Reverse Engineering: Better Golf Better Life
I teed off with high expectations. The morning was already a comfortable sixty five degrees and the marine mist was almost completely dissipated. Blue sky was starting to emerge and there were no threats of the overnight showers returning. So, here I was at one of golf’s premiere venues, Torrey Pines. With a tee time on the renowned South Course tomorrow, I was starting a “practice” round on the North Course. The US Open was scheduled for the coming week, so the rough was already longer than I could manage. I felt fortunate to be here. All was right with the world, even as my opening drive found the second cut of rough, only a few yards off the fairway. The rough, deeper now that I was in it, and soaked from the previous night’s rain soon became more formidable than I wanted. I tried unsuccessfully to advance the ball (not yet having learned the wisdom of a perpendicular wedge escape back into play). Another swing, the wet grass grabbed the hosel and the ball crossed to the rough on the other side of the fairway. I still had no chance of reaching the green and now the morning seemed to be taking on a different feeling --- what am I doing here? I felt I would rather be a thousand other places. And why would I make such an effort to come to a place like this? If you’re honest with yourself, you have experienced some variant of this.
Of course, now I know I made every rookie error that morning: having expectations, lacking a plan, emotional reactions. Even so, first holes like this sometimes happen, but I no longer get to the point of wishing I were somewhere else. Actually, getting through that patch is one of the most interesting and gratifying challenges and lessons of golf.
As Dr Rich claims “we play golf to be better people, not just better golfers.” So, it’s time to make the “reverse engineering” value of golf more explicit. First you need to imagine a situation in your life which mirrors the exaggerated calamity you can experience when things go wrong on the course and you wish you were somewhere else. Somewhere in your life, you start off in a good mood, with high expectations; and then, things happen, life derails your expectations and trying harder does not get you out of the rough. Triple bogey is not who you want to be, and where your life is at the moment is not where you want to be. You know better, but despite this you are not enjoying the round.
You need a way to practice in life what you may first master on the course- you cannot let the score, the conditions, or where the ball happens to be determine who you are or how you feel about your morning, your day, your life. Yesterday, I was on my way from one meeting to another and noticed that I was rushing. There was no real penalty waiting if I were a minute longer getting to the meeting. I rushed because it is an old habit of my mind and body that is hard to change. And as I was rushing down the hallway, I had the thought “would I ever allow myself to rush like this on the fairway?” Of course not, so why am I doing it here, at work? What type of outcome would I expect to follow from rushing? So, I slowed down, and assumed a calmer and more dignified mental and physical pace. I reverse engineered my life from what I had learned and practiced on the golf course. It is a bigger challenge to accept that your circumstances in life should not determine your peace of mind. We know that in golf. What a challenge to bring that into your life especially when you are unhappy or disappointed with something. You play golf? You have the perfect learning laboratory to work on this – again, not just to be a better golfer, but to have a better life. Become aware of this opportunity and you will find a new way around the course.