Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Zen of rolling putts (continued)

I got off on a tangent last week and never got to the part about rolling putts. So, you find a nice practice green somewhere, preferably during the off hours so it’s quiet, maybe you are alone. In the early morning, the air is cool. Sometimes there is dew on the short grass. Where I go the birds are a prominent feature, and oak trees, it’s very pretty, and peaceful. You drop a few golf balls on the ground (about twelve to twenty feet away from a hole) you line up over the ball, try to find that balance place, eye the line you want the ball to follow, and give the ball a little whack. It’s a very Zen thing. You do some thinking, some mental calculations, and you have practiced your little putting stroke, but when it comes to actually striking the ball, it’s all about letting the body do it’s thing with out any interference from your mind. It may be mathematically possible to calculate velocity and trajectory, and the path of the ball, and the exact speed the face of the putter has to be moving, but I have no capacity for that kind of calculus. So I let it all happen on a level of intuitive movement. My body has an ability that my mind will only mess up. If, as on occasion happens, the bal comes off the putter face and rolls it’s way to the left a little, and back to the right a little and plops gently into the cup with a wonderful little rattle sound, it isn’t because I figured out that calculus. It’s because my body felt it’s way through the put. The practice of letting my body do this is what I am actually involved in. The pretext of making a put, or practicing a game is just that. The reason I am there, and so intrigued, and rewarded, by the experience is because it brings me closer to that Zen condition. The more balanced I am, the easier my breath is, the cleaner my head is of thoughts about an outcome, the better able my body is to do it’s magic. For me, being able, at some rudimentary level, to feel that magic is what the putting is all about. And why I am so in love with it. I know I am not alone in this. So when you see some lone golfer walking in a fairway, consider, there may be more there than just a silly game of chasing little white ball around the golf course. Maybe.

By the way, Tom Watson, who is currently leading the British Open, the game Tiger Woods (my favorite golfer) did not even make the final cut for, is two months away from sixty years old. Tom Watson is a Kansas City resident, and was very much involved in the Blue Ridge Golf Academy, Which is where I occasionally practice my putts on the way to work. It’s a wonderful facility, notable for it’s accessibility, affordability, and community involvement, especially teaching kids to play. They have a very nice four hole practice course you can play unlimited rounds for two dollars, as long as you are with a kid under the age of 16. Very cool. So, As deflated as I was to see Tiger miss the cut, It’s pretty awesome to see Tom Watson out there by the sea showing the best golfers in the world how to get around the links course.

1 comment:

John Hayes said...

The type of flow you're talking about I know from music--I love how the hands simply take over when I'm playing & much of the time are beyond conscious thought. I was never good enough at any sport to really experience that in an athletic sense--maybe a few isolated times. I do believe it's an important experience.