Performance Coach Paul Dewland is coaching me on the mental side of the game, and I’m sharing my little victories and agonies with you through the magic of blogging. Content Rating: Contains violence.
I had lopped off its head. Any golfer who has battled the hosel rockets has had the feeling that he could really lose it, but to have it come to this… even I was stunned.
I was playing with my parents, Margaret and Dennis, and my brother Pat at Sunningdale in London, Ontario. As for all my games at Sunningdale, I’m always a little keyed up because I have memories of the course where I grew up. And, I’m aware that with my Dad, I’m closer to a three year old in temperament than a 53 year old. Sigh.
I had kept the hosel rockets at bay. We were first off the tee, and there was foursome on our butts from the get-go. On the 6th, we let them go through, and this bugged me. (I had visions of more speedy groups playing through our family foursome.)
On the 7th, I found my drive in the thick bluegrass rough. Trying to muscle it out, I keranged an HR about 30 yards. I marched to the ball—trying not to think—and clanged another straight right into the fescue.
With a flick of my wrist, I backhanded the business end of my wedge toward my stand bag. Wham! I watched as my driver head sickeningly toppled to the ground. Now, I was smoking mad at the shots AND my stupidity. I grabbed the head, hastily stuffed it in my bag pocket, and steamrolled to the next tee.
I don’t know that I’ve ever felt such a range of extreme emotions on a golf course. I paced up and down the tee deck, feeling angry, foolish, ashamed, stupid. My head was reeling, my face hot. As I tramped around, I talked myself out of walking straight to the parking lot.
I calmed myself with the thought that the family game was more important than a couple HRs, and I just needed to own what happened, put it behind me and soldier on. On the eighth fairway, I quickly confessed through gritted teeth what had happened and they all reacted like it was no big deal. My mom said, ‘Oh well, every golfer does some stupid things.”*
We had a great time, and I didn’t hit any more HRs that day. I think the key was focusing on having a good time with my family on a course that I love, and avoiding the inclination to ruminate on my little hissy fit.
I played the next day at Blue Springs and mostly played well, with the exception of about three HRs. I followed Paul’s advice; whenever I started to judge myself, I just stopped and looked up at the treetops, a surprisingly calming thing to do. (More on this in another blog.) I even laughed about it with my partners Scott and Brad, although I had the sense they regarded me like the weird cousin that no one is really sure about.
Later, as I ran some errands, I started to feel desperate. Paul’s advice was mostly working, but I felt that I needed a lesson on mechanics to fix these blessed hosel rockets.
I phoned Sean Casey at the ClubLink Academy at Glen Abbey but I screwed up the voice mail and cut myself off. I immediately called my friend Tom Jackson, Director of Instruction of the Core Golf Junior Academy in Orlando, and left him a message. I tried to sound funny, but I just sounded desperate.
I tried to phone Sean again, and then I said “Stop!” aloud. I became conscious that I was obsessing, as I often do when things go sideways. I laughed at myself for being ridiculous. I ran my errands, and let it be.
At home, I called Tom Jackson who answered soothingly, “This is Frasier Crane, and I’m listening.” I nearly fell off my chair.
We talked about some mechanical ideas, in particular how my upper body was likely tipping back as I went into impact, which TJ knows is an old problem for me. The next day, I went to the range and worked for two hours, and hit the ball really well. Between what TJ had recommended, and my own tinkering, I felt like I had largely solved the problem.
The next day I phoned Paul and told him that even though I had beheaded my driver, I had not plunged into a funk of judgments, and that I had made some great progress in HR exorcism by witnessing my thoughts rather than being ruled by them.
“You mostly stayed in a quiet place,” he said. “If you can co-exist with your internal critic, he tends to fall away by his own weight.
“By witnessing yourself almost like a third person, you allowed yourself to find a space for correct movement, rather than stuffing your head with information. You stopped giving energy to the problem. When the intent is to hit good shots and control ball flight, you can find the swing that will do that. And golf is fun.”
Well, despite one angry spasm and continuing HR attacks, I have managed to avoid thoughts of lopping off my own head. Paul is helping me to see a new way to deal with the gremlins that bedevil me on the course, and off, and it’s very, very cool.
*Post-script: I didn’t kill my driver after all. I have a Nike Victory Red STR8-FIT Tour driver, which allows you to easily change head positions—and shafts. When I got home from London, I screwed off the old broken shaft with the handy wrench, put in another STR8-FIT shaft from my basement pro shop, and my trip had a happier ending.