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Thursday, July 4, 2013

More On Anger & Course Management

Peachie Bethel, being very cute & curious
I was rolling a few putts on the practice green last week, waiting to tee off.  There's generally a bit of chatter on the practice green, speculations about humidity, heat, when the greens were cut -- all that information that figures into the how-hard-shall-I-stroke-the-ball equation that mystifies and befuddles golfers.  All that chatter came to an abrupt stop when those of us who were testing the greens and warming up our pendulums were treated to an extraordinary display of golf course rage, which rivaled any road rage I've ever heard about in both intensity and vitriol.

A foursome was making their way up the 18th fairway, slinging epithets back and forth at each other as they took their shots, their volume levels wide open., their anger ricocheting around the course.

All of us stopped in mid-swing and looked to see who had completely lost control and taken leave of all conventional protocol.

I wouldn't have been able to even line up for a shot if I had been venting anger at their level of intensity.  It was amazing.  It was also offensive, and I'm not easily offended by profanity.  I learned to swear before I learned to read, but I learned to use profane language as a form of punctuation rather than an emotional outlet.  Context is everything.

I can't think or make good decisions when I'm angry.  Anger blows out the lamp of my mind,  and so I work at not allowing myself to get angry.  I don't have any difficulty accepting the behavior of the 5 parrots I live with that might drive others into a blue-white rage.

Not even when Peachie, the Cockatoo, turned one of the rockers on a very old and cherished walnut rocking chair into toothpicks one day when he escaped from his cage while I was out of the house did I feel even a slight elevation of my blood pressure.  I vacuumed up the shredded pieces of wood and took the rocker to a craftsman for repairs.

Peachie was just being who he is.  Cockatoos are charming and destructive escape artists.  I need to pay more attention to cage security, and now I'm much more vigilant about Peachie's cage doors.

Managing my 5 pisttacine companions (I'm confident you'll have an opportunity to meet the others as we travel together through the joy and anguish of the game of golf) is much like course management.  In order to be successful I need to stay one step ahead of the game, anticipate the problems, and when I can, implement fixes before catastrophe strikes!

Now don't think I'm claiming a perpetually pure Zen state of mind.  I've been known to address my ball using fairly demeaning language, as in, All right, you sorry little sap sucker, you're not going to get many more chances, when the thing has rolled to an abrupt stop on the lip of the cup.  I've also been known to threaten and punish my ball, as in, That's it. No more chances.  You need to go to a dark place and take a time out, after I've wedged it out of the 3rd bunker in as many holes.  And I've exiled clubs to the trunk of my car for long periods of isolation when they stop performing for me.

But deep down inside me, when I miss a shot I know and accept that it wasn't the ball, or the club, or the person standing on the fringe waiting for me to putt who couldn't hold back a sneeze any longer and let go just as my putter made contact.  It wasn't the golf cart that was a little close or the person talking while I lined up the shot that made my club face rotate and send the ball off course.  All these bumps on the road to glorious golf fall into the category of user error.

A lot of what happens on the golf course is out of my control, so the best I can do is tend to those elements I can control: club selection, for example, is very much my choice, as is alignment (how I adjust for an uneven lie, a sloping fairway, an undulating green), and, sometimes, shot choice (do I want a flop shot here or a bump and run?).

Managing those emotions that want to bubble up and flow over my consciousness, casting negative shadows over my golf moment is as important, for me, as those other, more technical and objective aspects of course management.  But I do think of managing emotions as a part of course management.  After all, if I don't get angry with Peachie for behaving like a Cockatoo, why would I get angry with an inanimate object like golf ball or a golf club?  Or with another person, who has certainly not presumed to take my shot for me?

Bottom line here: I don't want to be a slave to something that robs me of pleasure and joy, and one of my mental gyrations for avoiding that trap is to take responsibility for my own errors.  I don't want to be that person screaming and swearing my way up the 18th fairway and then find myself featured in somebody's else's blog or dinner table story about the woman who went nuts at the golf course today.