May 29th, 2014

I remember standing in front of this masterpiece in awe. Once with my little daughter, Gina, of nine. Once with the love of my life, Patricia. It was in Florence in the Accademia delle Belle Arte. Standing bigger than life in the center of the rotunda. The white Carrara marble transcending stone and morphing into sinews, flesh, veins and muscle. Standing erect, calm and resolute, muscles firm but relaxed and eyes with that gaze of focus. Concentration, focus, resolve. I pointed out to Gina the protruding veins on the sinewy arm hanging to the side. A comment which she still remembers to this day some thirty years later. the-david-michelangelo[1]It’s the David by Michelangelo with slingshot draped casually over the shoulder. Ready for the challenge to come with nary a trepidation. Prepared in every way to face his moment of truth. This is what I saw then and this is what I remember now.

The toreador…standing on his tiptoes, back erect and leaning forward, eyes focused on that quarter sized target, right hand extended up high, holding a thin sword, moving stealthily toward his target on the neck of the raging bull;the bull… wounded, possibly panicked, bloody, confused and probably just reacting totoreador[2] self preservation instincts. The bullfighter positions himself for an instant over the bull’s horns to garner the best vantage point to the target. One instant of doubt, trepidation or hesitation and he risks death or  serious injury to himself and butchery to the bull. El momento della verdad! Done correctly…instant death to the bull and resounding glory for the bullfighter. A drama best described in ‘Death in the Afternoon’ by Hemingway.

So, a golfer takes the first tee. All are quiet but there is some tension about. The target seems distant and there are obstacles to the right, to the left and in front. A slight breeze stirs the surface waters of the pond just beyond. He tees up the ball and feels his heart begin to pump…just a bit. Time seems to stop. He’s just hit a dozen drives on the range with smoothness and confidence. He gazes down the target and that sureness begins to drain. One last waggle with a relaxing exhale and the swing is set in motion. Any doubt,

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hesitation or caution here and all goes awry. Why all the drama…it’s just a game…right??? Yes, but…and the but is…he is dealing with his inner core. All obstacles out there are static. If he falters and does not allow himself to perform as he knows he can, it’s a personal failure. He will not die or be harmed but he knows deep within that he did not measure up. So…is it a game or a stage for that moment of truth? I believe the latter!

At this point I  have to have a good laugh at myself. This, of course, is hyperbole gone wild. And the laugh…well…it began at the dinner table. And…it wasn’t really my laugh. It was on Patricia’s face and if the truth be told…the laugh was directed at me and my ‘piccolo mondo’ which I create. Sometimes Patricia comments, ‘where do you live?’ Well, Well!! Perhaps so? But if you are a golf aficionado you will understand standing over the ball on the first tee and putting all the importance of the world into that first shot while all your peers are looking. It does reveal something of your inner self. Moment of truth in terms of life and death?…of course not! But…there are other inner tensions which produce the same threshold of importance. In any event….trying to explain it to Patricia was a thorough exercise in futility and the more one tries the more one appears ridiculous. So, I sipped on my Chianti and complimented her on her exquisite shrimp salad and quietly exited the topic.

This is the mental threshold that most golfers bring to the game. There is a veneer of confidence but this confidence can easily and quickly be pierced by several errant shots. As I’ve often said…it’s a long distance from the driving range to the first tee, the world of ‘one shot’, no mulligans or do overs. It’s golf’s ‘moment of truth’ syndrome. Every shot is a moment of truth!

So, this is where the mental journey begins. And…now we embark on successive layers which tend exacerbate the process. The first layer is the static versus the dynamic. Tee up the ball and assume the address position. This is fine and dandy. You can even do a waggle, as recommended. But…eventually youhave to embark on that dynamic journey called the swing. It’s smooth and fluid and efficient. Any

deviation from those three little words produces loss of club head speed. The optimum journey travels one swing plane and one only. Make an adjustment along the way to another swing plane and  you reduce club head speed. The best example of the professional that makes this transition absolutely obvious is Jason Dufner. At address he does not linger at the station he embarks the train in a flurry of motion. What’s that you say…at address he waggles the club continuously and on one undetermined waggle he goes into the swing. That’s his way of overcoming the awkward moment of transition from the static address position to the dynamic and irreversible world of the swing. A more deliberate method is that used by Gary Player. One, two three. A move to his right side and backswing, the shift to the ball and a step through towards the target. On the other hand there is ‘Joe Hackhead’. He addresses the ball and waits with dread and doubt for that moment to begin the swing. There is tension and rigidity. Eventually a lurch or a painfully slow motion to the top. When you watch Gary or Jason or a myriad of other professionals the motion looks easy and balanced. Watch ‘Joe’ and…well…don’t watch. The result is predictable.

Picture you body as a coil. Your right foot, if you’re right handed, is the anchor. As the swing begins, the coil tightens only to reach its maximum tension at the top of the backswing. Typically at the top the left shoulder will be under the chin and the back will be facing the target. Wait…did I say that the shoulders are pointing to the target? And there’s the rub. It’s all wrong the little voice inside says. You gotta get back to the target and pronto. So, the anxiety in various degrees begins to build and continues till the ball is struck. And there’s the irony as the torso coils to be in proper position with the necessary power to strike the ball, the anxiety grows because you are pointing further and further away from the target. Where is the top…how far is the top…how long will it take??Doubt creeps into the mind as the swing attempts to find that magical position at the top.

This is an important and subtle point that it warrants repeating from another point of view…

The properly executed golf swing relies on the torque created from the different attitudes of the hips and


shoulders. The resulting tension felt in the torso area produces the power.The shoulders must point towards the target. And…this is the rub. As the golfers begins the dynamic golf swing his shoulders begin the journey…a journey which also begins the build-up of anxiety. Something in his little brain begins to signal…hey, hey this is all wrong. The target is that way. You’re facing the wrong way. The closer the golfer gets to the top of the swing with his back square towards the target the louder that little primitive voice becomes. At that point the anxiety is the greatest and then there is a rush to get back to the target line.

 There are many other refinements to the game for those with the talent to capitalize. However those areas I’ve outlined are the major obstacles which the average golfer must overcome to sport a repeatable swing and enjoyable game. Most golfers never get t0 that first stage. I being one. I can play six stellar holes on any golf course. Then the remaining holes tend to bring me back to reality. But….I’m still trying…

No article on golf should end without guaranteed solutions. I leave you with two:

1) Always dress in a splendid fashion. Look like a professional golfer. Then go to your favorite course and put for a while. Then go to the 19th hole and have a couple of bloody marys and talk golf with the fellows. Then…go home!!

2)  Take up bicycle riding as I’ve done. I find that you tend to loose less balls!!



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