The Solitary Search Starts Again


I came across this article earlier today and thought you might enjoy it. It really captures the mood of optimism that greets a new year of golf. It was originally featured in the April edition of Golf Digest in 2013, written by the ever honest Jamie Diaz.

In the article he discusses his manic enthusiasm for the game and the constant drive to get better.

“I’m anxious to get on the course, but as finding the actual time gets more challenging, it’s hit me that in all these years I’ve gotten as much pleasure from the thinking about how to play better as I have from the actual playing.”

Personally I think this is a very revealing statement and it is what attracts many to the game. Golf separates itself from other sports with the level of detail and variability on offer. Consider how much theory has been created for a 7 iron versus a jump shot or baseball hit?!

Diaz continues, “Basically, I’m a compulsive golf experimenter. As pointless and counterproductive as it seems to most, I love to assess the flaws in my game and incessantly consider possible antidotes, the whole process springing from the vain belief that I know I can be better than this.

It doesn’t take much for a new idea to gain temporary currency — putting at a table leg, air-swinging before the reflection from a sliding glass door or just watching Golf Channel. Often, the obsession needs only the mind’s eye and a quiet moment, and perhaps a scrap of paper to urgently write down something vague and perishable like “Swing PAST the ball.”

I know such a flimsy approach is a presumptuous shortcut, arrogant in its ignorance, and, if precedent matters at all, doomed. Yet it’s the chase that for me makes the game intoxicating.”

Despite lessons from the games greatest teachers – Harmon, Haney, Leadbetter he felt unfulfilled and continued his own search for improvement.

“As a group, they’ve been my biggest source of insight into the game. But all acknowledge that learning, especially about how to get better at golf, requires a deeply personal engagement. It’s a nuanced and difficult process, and if both teacher and student are honest, the mystery always remains.

It’s why reliance on a teacher is tricky. In a recent New Yorker article, the concert pianist Jeremy Denk, in a first-person piece about the stages of learning, writes about how he “slipped into the dangerous state of craving a guru, someone who would tie it all together.”

When he thought he had found such a teacher, he regressed, finally realizing that it was because “my idea of music merged with my idea of him.” The last sentence of Denk’s story says of teachers, “They have given all the help they can; the only person who can solve the labyrinth of yourself is you.”

Diaz concludes his story and makes a point that is echoed by those in golf that struggle after prescribed changes –  “It can’t be a coincidence that the two finest strikers ever — Hogan and Trevino — worked it out themselves.”

Here’s to a great 2015!

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