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The thing about golf is that it frustrates and enchants me in equal measure.

In some ways it is like an unreliable lover who only turns up every now and then.

Robert Sudha Hamilton, The Golf Book: Green Cathedral Dreams

My optimal golfing performance will not bear too much scrutiny or pressure. No matter the time and effort I invest in getting better at this game my performance and results wax and wane like the moon, only, more often. Perhaps, I have left my run at success too late or, perhaps, I never had it in me to begin with. The irritating thing is that every now and then I put together a succession of good shots and good holes during a competitive round of golf. Yes, occasionally it all feels perfunctory and effortless to make pars and a few birdies.

Another Thing About Golf

I am pretty sure that we were not designed, as human beings, to play golf. Well, I personally was not designed to naturally play golf at a high standard. The statistics around handicap levels of the average golfer are between 16 and 20, with the USPAG putting it at 15. This means that the average golfer shoots around 90 on a par 72 lay out. I know from my own decades of playing club golf that the greater majority of members playing regularly are higher handicappers in B, C, & D grades. The single figure A grader is a fairly rare beast and treated with some respect by his fellow club members out on the links.

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Things About Golf to Understand

The single figure golfer is no ubermensch or superhuman but she or he does have a rare ability to play golf. I know from my own experience of playing competitive rounds with these elite golfers there is a tendency to watch them closely. Yes, and perhaps to judge them a little harshly at the beginning of a round, but this soon fades as the round unfolds. It is natural to want to observe and learn from the best when you can. Is the ability to play exceptional golf over 4 plus hours and maintain a score close to par something physical or mental or a combination of both? I don’t know because I haven’t been able to do it more than a few times myself. I suspect it can be achieved via physical prowess and that the mental side helps when things falter in this regard. There are canny golfers who make do with what little physical skill they can muster and deliver exceptional results via their strategies and course management. Golf is a mental game in particular when things are not going your way. When we are not making putts and not striking the ball well the watcher inside our heads is looking for answers and solutions to the problems. How can I get this ball up and down from this lie? How can I manufacture a par?

Kiss a Good Score Goodbye

Scoring well on the golf course is not all about having a pretty swing. In fact if you focus too intently on swing mechanics and technique whilst playing a competitive round you can kiss a good score goodbye. KISS Keep It Simple Stupid! Keeping the golf ball in play on the fairway will increase your chances of hitting the green in regulation and taking a couple of putts for par. Easier said than done he replied. Some days are better than others for striking the ball in the general direction of where you want it to go. Therefore, we must become adept at scrambling – getting the ball onto the green and close to the hole via a chip, pitch, putt, or bunker explosion shot. This is why the smart golfer practices his or her short game more often than any other part of the game. A solid putt hides a multitude of sins. The thing about golf is that if you want to improve you need to be able to make putts and chip it close. There is no point in having a masterly long game if you cannot get that little white ball into the hole. There is nothing more frustrating in the game of golf than consistently missing makeable putts during a competitive round.

The club championships are about to begin, and we are on the eve of something significant. It will either be a time of surmounting the challenge or a confrontation with my well known failings. A body of work has been established over many months. The repertoire of shots and skills in my kit bag has been substantially enhanced via instruction and practice.

Will the golfer emerge from hibernation or will the demons dance on the grave of unrealised lofty expectations?

Keeping your head whilst others around you are losing theirs is an important part of playing well in tournaments. Putting one foot in front of the other and going about your business on the golf course is essential in the rarefied air of the championship. Will my nascent golfing technique stand up to the pressures of the moment? Will I falter under the gun and return to years of bad habits and poor swings? How will I deal with failures at the time? Can I grind out a score in the face of stroke play adversity and blown out big scores on holes? All these questions and more will be answered over these four hours and forty plus minutes times three.

Drink It In Golf Book Green Cathedral Dreams

Competitive golf is like a pressure cooker, especially in the important calendar events. Disappointments tug at your sleeves trying to drag you down. Little things niggle at you, particularly when compounded by your own shortcomings and mishits. Instinctively we look around for someone to blame, something to offload the responsibility of our failings upon in the heat of battle with the course. For in golf we are duelling with nature in its manicured form of course design. We are attempting to work with the slopes and contours in a bid to achieve our desired outcomes. The lie of the land, the direction of the prevailing breeze, and our own orientation at crucial times. Golf appears to be this placid game, where nothing much happens in the eyes of the uninitiated. Nothing could be further from the truth for the duelling participant involved in what seems like a life and death struggle within the mighty green cathedral. Golf courses are big in comparison to the size of the players who take the field. Nature is all powerful and barely notices our struggles to make par or birdie.

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The thing about golf is that the course always wins in the end. You may shine on the stage for a nanosecond or two and claim a winning score that afternoon, but the wheels of time turn quickly to another day. The sun will shine, and the birds will sing. The trees will be visited by winds and leaves will scatter in a kaleidoscope of directions. The green grass beneath your feet will keep growing up toward the sun. The fabric of nature will not pause to acknowledge your victory or defeat. Life goes on and that is the beauty of it all. Day becomes night and so on. The wisdom within this awareness of the ever turning cycle of life is in the moment. That moment when you are over the ball and about to play your shot. That instance when time seems to slow down and stop. There is the small white ball lying upon the ground and over there is the intended target that flapping flag on yonder green. The intensity of expectation coalesces into that infinitesimal moment prior to pulling the trigger on your swing. These are the crazy spatial timeless moments that matter during your round of golf. The madness of golf at the pointy end of performance. Did Bobby Jones or Ben Hogan have these same kind of thoughts just before they played the most important shots of their golfing life? That’s the thing about golf it has a lineage linking all of us together over the spectrum of the game.

©Robert Hamilton


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