Monday, July 16, 2012

The Best Spiritual Advice

The best piece of spiritual advice—and the best golf advice—comes from the world of gambling. There is a sign in every casino that says:  “You Must Be Present to Win.”

With God, in marriage, in the workplace, with friends and even with ourselves—we must be present. And it’s true on the golf course. I have to be physically present of course—and present more often I am reminding myself. But also mentally present and emotionally present. I borrow this slogan from 12 step programs: “Be where your feet are.”

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Book Learning

I am a reader. That’s probably my primary identity. I love books and magazines and newspapers. (I adore newspapers). I grew up in a household that read four (4) newspapers a day—and I’m sure that’s why I write for one now. Some writers think that the biggest deal is to have their words between two hard covers, but not me. I just love the idea that I am at someone’s breakfast table with them, and I am most complimented when someone tells me they have one of my columns stuck on their refrigerator. The fridge is the ultimate honor.

So given my love of words it makes sense—to me—that I am learning to play golf by reading books. Yes, laugh if you want, but I’m a true believer. Yes I do go to the driving range and I take lessons and I thrill at making par on a par three, but I come back to books.

Right now I’m reading the new book, “On Par”, by Bill Pennington who writes the New York Times column also called “On Par”—the book is a collection of columns, some longer essays and a bit of a memoir. The book is about golf rules, equipment, players, instruction and language. And I carry away ideas from eye to body as I read him.

I have to say that even I questioned my “book-to-green” approach and then I remembered something from my early life.

When I was 13 years old my older, married sister bought a motorboat and she and her husband learned to water ski. I wanted so badly to go on that boat and be towed behind it. I wanted to feel that walking on water sensation. But I’d heard my brother-in-law laughing about friends who tried and belly flopped or were dragged in the water behind the boat. I was 13; I wanted to waterski but I did not want to be laughed at.

I got a book called “How to Water Ski” from the public library and I read it. Then for several nights I sat on the floor in the sister's den with the towrope from the boat between my legs and holding the ski bar in my hands. As I read the instructions over and over I practiced how to shift my weight and I physically (kinesthetically?) imagined what the pull would be like, how my body would rise and what the pressure in my legs and arms would feel like—how to “get up” on water skis.

And it worked. I was able to go from book to body by practicing on the carpet, and when the sunny Saturday finally came and I jumped into the cold Connellsville Lake I knew what to expect. When the boat roared and that first tug came, I shifted my weight, as I had practiced, and I water skied my first time out.

So I’m a believer that books can teach all kinds of things, and there is a place for reading in a new golfer’s life.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

An Easy Nine

Today we played at Colonial Acres in Glenmont, New York. A nine-hole, par three, town course that is also, interestingly, an Audubon Nature Sanctuary. I can measure my progress by today’s play. This is my third season, and nine par-three holes feels easy. And it felt wonderful to have an easy day.

There’s a lesson in this: Even though I am working to improve my game and my stamina, it really helped to play nine holes that made me feel like I can play golf, and to find the fun in the game. Often on harder courses—18 “real” holes—I’m stretching and straining—working hard but it’s work not fun.  Today was fun and I was capable enough that I could try new things like shifting my grip just to see the effect and working on my aim. Yeah, a simple thing like aim.

It was also a perfect late Sunday afternoon date with Dave. He’ll play 18 hard tomorrow so it was fun to do 9 easy together today.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Gyro for Good Golf

William James wrote, "We learn to swim in the winter and to skate in the summer." He was writing about our intellectual process and the value of a break concentration when we are  studying a new idea or concept. But turns out he was also absolutely right about how we learn new physical skills as well.

Something happens in the off-season--summer, winter, the downtimes. Our brains and bodies keep working to integrate the new. I learned this year that the process can be facilitated by teaching my body new ways to move. And I saw the pay-off for golf by giving my body some new motions and muscles to explore by doing Pilates and Gyro this past winter.

Here in the Capital Region we have great Pilates and Gyro at the Pilates Principle in Latham. Nuhar Jaleel is a physical therapist and a golfer and extraordinary with the human body. Click the link below to learn more about Gyro and give it a try to expand your body's golf intelligence.

And way beyond your golf game--your shorts and sleeveless tops will be very happy too.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Myers-Briggs and Learning to Play Golf

I love psychology and self-help and one of the best constructs I know for self-understanding is The Meyers-Briggs Personality Inventory. You’ve probably done this in business or maybe in career counseling or maybe in some faith community group.

There’s a short and a long version of the test and a very reliable quick version in the book called, “Please Understand Me.” The outcome of the test is an overall view of how you operate in the world. You’ve heard these code words: introvert, extravert, intuitive, sensing, judging etc.

I have found the Myers-Briggs brilliantly helpful in romance and relationships. If you know that you are a “P” and the other person is a “J”, you can know that you’ll always have “be on time” issues, or someone—you—will always be a tad messy—according to that partner. Ditto in the Introvert/Extravert scale. Extraverts want to go out on Friday nights, Introverts (me again) want to come home, watch Netflix, retreat. It’s all about energy.

This week it occurred to me that you could choose your best way into golf based on your Myers Briggs type. Extravert?—join a league for sure. Lots of new people, lots to talk about. Introvert? Play with one good friend. Someone easy to be with so silences are OK. Or play alone. I was thrilled to discover that some people play golf alone—I had no idea. I stayed away from the game for years because I thought I’d have to chat with four strangers for four hours and that sounded like the lowest rung of Hell. Then I met my husband who is a solo player and I fell in love—by myself—with the game.

The other dimensions of Myers-Brigs can also apply to your golf game. If you are a “T”—a Thinker—then think yourself silly. Reason it out, study the pros; seek the logic and science and engineering of the game.  But if you are an “F”—a Feeler—again like me --then you’ll have a much better time just feeling your way along. You can watch other people, kind of gently imitating them, get the feeling in your body and relax into the game.

I suspect there’s a whole school of golf waiting to be invented based on Myers-Briggs. You could be first. Get a copy of “Please Understand Me” and check it out.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Best Advice from Women Golfers

One of the best things about learning to play golf is meeting new women. Part of the etiquette and fun of golf is the quick, friendly bond when you meet people on the course. There’s a bit of chatting and getting-to-know-you talk. That’s true for men and women on a golf course—but as in the rest of life—men and women chat differently. And so in those brief encounters on one or nine holes I have gotten some great advice from other women.

Here’s the good stuff:

*Both men and women will offer you golf advice. Smile politely and nod at the men. Listen carefully to the women.

*Take a lesson. When I was contemplating golf the women golfers I knew all said this unequivocally: Take a lesson. And they were right. Even before you buy shoes or shorts. Even before you contemplate whether you are a hat or visor kind of girl. Take a lesson. And critically even before you go to a golf course: Take a lesson. Thank you Midge and Elaine and Stephanie.

*Take more lessons. Play a little and keep taking lessons. The lessons will counteract all the stuff the men in your life will tell you. If you live in the Capital Region take a lesson with Peter Gerard at Mill Road in Latham. He’s the best. The best men take lessons from him but he is extraordinary with women. No condescension. No boy/girl chemistry. His teaching is about you learning not about him looking smart.

*Don’t be embarrassed if you need to hit the ball 12 times to get it into the cup. And don’t be embarrassed if you decide to pick it up and move it after 6 or 8 or 12 hits. You are learning. Ignore other people.

*BUT—always, always hit the ball into the cup on each hole. Always finish by knocking the ball into that little cup and hearing that satisfying clanking sound. Even if your ball is resting on the very edge of the cup after 20 strokes. Take one more and hear it go in. (Thank you to a woman named Marge who I have never seen again for this advice). You want to hear that sound 18 times. You are training your mind and ear and body to want that sound. Let other people roll their eyes or pick up their ball, but you always tap it into the cup.

*Sunblock. Every time. You don’t want to look like the men who have been playing all their lives. Retinol can’t fix everything.

*No silly golf clothes till you have played a full year. Yes to nice shoes and yes to good golf shorts or a skirt—golf shorts are different than regular shorts. But no Lily Pulitzer matchy-matchy outfits when you are new. Just don’t.

*Always step into your Spanx. Never pull them on over your head. You don’t want to get caught hopping around in a dressing room or worse at home alone trapped in a Spanx slip.

*Do your Kegels 3X week. Your life will be better in so many ways.

The last two have nothing to do with golf but everything to do with being a woman of a certain age. Take note.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

It's a Love Affair

“Golf is like a love affair. If you don’t take it seriously, it’s no fun. 
If you do take it seriously, it breaks your heart.”

                                                      --Arnold Daly

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Very Hot Fast Start

We played nine holes today at The Pig Farm in Glenmont, New York. And it was really hot.  I am still red-faced an hour and two lemonades later. But not at all red-faced about my seasonal start. I did very well today (one great pitch right into the cup) and I'm taking this as a good sign that year three will be a charming golf season.

The course isn't actually a pig farm. It's  named Hidden Meadows, but it was a pig farm for many years until the recent, youngest generation of the family decided they liked golf more than pigs and designed 18 interesting, par 3 and 4 holes. But it is hidden. The address is Glenville  (138 Smultz Road--12077) but it's more Albany--along River Road. You can get to it from 32, or come thru Albany an up from the river.

Dave and I played together for this holiday outing. We try to play together once, maybe twice a month in summer, tho both of us are solo players. In fact it was when I met Dave and learned that he played golf alone that I became a devotee. I had always pictured golf as a lazy, chatty, extroverted kind of game--people riding in golf carts, joking and talking and yes, hitting golf balls. I could not  imagine myself spending four  hours that way.

But then I learned about solo golf and fast golf and I knew it was a perfect fit for my sense of athleticism and my preference for quiet. Today we played nine, par three holes in exactly 60 minutes. We cary our bags and walk fast between the holes so its a great companionable workout.  When we play alone we can move even faster--no waiting for the other.

If you are a Capital Region golfer, especially a new golfer, find the Hidden Meadows Course and enjoy the quiet and the chance to play alone and find your own way of play.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Never Stop Laughing--The Best Golf Lesson Ever

This is required watching for all golfers. If you are new to the game you must watch this short video ten times--and you will. Real American golfers memorize this piece from The Best of Robin Williams. Yes, even if you are a ladylike golfer--if you want any credibility with other golfers you need to be able to insert your favorite lines from this history of the game.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Learning to Practice Golf

It's obvious after you read it, but not before. If you are learning to play golf you have to learn how to practice. Musicians know this. Dancers too. To learn the art you have to learn how to practice. Take a look at this article by Bill Pennington from The New York Times "On Par" blog where he asks the best golf teachers in the world about how we could all practice better.

I'm thinking that relationships are also an art. They require practice too. Here's a crazy idea--re-read Pennington's article and substitute "relationship" or "marriage" for golf.  It kinda works. Like this:  "Average golfers think the goal is to hit the ball straight--the pros do not". Average marriages think the goal is never to fight, but folks in great marriages fight hard, cleanly and for the relationship. Good marriages are perfect, great marriages are never perfect.

Yeah--that says a lot about my golf too.

But here's the link to Pennington's survey of great golfers and how to practice. Take a look:

Friday, May 18, 2012

A New Season Begins

Yes, it was a long winter and a long break from golf--but not from love. The lessons continue. Watching Sawgrass last weekend showed me again that the part we do with the stick and the ball is a small part of the game. What happens to us inside is what matters.

So the conversation continues: golf, love, romance, "women of a certain age". Choose a club, practice, and have fun. Join me here each week for the personal, the provocative, the unusual and the outrageous thoughts on golf and love.

Never up, never in <3
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