In Anticipation of Our First Round

For at least a month now, Jerry has been insisting that it's time for us to play a round of golf. We've only played once, at a nine-hole par-three course last summer, which served as the establishing-a-baseline experience for this whole project. I recall playing that round surprisingly well, despite not having played a round for many years. I started something like par-par and finished with a par, too. I hit some reasonably good shots. Since then, we've pretty much taken my swing apart, working to groove a new, smoother, more powerful swing, a process that's nowhere near complete.

Nevertheless, Jerry's right: it's time. And today's the day.

I have to admit I feel quite a bit of trepidation. My new swing is nowhere near grooved yet. I expect that I'll hit a handful of pretty good shots, but also a bunch that go every direction but where I'm aiming. From the perspective of the actual (scoring) rules of golf, I'm likely to play pretty poorly indeed, and it's going to take some real focus on my part to not begin to question the conclusion that I've been sharing with you recently, that I really have improved greatly since that initial experimental round a year ago.

I wrote last week about how golf's scoring makes it especially unforgiving to the learning player, and so I want to plan a strategy ahead of time for making the experience as positive and fun as possible, while not diverging too far from the guiding idea of this project, which is to use energetic awareness to improve our golf games. By that I mean that I can't completely disregard the rules of the game and still speak to what we're trying to achieve here. I mean, I could definitely count only every other stroke if I wanted, and then tell people how I heroically and unexpectedly finished under par. (Hooray for me!) I could refuse to ever play a ball from a bunker or deep rough. I could pick up every ball that's behind a tree or in front of water. What's stopping me? Nothing, of course. And if that's more fun for me, well, I could just go ahead and do it. But I shouldn't properly call that "golf."

On the other hand, what's the value in using the rules of the game as a way to punish and undermine myself, to leave me demoralized and doubting?

So I'm making a plan, because I don't want to waste energy on disappointment--I'm interested in setting myself up for success. Because I haven't played since we started working on this project in earnest, I intend to go in with the attitude that I'm basically a beginner, that I haven't done this before, that every shot is new to me. Furthermore, I want playing to support my goal of improvement as much as practice does, so I want trying to figure out how to get as much useful experience out of the round as possible. With that in mind, I intend to do the following: I'm going to play by the rules, counting every shot. At the same time, I'm going to keep a second score, in which I essentially play a scramble with myself. Whenever time allows, I will take another shot when a shot goes awry, and sometimes even when it doesn't. Basically, I'll practice as many shots on the course as possible. I'll take my actual ball as my score, but will use that second score--we'll call it the "potential" score--as a guidepost to help keep me optimistic about where I'm ultimately headed.

What I'm most concerned with is seeing within me the ability to hit something of a reasonable shot from each actual lie, even if it takes me three or four shots do so. Recall that when we started this project, my goal was built around having fun, and for me in the context of a round of golf, fun is less dependent on my score than feeling that I have the potential to actually play golf. I don't want to feel like the stupid game is something eternally beyond my reach.

So why keep score at all? Several people, including at least one friend who's a much better golfer than me, have recommended not doing so. "It's a lot more fun that way," they've said. (I'm sure we've all seen the quote, usually attributed to Mark Twain, that golf is "a good walk spoiled.") They have a point, but for our purposes, a score offers a numeric way to gauge how we've done, and an objective path to measuring our improvement.

I feel good about this plan. By preparing myself mentally ahead of the experience, I'm making it much more likely that I'll walk off the course exclaiming, "That was fun!" It's hard to hope for anything more than that.

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