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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Rhythm & Rulings

I'm still trying to figure out what happened Friday at the Solheim Cup when Carlota Cignada dropped out of that lateral hazard on the 15th hole.  Frankly, I'm not at all surprised that Rule 26-1c and Rule 26-1c(ii) were in conflict.

The Rules of Golf are not known for their brevity or clarity.  They are arcane and convoluted.  Too often  obfuscate rather than clarify.  And in the end, the on-course ruling was wrong and the time required to make the ruling was excessive.  Team USA lost a match they might have won, but not because of the wrong ruling.  Their game rhythm got unbalanced.

And that rhythm disruption spilled over to the groups playing behind them.  There was a traffic jam at the Colorado Golf Club Friday afternoon, and while the officials dithered the golfers fretted and paced.  Even if they appeared calm, I can assure you they were not.  Waiting for the group playing ahead is maddening under the best of circumstances.  The pressure of tournament play, the heightened stress and expectations that accompany an event like the Solheim Cup, elevates frustration and anxiety to a level that would paralyze me.  The problem of disrupted rhythm is so common that there are books written about how to manage waiting time on the golf course.  (See Zen Golf for some tips on maintaining mental momentum while you wait for the group ahead to clear the green.)

Golf is all about mental focus and confidence, and physical rhythm, and this is especially true in the alternate shots format.  When play is too fast, I lose my rhythm.  When play is too slow, I lose my rhythm.  When I lose my rhythm I lose my ability to putt.  I lose that elusive metaphysical connection with my flat stick that keeps my ball tracking along the invisible line I always draw from the face of my putter to the center of the cup and back again to the face of my putter before I begin that little backswing that's going to give my stick the momentum to roll my ball down that line at exactly the right speed and into its final resting place with a satisfying clink.

I am always challenged to maintain my game rhythm when I'm playing the alternate shots, "foursome play" format.  Most typically, I play my own ball, start to finish, when I play a round of golf.  In the alternate shots format, I share my ball with my teammate.  I hit the tee shot, she hits the next shot, and so on, until we hole our ball.  So I'm already off balance.  Add to that inherent imbalance a disruption in the pace of play and the formula for putting disaster is in play.  And so it went with Team USA on Friday.

It's not over until it's over in match play, and it's all about rhythm, focus, and confidence when skill levels are equal.