The Least Useful Sport

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I feel embarrassed to admit that, yes, I played golf this weekend, and that I had my best golf outing ever.  But I’ll get back to that…

If one considers that all sports are abstractions of primal survival skills, of something that was once actually useful, then golf is the most abstract of all sports, and therefore the least useful.

Though, the other side of the coin is that, as the most abstract it is also the most nuanced, the least physically demanding, but the most mentally demanding. Focus is of course required to play all sports well, but the level of concentration necessary to play golf well is legendary.

Golf is a practice of mindfulness, of one-pointed concentration.

If one is not fully present in the moment of the swing, the results are inevitably terrible. In particular, the admonition of “not raising one’s head” as one hits the ball is of paramount importance.     If one raises their head it means that one has left present moment awareness and their focus has shifted to the future, anticipating the majestic flight the ball will be taking, looking up to soon to see where the ball is going.  But by raising one’s head one will “top the ball”, hitting only the top of it with one’s club, the result being that it will dribble pathetically down the fairway. One’s loss of the one-pointed focus and prematurely looking into the glorious future will render that future grandly disappointing.

Golf is a practice of surrendering to the wisdom of the body.

Once one has a feel for the golf swing, one must surrender to the body memory, to trust that the body knows what to do, to trust that it knows how to flow through the swing and not try to micro-manage its every movement. This surrender to the wisdom of the body frees the mind to focus upon the ball.  In the moment of the swing, one’s entire world must be the small white orb that awaits it trajectory.

Golf is a practice of focusing upon the positive and not the negative.

If one lingers upon the poor swings, one’s mood declines, and then one’s focus, and the game worsens even more. Mood and game descend into a parallel downward spiral.  It becomes a miserable experience.  If one focuses on the good hits, one is elated  and is primed to focus well to produce another pleasing result.

Golf is a game of nuance.

I likely would not golf at all, but that beloved members of my family love the game, and so I enjoy playing with them a couple of times a year.   There are nuances to the grip and the stance and the swing that have always eluded me.  Somehow, through all the sporadic playing I’ve done over the years,  my mind was able to knit these subtleties together into a consistent whole and the results were striking.  Even beautiful.   Though these nuances only crystalized about every-other swing, so my score still sucked.  But it was a wonderful experience.

There is a magic in the flight of a well-hit ball.  I wrote this “haiku” for golf many years ago:

A well hit drive
the flight of the ball traces
the arc of my ambition