Meditation? For Golf?

Is There a Place in the Golf Process for Meditation?

My impressions of the golf world as it has appeared to me over the past half century are just that – impressions. I don’t know anything, but here goes anyway. Among these impressions is the sight of some golfers who flail away at multiple buckets of balls. They seem to believe that if they throw enough muscle at it, look scary enough, and practice until the stars come out, they will triumph over this defiant game. I have seen others who practice and play as though they possess an incorrect perception of their own power, and could not envision themselves experiencing a dynamism their body is perfectly willing to provide. When I saw the promotion of a meditation period as helpful to one’s golf game, I thought of these two groups. Could it give these aggressive types the efficiency and calm they need, so that they can stop tearing the hides off golf balls? Could it help to establish a core strength and decisiveness in timid swingers they didn’t know were there all along?

Before we answer, I suppose we should think about what meditation is. A lot of mysticism has gotten tangled up in it. I’m not thinking of a religious state where one communes with the saints of east or west. I doubt they know much about golf anyway, and are busy with other things. I’m also not talking about something that puts you in a nether world, lost in a fog where concentration is impossible – a place where we’re so relaxed that none of us are good for anything in the active physical world. If meditation in terms of golf means a supportive process to help one concentrate and shed unnecessary anxieties and movements? Well, ok, I’m listening.

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I have dealt with this question in other fine motor skill activities that require concentration and physical finesse. Studies in the martial arts, despite their forthright physicality, helped to increase my occasionally erratic attention span three or fourfold.  I was never going to be a karate champion, but after a couple of years, I could hang in with a project for hours more than ever before. It is a present, active, even brutal form of meditative focus.

The study of classical music did the same thing. Built on mathematical equations, but intended to simultaneously sound good, the memorizing and performing of works such as Bach fugues or Beethoven sonatas fostered calm, focus and strength at the same time. The point? Meditation “isn’t” anything. It “is” whatever you need it to be, no more, no less.

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At the root of it, my idea of a meditative process is for use as a calming process to allow for clear thinking and an efficient practice procedure. It is not for some form of dogma, or designed to turn you into a wimp, a hermit in a cave, or render you unable to yell your brains out at a football game. It just helps to cut down the inner noise so you can think. When I turned my own experiences toward golf – finally – I hit half the golf balls, and got twice the reward from it.  I putted on the practice green without the anxiety of break and distance ruining it all before I even hit the ball. It cut down a habit of self-sabotage that many of us, knowingly or unknowingly, have toward our own game. It allowed confidence to establish itself by initiating a track record of improved results.

Slamming viciously at balls on the driving range looks an awful lot like a form of rage.  Constraining one’s self to timidity looks an awful lot like  a form of surrender. I shudder to think it, but in many cases , could these ways of being mirror other parts of  lives?

So, let’s decide for ourselves – no robes, chants, or special handshakes. We’ll just get quiet, let our innards relax a bit, go in there and see what we really think before we tee it up again.

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