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Senior Golfer - On The Green

For the love of the game, try to get better

The Putting Green

It would not be the start of a new year if either someone who does not play the game or a golf training aid manufacturer didn't ask the most vexing question: "Why is golf such a difficult game?"

For those people asking the question and to outsiders, golf seems to be a simple game. The player hits the ball the right direction, the right distance, and then hits it again until it goes into the hole in the fewest number of strokes. The golf ball is not moving, so how hard can it be to hit a stationary golf ball? There is no continuous running involved like in soccer, football or basketball, so there is plenty of downtime between shots, so you really cannot get tired. And finally, there is no limit to perfection. There is no golfer who has ever said, "I just played the perfect round of golf!"

To these uninformed statements, let me add two other tidbits that make golf such an enjoyably aggravating game. The same player can hit the golf ball twice within seconds of each other and the first shot will fly 40 yards right/left of target or out of bounds, and the second shot will land 250 yards down the middle of the fairway.

The same person will be playing a single round of golf on a Saturday or Sunday morning and be faced with four or five 100-yard shots to the green. On two of these shots, the person hits the green and the ball ends up 10 feet from the pin on one shot, 20 feet away on the other. One shot lands 10 yards short of the green, another in the sand trap to the left of the green,and a third over the green. How can one person in one round hit such disparate shots?

The answers to these golf questions are as varied as there are golfers hitting these shots and golf courses in different parts of the world. Because golf is a game of mental, physical and mechanical abilities, the answers to these questions involve the interaction of these skills and abilities in a continuous improvement process, one that requires us to get better for the love of the game.

On the mental side, the reason we hit one drive out of bounds and our penalty shot down the middle of the fairway could be and usually is mental focus. Specifically, we aren't concentrating on the shot, preparing ourselves to hit the shot the right distance and the right direction.

Our mental lapses occur because we are not focusing on the task at hand and what it requires to make this golf shot. The simple solution to this mental problem is to improve our focus and concentration. When we focus on the shot at hand, concentrate on two keys to a smooth swing, reduce the tension in our hands/forearms, and swing smooth and easy, we generally hit a good golf shot.

Similarly, we could be having a mechanical problem. This mechanical problem has multiple variables, but the end result is that we are swinging smoothly and fluidly. For example, we are swinging too fast because we don't believe we have club to hit the ball the right distance. Our swing is not grooved enough so that we look up at impact and top the ball. We have a faulty swing because we never took a lesson to find a good swing. We can correct these mechanical faults, but it takes time and practice.

When it comes to enjoying the game of golf, the secret is to not give up. The secret is to enjoy the journey, the continuous improvement process. Each time we play, each hour we practice should be a joy, not a chore. For the love f the game, we try each year to get better at this terribly complex game.

This year, let it be our golfer's creed: We are going to spend the money and allocate the time and effort to become better golfers so that we can enjoy the game much more.

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