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Monday, 27 August 2012

Golfers are Weapons Apprentices

In the martial arts, weapons training generally begins in earnest after some milestones have been achieved, such as black belt. The logic behind this holds that once some fundamental body motions can be reliably performed they can then be further refined by demonstrating control at the range of the weapon. There is no advantage to rushing this process unless there is a war or famine and everyone is pressed into service out of necessity. Even the poorest hunter can occasionally bag a bird or hit the enemy and help the country or cause. But it’s not much fun to be forced into a pressure situation before you’re ready for it.

Consider the plight of the golfer, that is you and me. Without any significant preparation we are given the weapon, the projectile and the target and are sent out into the fray. It’s all awkward, uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Weird grip, standing astride not even facing the target, the left and right sides doing different things at the same time, new rhythm, timing and balance requirements all combine to set us adrift. It’s a lot more difficult then we think it’s going to be and when it turns out that we’re not so fabulous at the start we can even get into self esteem issues. This is a lot of downside.

It’s helpful to realize that learning golf skills is a long range process and being at odds with this reality mentally will only complicate the already difficult situation. Patience, persistence, discipline and determination are what we need to grow our game. However this does not fit into everyone’s picture of relaxation and escape. Improvement in golf is an acquired taste and it’s not for everyone. Often the more we know the more we want to know, but not always. The game can be experienced and enjoyed at a variety of accomplishment levels. It’s possible to be terrible at golf and still have fun with it. The scenery, the camaraderie, the fresh air, the occasionally well struck shot will suffice for many and what’s wrong with that? Golf does not need to be your highest priority in life for it to make sense. The problems arise when we demand skills that we are unwilling to spend the time required to achieve.

Golf is a game and games are supposed to be fun. If we demand higher skill levels of ourselves it’s critical that we realize how much time and effort will be involved. It’s hard to believe how much effort is necessary to achieve even a low level of mastery but that doesn’t change the reality. We often look at people, strangers or friends, displaying skills we want and forget or never realize how long and hard they worked to accomplish them. In our culture we have a problem with delaying gratification. We want it now! Golf, or anything else actually, does not work that way.

If we want to have fun and why shouldn’t we, it’s necessary to get the time line right. We must acknowledge that there are skills we may not have enough time to acquire. If we don’t get that right we are setting ourselves up for a very frustrating experience. For the game to be fun we have to like where we are in the process right now. That means accepting our current game right now with all its warts. Let go and smell the roses. A bad shot does not make us bad people. If you think it does or behave as if it does you have work to do and it’s not swing work.

So enjoy your weapons apprenticeship soldier, it won’t last forever.

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