Thursday, October 24, 2019

Golf can be ... simple

Why do intelligent, reasonable people golf?

Mark Twain's famous quote of "a good walk wasted" comes to mind, and nowadays, golfers are amidst a swirl of golf-ball technology, golf-club technology, talking about swing plains and so much hullaballoo, that the average golfer's mind can be cloudy.

Thank God for Harvey Penick's Little Red Book with Bud Shrake. It came out in 1992, three years before Penick passed away, and is a big seller with a 20th anniversary edition in 2012.

Penick is one of the most famous golf instructors ever. He was based in Austin and coached at the University of Texas from 1931 to 1963. Some huge names studied under him, including Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw.

What is so refreshing about the Little Red Book is that it simplifies the game with truths that many amateurs just don't get — or don't practice.

"When I tell you to take an aspirin, don't take the whole bottle. In a golf swing, a tiny change can make a huge difference. The natural inclination is to begin to overdo the tiny change that has brought success. So you exaggerate in an effort to improve even more, and soon you are lost and confused again."
"If the average golfer hits the 3-wood off the tee, the shots on the whole will be more successful. What you will miss is maybe that one good driver shot in a round, and it's not worth it."

I must say that not hitting the driver off the tee has helped my game immensely. No more guessing. No more erratic shots. No more random duffs. I actually play with some guys who consistently smoke their drivers. But most players aren't like that.

I believe that golf is a game that connects us with nature and ourselves. Back in Ohio, so many of the courses are absolutely beautiful. They were carved out of existing trees and greenery, and they receive a lot of rainfall. Fresh air. Sun. It's good to get outside.

Perhaps golf is "an old man's sport." It's the only sport I know that I can actually get better at my age, and that doesn't entail me hitting the ball farther. Working with my unique, goofy golf skillset, I have learned how to maximize what I got, and I am proud of my course management.

I have learned that most golfers think they are better than they are. It takes humility to understand that, yeah, I shouldn't be playing the blue tees. Or, y'know what, I did indeed get an "8" on that hole. People lie to themselves on golf courses, as they do in real life, but I don't care. I'm there for the nature and to connect to "Joe the Golfer."

"For two weeks, devote 90 percent of your practice time chipping and putting, and only 10 percent to the full swing. If you do this, your 95 will turn into a 90."

"Play games on the putting green. The more time you spend there, the better golf scores you will turn in."

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