Ivan Morris - The voice of Limerick Golf
YOUR scribe's alter egos, Mutt & Jeff, joined him for their first game of 'flog' in 2019 at Lahinch Castle, during which the golf chat became quite heavy.
In between, there were a few (but not many) good shots played by all three, which proves that concentration doesn't have to be 'full-on' during every one of the 18-holes in a round that can take over four hours to complete with only a bare 6-minutes (if you are an 80-shooter) spent in the process of hitting the ball.
On the 1st tee, Jeff pointed out to a more than usual 'dithery' Mutt that from stepping into his address position to the finish of his swing should take 4-seconds.
Any longer means ruinous thoughts will enter the equation and put him off his stroke. Mutt did not appreciate the subtle hint to hurry up but acknowledged its wisdom later.
On the short, par-4, fifth tee, Jeff became 'serious' when he mentioned that he was aware that your scribe was coached and mentored by the late, John Burke a.k.a. The King of Lahinch, winner of 11 South of Irelands and 8 Irish Close Championships (two records that will never be beaten) I confirmed that even though my teacher was confined to a wheelchair, he was hugely influential in helping me to hone a golf swing that has survived for over 50-years.
Under John's tutelage I enjoyed my best years as a ball striker (in the purest sense) but it took me a few years longer and well after he died in 1973 (aged 74) for me to become a proper player.
I mention 'golf swing' advisedly because golfers need more than just reliable technique. Nobody becomes a champion golfer through ball-striking talent (alone) Many human skills and attributes are needed to conquer golf. I admit that I only rarely got the necessary balance right, which caused Mutt to hold up play for ages with one of his lectures: My Shiatsu Practitioner tells me: We have three brains.
Our head brain, our gut brain and our heart brain. All are connected to the longest nerve in our body - the Vagus, which starts in the skull and goes all the way down along the spine through the heart and into the gut.
Vitally important information is relayed back and forth among the three brains that influence our athletic performance.
Golfers spend most of their time using their head brain but as soon as the head says: it's an 8-iron and the gut disagrees because it thinks the body is tired, and it is therefore a 7-iron, you have a big problem.
Balancing the gut and head is tricky especially under pressure - either can lead you astray. That's why you have to make up your mind and just play with all of your heart.
“Now you tell me” I exclaimed. “Are you saying I was distracted by 'arguments between these three brains that I did not know I had and all of my self-talk during a round; especially of the negative kind, held me back?”
Nobody ever told me (when it mattered) after a terrible shot that the next one could be one of my best ever. Nobody said: as soon as the ball has been struck it is gone forever and it doesn't matter anymore - at least, not in words that I could understand.
The variability of golf is endless; different courses, different grasses and ground conditions, different weather, different situations, different thoughts and different emotions. No two rounds of golf are the same. Golf is a 'random game' and coping with golf's 'endless variability' is why it is so difficult and why it is 'almost worthless' to hit balls on the range (as much as I enjoy it)
Only on the golf course will you find the right context to learn all of the skills required to play the game. Imagine arriving at your Tennis Club and seeing a notice: no practicing on the court? Or, at a swimming pool being told by the Lifeguard: Sorry, no practicing in the pool! No practicing on the soccer/rugby or hurling pitches either!
To learn to play any sport, you need to learn in context. Hitting balls on the range never improves one's performances under pressure.
Nothing can simulate the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that must be dealt with when a shot 'means something'.
To improve under pressure, you must play under pressure!
Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott are co-authors of a book: Be A Player. It took me months of careful study to fully comprehend it. Pia and Lynn wrote: "Every area of life gives us the opportunity to develop as human beings; golf is (only) one of them. Everyone has talent to a lesser or greater degree but all of the talent in the world won't bring success if you don't exploit it properly.
People can achieve their potential as human beings through the experience of playing golf; learning a difficult skill, controlling their thoughts and emotions and just by getting better.
Every golfer is unique. There is an infinite number of ways of playing golf".
Make that 'lesson' work for you in 2019, listen to your gut but play with your heart.
Words of the Wise
The majority of golfers are neither fit enough, or strong enough, to get into the positions advised by professional instructors but, even if you will never be the longest hitter, you could be the straightest hitter - Pia Nilsson