Friday, July 17, 2009

The Zen of rolling putts

If you are like I was for the first 43 years of my life, and haven’t given the game of golf much, or any, consideration, allow me, if you would, a few moments to pitch an aspect of the game you may not have considered. For me, golf, which I had no experience with at all, except for it’s annoying presence on the TV, was something about as intriguing as Sunday morning televangelism programs. This changed one day when, on account of a closed baseball batting cage, and a bad need to hit something hard, I tried a driving range, a bucket of golf balls, and a borrowed driver. I was, at that time, using the baseball batting cage (not being a baseball player) as a therapy session. Sporting much internal rage, I found it a wonderful release to picture the balls coming out of the pitching machine as various lies or slights or put downs coming out of people’s mouths, or out of my own self messaging system, and then smacking them back and out of my life. For the few dollars I paid for this, I am certain it was far more productive and healing than any ninety dollar session I ever spent with a counselor or therapist. Those times I spent in the cage were life saving and a real blessing when I needed it. I was, on more than one occasion there, brought to tears by the experience and the catharsis. The golf driving range worked the same magic. It wasn’t till much later, when I had a friend over who was playing a little golf, that I considered the concept of actually trying to play the game. My wife, hearing us talk, noted the conversation, and on father’s day, I found my self the owner of a set of used clubs. That began my beginning golfer ship and one of the wonderful mid life additions to my life. Being somewhat prone to obsession I dove head first into this new interest. Being somewhat limited in the area of descressionary cash, I did a lot of putting on the basement carpet, chipping in the front yard, and at the park, and driving foam balls off a home made mat and plastic tee. I found the cheapest places to play and a facility with a free practice green and chipping area. I read a lot. I experienced golf organically, not as something taught to me, and so my relationship to the game is unique to my disposition and spiritual sensibilities. I experience the time I am playing golf as a sort of natural worship event, (being in beautiful quiet setting) a time of solitude, (playing most of the time alone) and a time of meditation, (learning to breath and move in balance). Golf is a tremendous teacher of the discipline of letting go of expectations and perfectionism. Except for my journal writing, golf has provided the most profound sense of being accompanied and supernaturally mentored. Think I am taking this too far? Perhaps. But consider that M. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled, and Deepak Chopra, one of the worlds best selling spiritual authors, have both written books about golf and the spirit. My grandfather, on my paternal side, was a golfer. His playing was not a happy occasion for my father and so we had no golf in our life growing up. I never knew my grandfather, except for some stories, most negatively portrayed, and the one I always told about how he died on the golf course. He, reportedly, always said he wanted to die playing golf, and did just that. I have thought about him a lot as I have been playing. How bad a guy could he have been if he loved this game? And do certain attributes get passed on (like a predisposition to love a certain game) via spiritual genetics? Traits passed over by a generation or two, only to resurface unexpectedly, like a red head, or a quirk for speaking in a certain rhythm? I don’t know. I just know what it feels like to fall deeply in love with a game I had never considered.


John Hayes said...

I've never tried golf. I did play baseball as an adult (softball, too, but when one is physically up to it, baseball is a far better game), & I found real zen moments playing outfield; but yes, there's something about hitting that can really slow time down when you're doing well (which, sadly, I wasn't a good part of the time--baseball is also a very humbling game!)

Interesting post.

Linda Pendleton said...

There have been times when I have thought that some things, even likes or dislikes, do have a genetic component and nothing to do with an environmental influence. Maybe golf was always in your DNA and you just did not know it and then again, maybe you had some nudges from your grandfather as he may have wanted to share something with his grandson.