure of the effectiveness with which you do business with them. Which is interesting enough. The particularly relevant aspect to this for me (and my consistency in golf – remember the golf) was the question he asked us about our relationship with our clients;

“What are you committed to? Are you committed to looking good or are you committed to getting the job done?” For me this translates as “Why do I choose a pitching wedge from 3 feet off the green rather than use a putter?” I know a putter will get me closer on 8 out of 10 occasions yet somehow it doesn’t feel right. I feel that I should use a wedge. There’s a pressure on me, a macho, male thing about having to copy the professionals. I can see it in the faces of all my playing partners – they all feel the same. They’d rather lose a hole going for that ‘tiny gap between the trees and fading it around the corner’ shot than adopt the sensible ‘just chip it back on the fairway’ route. Now I know (I’ve come to terms with this at least) that I’m never going to win the Open. I also know that I get a great deal of pleasure by shooting a low score and lowering my handicap. Yet I still can’t quite get that putter out. It’s the same on some tees. I’ll automatically reach for a driver when all the logic in my head is screaming “3 iron! 3 iron!”.

So having attending the training course next time I’m on the edge of a par 5 in 2 I’m going to reach for a putter, lag it up and tap in for a birdie……. well, maybe as long as none of my regular playing partners are watching.

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Filed under Golf Writing - disparate

Golf, Luck, Karma, Dancing and Thinking

183You make your way through the heather and mistletoe onto the 18th tee. It’s an enchanting, but daunting par three. You ease your way through the rowan bushes, hazel and willow trees to get a panoramic view of the whole arcane course from this elevated promontory. You smell the rosemary and cinnamon as the sun starts to fade on what has been a perfect autumn afternoon. Below you the horseshoe lake in front of the green glimmers as the setting suns rays play across the surface. The crickets chirp languidly as you shield your eyes to gaze down onto the crisp emerald putting surface and see a circle of your golfing fraternity performing the ‘lining up of the putt’ ceremony.

They alternate, criss-crossing the viridescent dance floor in a succession of ritualistic choreographed patterns handed down from generation to generation. It’s like watching some ancient gavotte or floral dance as they take their turns with their putters, bow to the flag and move slowly, gracefully around the green stepping nimbly over invisible lines. Slowly they reach the climax of the ceremony and you faintly hear a set of orchestrated incantations and hexes; “eyes over the ball”, “eyes over the ball”, “accelerate the clubhead”, “accelerate the clubhead”, “never up, never in”, “never up, never in”.

As the gentle breeze carries the last cry of the congregation into the light of the waiting clubhouse you make a mistake; you start to think.

You’ve had a decent round and you know you really should be enjoying this. Your swing’s been excellent for the seventeen holes so far. You’ve putting solidly all afternoon up to this point. So, why is it then that all you can think about is the passage in ‘The Right Stuff’ where Alan Shephard is waiting for lift off on the Apollo moon mission. He’s not thinking about the excitement, or even the danger of 7.5 million tons of thrust being generated beneath him. All he’s thinking as he lies waiting for lift off is “Please, Dear God, don’t let me mess this up. Please, Dear God, don’t let me mess this up.” (I paraphrase).

You take a deep breath and repeat this mantra to Jesus, Mary, Buddha, Parsvanatha, Tyche, Hectate, Dagda, Ganesh, Confucious, Allah and your Guardian Angel. There are two scenarios playing in your mind. In the first scenario you hit your 6 iron a mile in the air and it drops like a stone eight feet past the flag, bounces once and spins back to crawls slowly down the green inching toward the flag. It seems to be going in but suddenly stops. “Bad luck” you hear. In the second scenario you clear the pond by an inch. It bounces forward onto the green then spins back slowly, slowly into the enticing, alluring, watery hell. “Oh bad luck” you still hear.

But it’s not really bad luck, is it? Many would argue that it’s karma. This would teach that similar actions will lead to similar results; Buddhists would say, “Good actions lead to happy states”; Wiccans would tell you, “The harm you do returns to you threefold”; The Beatles would sing, “The love you make is equal to the love you take”; Confusians would pronounce, “What you do not want done to you, do not do to others.”; and many Christians would chip in (excuse the pun) with “What goes around, comes around”.

One of the few people who would disagree with this assessment would be Richard Dawkins. Richard Dawkins is not a big fan of luck, or God for that matter. He’s the ultimate “You make your own luck in this world“type of guy. Richard, should he be on the eighteenth tee with you would encourage you to spend less time praying to Fudo, Fortuna, Bastet and Saint Andrew, and more time considering the club/ball interaction where the energy of the club is transferred to the ball by the mass of the clubhead + the velocity (speed + direction) of the swing and the ball’s flight through the air in terms of the angle of the shot (taking into account the air pressure as it leaves the club (not forgetting, hopefully, the resultant change in pressure (and temperature)) and travels over land, water and land again before gently dropping on the putting surface).

Now you hear the voices of the modern days gurus, “Stay in the zone”, “Visualise”, “Take one shot at a time”, “Stay in the moment”, “Be of the game not in the game”. Oh no this is getting confusing. Stop. Relax. Breathe. Be positive. Calm. Seek Nirvana.

You breathe. You place the ball on the tee peg and step back. You pick up some grass and throw it into the air, yet have no idea where it comes down. You’re operating on automatic now. You take a few perfect practice swings touch the lucky rabbit’s foot in your pocket and step forward to take the shot.

The next thing you know it’s on the green, three feet from the hole. You have no idea how it got there. Your mind has been a total blank. Tiger Woods could have stepped up to you, taken your club, hit the ball and walked away and you would not have known. In fact you wouldn’t really care. All you can see now is your ball on the green.

After your partners have hit you walk nonchalantly down the path trying to pretend that you do this sort of thing every day. As you step onto the green and repair your pitch mark you notice that the putt’s a little downhill, and instead of three feet it’s grown to six feet. You make a mistake. You start to think.

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Filed under Golf Writing - disparate