Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Old Dog Project: The old dog plays a round

It’s often said, by accomplished golfers (to lesser players), “You’re not good enough to get upset.

Golf doesn’t owe you a thing, they might say. And they’d be right: I hadn’t put in the time.

If you’re doing nothing right, you don’t deserve to be frustrated when everything is wrong. You can't be mad at golf if you haven’t even tried, in all truth, to know and understand the game and its rhythms and its sweet dissonance.

It‘s rare, on the golf course, when the clashing chord resolves itself into the purest harmonic triad, and it is rarer still to know exactly why. The minor-key stuff, though we might not hear it at the time, will always be among the most beautiful, like the tap-in bogey that started with a drive into the trees.

Which is a way of getting around to saying that all the lessons in the world don’t mean anything until you take it to the golf course. But first, I had work to do.

Old Dog update
I didn’t realize how much I missed the dude until I hit golf balls in front of him for the first time in a month. Family business took Tom Staskus to California, during which time I practiced about as much as anybody would who knows he doesn’t have to get in front of the teacher for a while.

But I did practice, and though I thought I’d been practicing right, it took about two swings for Staskus to pinpoint one or a couple issues.

First, and always foremost, are the feet, the engines of the lower body that power the  turning of the torso while the arms and hands that hold the club go with the flow. I didn’t know it, but I was passive with my feet and lower body, and that left all the work to the arms.

I wasn’t getting to the right place at the top, because I was not letting the shoulder turn take the club back, but rather lifting my arms to places from which I could not possibly start down on any path but outside-in. Call it what you like: Casting, over-the-top, terrible, horrible, with few  possible outcomes other than weak ones.

The golf ball is the dimpled innocent in all of this, sitting in perfect stillness, with no choice but to let the physics of its collision with the club to play out.

Our practice session a week ago Saturday was our best yet.  Something clicked, and Dr. Tom had the rare experience of feeling like he’d gotten through to me.

Test No. 1 – Feb. 22, 2011
I couldn’t have forecasted the nice, then the awful, followed by the mostly OK and the pretty bad. And then there was the weather.

I was on No. 5 at Tumwater Valley, in my first round of golf since October, when we segued into the hail-blowing-sideways portion of the program. It was a good time to break for lunch.

At that point, I had just striped my drive and followed up with a pretty good fairway wood. I never found that ball – in seconds it was camouflaged by hailstones.

I was sorry to stop right then, because I was beginning to feel like it was feeling like I felt it should feel like when it’s feeling right.

He can tell me and tell me, Staskus had said, and it won’t mean a thing until I feel it.

I went back out after lunch, during which time the sun came out for a minute. I got in 12 holes, and it felt good. Not bad for openers.

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