EMBRACING THE AMBIGUITY OF THE GAME

by BCBP Editor
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By Danny Silbor, BCBP Makati

What made me write again after so long? Perhaps my latest trophy after two years?? Yup, you bet it is. BCBP members quote themselves often saying “Please Lord give me a sign”. Well in this case the sign presented itself to me, even before I asked for it. Perhaps in a moment of dire need (mine). It is ironic that my trophies, few and far between, have come when I have not played often.

2014-03-20 makati golfers at eastridgeIn this game, reality checks come once in a while and sometimes you actually don’t notice. Golf is a quite a game of ironies and not just irons. The mental game is delicate and tricky. You make a swing, you fantasize that you are Bubba Watson (a vocal Christian golfer) and give 110 percent to the drive. Yes, you swing harder but the chances of that ball slicing increase in direct proportion to how hard you force your swing.

Then what. You try to make a “realistic” swing that is too slow. True, your ball flies straight … “to the middle of the center” of the fairway as one golf joke goes. True as well that you have just driven your ball a mere 140 yards. “nag-driver ka pa!” Translation: you pathetically used a driver for a 7 iron distance. The little window of making a good shot lies delicately between you toning down your swing speed to ensure a straighter ball flight and being strong enough to maintain driving distance. Not easy.

Reality check: good swings are not permanent. Once you make one, you have to work, and specially think about doing another good swing on your next shot. Every hole, every game. There are no guarantees either. Each swing, each game is different. You can work and practice (correctly!) each swing but each will be different. Physiology proves that your physical features will dictate the natural swing that you have, not the golf magazines, not your golf pro who is five inches taller and 20 lbs heavier than you. The thing that makes each swing different are the thoughts you allow in your head each time.

Golf is a mental game and certainly an ambiguous one. We believe that we are actually competing with ourselves to have a better game. Some joker said that even if we let the “other guy” win, we are still the winner. But more often than not, it is that “other guy” who is still you, who still plays badly, and ends up winning the control over your game.

Ambiguity can serve us the wrong way. Example: we believe that a three buckets at the driving range will help improve our tournament for the following day. But without a clear practice goal, say “slow rhythmic swing,” practice will just serve as your cardio exercise to make you sweat. You whack at 120 balls then leave the range fantasizing that you will have a good game tomorrow … until tournament day when you do the same “reckless abandon” swings you did on the range yesterday. You score badly even though your confidence is good. However there is such a thin line between good confidence and very disastrous over confidence.

2014-03-14 15.14.50The irony is even heightened by the fact of the axiom “Repetitio est mater studiorum.” Repetition is the mother of study (learning). That “practice game”, if not thought of carefully, can damage your progress. Those reckless swings can become habitual. I have written before saying “Trust your swing.” But reality checks are a must. If you trust a bad swing, you will get bad shots.

Ambiguity happens when you play again after stopping for three weeks and ask yourself “Can I still make a good golf shot?” And when you take that swing you are then extra careful and do not pretend you are Tiger Woods. That is commonly effective. At times you end up with a better game than if you play every three days.

Lesson learned (perhaps :D): Aware that you haven’t been playing much lately, 1. You take more careful swings, 2. You have a goal, a score, to aspire for in a tournament and that helps you think your swings. You leave yourself with no room for overconfidence. The best reality check of all perhaps is that you can play better progressively if you play more often and swing with less carelessness.

In golf every game should be “opening night” and one should play his best. Then even if one fails, he should “fail better” than his last game and his score should improve.

Confused already? If your answer is “yes!” then you are not alone. To this day, I still can’t fathom how I managed to squeeze out a class C trophy. They say that that golfers are “malakas magdasal” or golfers are good at praying. This was certainly true on that day. I was praying a lot. True, it was more due to nervousness about the swing and uncertainties about the outcome, but I still prayed.

One of my latest Facebook reposts is from Joel Osteen: Fear and faith have something in common. They both ask us to believe in something that we cannot see.

Ambiguous. In other words, not only in one’s golf game but also in the game of life!

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