It’s something we do whenever we get the chance, meet out there, smash some golf balls out into a paddock, tell stories, listen to each other. Really its just an excuse to hang out together, but there is a little golf as well.
When you’re the kind of golfer I am (most accurately described as a hacker!) there are lots of experiences that are common.
There is the experience of spending long frustrating periods searching for a golf ball in the long rough.
There is the experience of watching putt after putt miss left, right, short and sometimes go straight over the hole.
There is the experience of that mysterious slice, seemingly un-correctable.
There is the experience of the ball screaming along inches above the ground instead of launching skyward in a truly beautiful arc (a phenomenon we hack golfers call “the worm burner”).
On this particular night, I was reminded of another regular experience for hopeless golfers.
I was standing over the ball, driver in hand, ready to launch my ball 300m straight down the range (another common experience of hack golfers….unrealistic expectations!). I shuffled my feet, lined up the ball, telling myself to relax while remembing every single thing every coach, playing partner and golf magazine ever told me about the perfect swing….all at the same time.
Something felt off. I wasn’t in the right position, I didn’t have a clear image of what I was trying to do. I felt uncomfortable.
I lost concentration, swung awkwardly, lost control of the club face, hit the ball, massive hook, dismal failure, extreme dissatisfaction, self-loathing, time to quit the game. All that took about 0.3 seconds from the moment my swing started as my ball disappeared toward the side boundary fence. It is, without question, a stupid game.
The thing is, I knew as I stood over the ball that something wasn’t right. Even as my backswing began, the message in my brain was “something isn’t right here”. As I lurched toward contact I caught myself thinking “I hope this goes straight, but something is off”.
And here, I think, is the difference between a hack golfer and someone good. Sure there is the question of talent, and practice, and equipment, and commitment.
But there is also the the willingness and presence of mind to step away from the ball when something isn’t right. To take a step back, clear the mind, reset the pre-shot ritual (which in my case consists of a swig of chocolate milk and a bite of the Mars bar….but I digress) and go again.
When you know something is off, don’t try and hit the ball….step away. I knew it the moment I made contact.
I checked with my mates, and sure enough, we all have that experience – of knowing something isn’t right but trying to hit the ball anyway, and suffering the consequences.
This very morning it happened again.
On this occasion I was in the midst of a typical Monday morning encounter with the 12 year old. She was tired and grumpy after a busy weekend, I was tired and grumpy after watching a dumb movie late into the night. In that state we pushed each others buttons really good. It happens. I knew it was happening. I knew I should step away and reset things. In that same tried and true golfing style instead of stepping back I tried to push on with my parenting regardless, finding myself on the backswing thinking “something isn’t right here…I need to step away”.
Naturally we had one of those ripper dad/daughter blow ups which leaves her thinking the worst of me, me thinking the worst of both her and myself, and everybody’s day ruined as the other kids suddenly vanish to any other room in the house not containing one of us.
What is it that stops us stepping away when we know something isn’t right? What is it that leaves us pressing on regardless even while thinking “something isn’t right here”? Is it inertia? Overconfidence? Laziness? Uncertainty? Sheer lack of self-control?
It’s my commitment this week to be on the lookout for those moments (whether at the driving range or somewhere else) and to have the courage and willingness to step back, re-assess and re-set – rather than acting in spite of my sure and certain knowledge that something is a little off.
Sure I’ll still hit some slices when my technique isn’t right, and I guarantee everything won’t be sweetness and light in the relationship between a pre-teen and the first-time parent of a pre-teen….but I wonder what interesting things I might find if I’m willing to step back and reset.
How about you? Ever had that feeling you should step away from the golf ball?