Golf: Season Wrap Up

Even though there is golf yet to be played in Western Pennsylvania, the handicap season ended on November 15th and the golf will be hit and miss for the rest of the year. It is time to look back at the golf season of 2019 and see what was good, bad, and indifferent.  This was the year of 100% mental golf, and it was neither a success or a complete failure. I learned some things, but in the end, did not make much progress in improving my game.  I started the year with a 4.1 index and ended with a 4.8.  My highest was 5.2, and the lowest, other than my start, was 4.2.   Before I summarize the year, lets break down each section of my game for 2019.

Driver.  This was the best part of my game.   I would have a bad driving day once in awhile, but for the most part I drove the ball well, and kept my driving distance steady, and did not lose any distance this year.

Fairway wood.   Contrast this with the worst part of my game.  Fairway woods gave me the most problem for the year.  I bought some new 15 degree clubs, and they made things worse, and I went back to my old Orlimar fairway woods, of 16 and 20 degree, and this seemed to help some.  It was with the 15 and 16 degree clubs, that I had the most trouble getting the ball airborne.  This part of my game contributed a lot, to seeing my index go up .7 points.

Irons.  I had a fair year with the irons.   I changed to Titleist AP3 irons with regular graphite shafts.  Theses clubs had strong lofts so a 5 iron was like hitting a 4.5 iron.  These clubs gave me such increased  distance, that I had a hard time adjusting.  I did have some really good days with these irons and will continue to play them.  Even though I have been playing them, since Mid May, I still feel I am going through a learning process with them.

Short game.  This part of my game improved.  I got rid of the chip yips ( another blog) and I am getting better around the greens.  My sand game is still bad but hoping for improvement. One of the things that have helped me is, I went back to using a 60 degree wedge with zero bounce.    This club is the old Cleveland 485 60 degree wedge.  I acquired the club about 2 months ago and have been doing betting around the greens. I use to play this club all the time, and I am glad I went back to it.   Will discuss zero bounce more in another blog.

Putting.   This was the most inconsistent part of my game.  Most recently I have had a good run of putting, which has helped with some low scores, but not quite enough to offset some bad ball striking.  Again getting rid of the yips on the greens has helped immensely.

To summarize, the biggest problem I had this year was where my bad shots went.   I had a very prolonged slump in golf, that started at the end of 2015 and lasted until about June of 2017, and this was the same problem, except then it was much worse.  I had about 10 to 15 rounds in 2016 and 2017, where I did not break 80, but my handicap score was between 76 and 79 due equitable stroke control.  I had the same thing happen in 2019, but not as often. When you top a ball 80 yards, or hit it so far off line, that its in the woods, scoring goes out the window.  My fairway wood game was this bad.  I would hit some iron shots, and  trap shots, that were just as horrible.    So that will be the first goal, to hit better bad shots.  Easier said than done, but I will give it a try.  Now to 100% mental golf.  I am still undecided about how to split the game up between the mental and physical side, and I hope to come up with a solution soon.  First I thought it was a 50-50 split.  Then, I went all the way over to 100% mental, and still think that is possible.  It is difficult to remove the physical side of the game entirely.  Maybe I should go a long with Yogi Berra, when he said, baseball is 90% mental, and the other half is physical. The older I get, which is getting pretty old, I feel that golf will be that mystery game,  I will never solve.  Maybe in Wonderland, tornado anyone.

Meditation

Even though there are hundreds of books and apps on Meditation, many of them do not go into the breathing method to use when meditating. There are two kinds of breathing.  The first type is chest or tension breathing.  This seems like the “normal” way to breath.   When you inhale your chest expands and on the exhale your chest contracts.  If you pay attention to this, you will see that this breathing does create tension.  The second kind of breathing is abdominal or relaxation breathing.  When you inhale, your belly does the expanding and when you exhale the belly contracts.  Pay attention to this type of breathing, and you will see it is more relaxing.

The best way to experience relaxation breathing is to lay flat on your back on a hard surface, like the floor, and place your hands over your belly button.   Just try to relax a little bit, and then start to breath.  You will see that in this position, it is almost impossible to breath, except to allow your abdomen to expand on the inhale, and then it will naturally contract on the exhale.  You will also find that your breathing is deeper and fuller.  Even though you are laying on a hard surface,  as you continue to breath this way, your body will become more relaxed.  Just continue to take nice deep belly breaths, and you will begin to experience true relaxation of the various parts of your body.  Then start to concentrate on each section of your body. It does not make any difference whether you start at your feet, and work your way up to the top of your head, or the other way around.  I like to start at the feet.  Relax your feet, ankles, calves, knees, and thighs.  Then once you feel like your lower extremities are totally relaxed, then start with your hands, wrists, forearms, elbows and upper arms. Once the upper extremities are totally relaxed, then work on the trunk beginning with the lower back and upper buttocks.  Work your way up the mid back and the upper back and shoulders.  Once that is relaxed, then relax the neck, lower jaw, cheeks, the eyes, forehead, and finally, the top of the head.  Once you have the entire body in a relaxed state, try and maintain that for 5 minutes. This will get  you about half way through a good meditation.    Then it’s time to explore your inner self.

There are many ways of doing this.  You can just try and go inside yourself.   You can create an inner sanctuary or a relaxation  place.  This could be a lake, the ocean, or a mountain and river scene. But think of a place that will enhance  this relaxed state that you are in.  A place where you have felt relaxed in the past.   Getting to your inner self can be quite rewarding but also scary, as you may finds things that you may not like about yourself.  This is a very personal journey, and there is no right or wrong way to do it.  It may take many meditations and months to begin to get inside yourself, and see what makes you really tic.  It will still be up to you, to go in a different direction or continue along the same path you have always gone.   There is no right or wrong here, either.  You just become aware of the things that have enabled you to be where you are now, and you then decide if you should change, or continue down the same path.  The biggest thing you become aware of is, you are exactly where you want to be, right now, even though it may not seem like this is what you want.  You are totally in charge of your life, if you really want to be.  Sometimes, and I have experienced this,  you really don’t want to be in charge.  Simply, it is  much easier to look outward and blame, rather than looking inward and accepting responsibility.  Good luck.

100% Mental Golf Rounds 95 to 102

I played 8 rounds since September 1,with a Grand Canyon vacation in the middle from the 9th to the 16th. The rounds were the normal with a lot of ups and downs. The scores were in chronological order, 76,77, 81,75,8,74,80, and 80. The last two 80’s were really disappointing coming off a nice 74. The last round yesterday was in a tournament format, where I imploded on the last 6 holes. This will be a 100% Mental Golf wrap up, as this will be the last blog with this title. The rest of my exploits on the golf course will be under the heading of Golf.

Did I learn anything this year and do I still believe that for a low handicapper golf is 100% mental. You always learn something every time you play a round of golf, even if it you should take up bowling. The game continues to mystify me in so many ways, that I can not write about it in such a small format. I have discussed some of this in previous blogs but I am still lost at times on how to play this game most effectively. One of the things I did learn this year is that it is hard to define 100 % Mental. You would think it would be easy but the thought processes during the round can lead to confusion. You have to play physically. There are times when playing golf your body seems so dysfunctional. This happened to me yesterday. I said I imploded on the last 6 holes but in reality I imploded for almost the entire round. Amazingly I putted very well yesterday. Many times when you are playing tournament golf, that is what costs you the most is poor putting. It was a combination of good luck and some very good putting that got me to two over par after 12 holes. Then I played 6 over for the last 6 holes and many of these holes are not very difficult. I am not going through the gruesome details here but one thing I felt was good during this collapse was my thought process at the time. It was my ball striking for the day that let me down. Going in the day I did not shoot a good round on Friday but that did not bother me. This tournament was a synopsis of how my year has gone. I had 34 full swing shots. I rated them as such: Excellent shots 13, Good shots 6, Average shots 5, and Poor shots 10. On four holes where I made poor shots I was able to scramble for a par. I one putted one time for a bogey. I hit 24 shots that were average or above, it was those 10 poor shots that led to my demise. Now current thinking would have you believe that there may be a flaw in my technique which can only take me so fare. When the pressure builds then the flaw rears its ugly head and bad shots ensue. I do not buy that but I also can not give an answer either. I will see what the rest of the season brings and ” enlighten you in future blogs.

The most interesting thing to happen over this time frame is I think I have stumbled on a working solution to control the yips. I have written blogs in past on the yips. This solution is for the putting yips and the chipping yips. I may elaborate if this proves to be a successful endeavor. I can guarantee you that the yips will have another article in the coming months. But for the overall golf game it is back to the drawing board for now.

Food

Food should be such a simple thing. We need to eat to survive, but most of us really enjoy eating. A lot of that enjoyment is taken away from us by so many food rules, developed by God knows who. Foodist have written more things about food, and the things they have written about over the years have, at times, changed dramatically. Let’s go through just a few, which is just the tip of the iceberg. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, or not. Eat complex carbohydrates, or not. Do not eat after 7pm, or go ahead its no big deal. Eggs are good for you, or not. Drink or don’t drink water during a meal. Stay away from red meat, or not. You can eat too much fruit, or not. Dairy products are bad because you are older than 6 months, well maybe. Eat your biggest meal in the middle of the day, or not. Sugar is bad for you, but it still not as bad as artificial sweeteners, which does not get enough publicity. Do you think money has anything to do with that. I could go on and on about this, but you get the picture.

The big advice out there, is you should listen to your body. Eat when you are hungry, and stop when you are full. I don’t know about you, but I could say that I never feel hungry when I eat. The dictionary defines hungry as feeling an uneasy or painful sensation, from a lack of food. However, another definition is the desire or need to eat food. Now I have felt that baby, every day. So when are you supposed to listen to your body. Are you supposed to wait until you feel pain to eat. I hope not. Forget about all that nonsense about waiting until your hungry to eat. When you feel like eating, then eat and if you don’t feel like eating then don’t. Don’t feel like you have to eat at a certain time. I skip breakfast more than I eat breakfast. I think it is more important to listen to your body, after you eat. I am not talking about the full thing either. Who knows when your “full” and who cares. I am talking about how you generally feel after you eat. Without a doubt you should feel better. I think there are many idiosyncrasies that people can have to one particular food. I do not care what kind of food it is supposed to be, like really good for you, if you do not feel right after you eat it, then stay away from it. This could be a subtle feeling, like you just don’t feel right, or it could be more distinct like abdominal pain. You never want to get into the trap of eating something because this is what you should eat. Broccoli may be considered a super food but if every time you eat it, you double over in pain, then stay away from it. Always eat things that you like, and that make you feel good, after you eat them. It almost should be a form of relaxation.

Now I know there are proven intolerances to Lactose and Gluten, but being tested for a lot of other food issues, to me, is unnecessary. Your body will tell you if a food is not agreeing with you and when it speaks just listen and avoid that food. I think a lot of health issues regarding food are related to not listening to your body after you eat and stressing over what you should eat. Just remember there is no bad food. So enjoy the food that makes you feel better and stop trying to get it right.

100% Mental Golf Rounds 86 to 94

This stretch of golf really had its ups and downs on all aspects of the game. The scores were as follows 73,82,74,79,81,84,77,76,and 76. My index stayed at 4.2, despite the wildness of play. The weather has been good, and the courses are in about as good shape as they have been all year. The last three rounds have shown some consistency, but I would like to be a little lower with that consistency. The high rounds were caused by the usual suspects, poor putting. the short game blues, and really horrible shots. I have stayed with the 100% mental concept pretty well, but did lapse into some physical changes during some of the bad rounds, and even rounds that were not so bad. The 77 round was one where I went through three swing changes, during the round. That is just being mental, not mental golf. The last two rounds have been much better on keeping with the principle, I think.

When I say I think, I feel I am doing 100% Mental Golf but in a different way. Maybe when we are out on the golf course, we are thinking about the wrong things. Trying to picture the shot may not be the way to go. The standard technique is to stand behind the ball, and picture where and how you want the ball to go. It is what I have always believed in, and there is nothing in the books, about the mental process of the golf shot, that will contradict this. It is especially true, when you are putting or hitting a short shot, to visualize the ball going into the hole. On a chip or pitch, you are supposed to picture the trajectory the ball and how it is going land and roll as it makes its way toward the cup. On good visualization days you can picture that ball going into the hole. Many times, this seems to be the real key to playing great golf. It was, in my mind, the original 100 % Mental Golf concept. You read or hear about players, that are just picturing the shot, and hitting the shot right where they are aiming. But even for the pros this visualization process seems to come and go. Whether it is pressure or not, who knows, but we have all seen some of the best golfers in the world make some bad shots and putts at the worse times. Maybe the visualization process is not what it is cut out to be. I am going to go a little different way. I know this is about the 71st time I have gone a little different way over the last 9 years, but damn it I know there is something missing on figuring out the best way to play this game. I will only play about 3 rounds this week due to some appointments. Then the next week I am going on vacation for a week. Even though it might be only 3 rounds, I will blog about it next Sunday.

Meditation

Now that it has been established how important meditation is in life, how do you get started. Before we get to that, I thought it would be a good idea to get a solid definition of meditation. After looking up the definition of meditation, I am not too sure now, that it was such a good idea. It seems meditation is hard to define. Who would have thunk it? Wikipedia states scholars have found meditation difficult to define, as practices vary both between traditions, and within them. Let’s look at five sources and see what they said. The Merriam-Webster dictionary states it is a discourse intended to express its author’s reflections or to guide others in contemplation. The Medical Dictionary has a definition. A practice of concentrated focus upon a sound, object, visualization, the breath, movement, or attention itself in order to increase awareness of the present moment, reduce stress, promote relaxation, and enhance personal and spiritual growth. Dictionary.com states meditation is continued or extended thought; reflection, contemplation, devout religious contemplation, or spiritual introspection. It comes from the Latin word thinking over. Cambridge English dictionary says it is the act of giving your attention to only one thing, either as a religious activity or as way of becoming calm and relaxed. Finally good old Webster defines meditation as a practice in which an individual trains the mind, or induces a mode of consciousness either to realize some benefit or as an end in itself.

What is my take on all these definitions? It means that you can do pretty much what you want when you meditate. I do not see anything religious in meditation. It should be a personal endeavor and religion should have nothing to with it. If you want to put a more religious aspect to your meditative practice, then that is fine, but don’t feel that it is a necessity. Meditation has been associated with various philosophies and historical individuals. Again, something that is not necessary to incorporate, to meditate. If you want to follow someone’s meditative practices or guidance, that is good, if this is what gets you started or keeps you going in meditation. There should not be any goals in meditation except to relax and look inward. The benefits listed for meditation will just happen and in some respects can be overly optimistic, just to try and get you to meditate. Most of the definitions make meditation feel like a thinking process which in my view it is not. Yes if you are going to look inward and see your true self some thought is going to have to be involved. One of the purposes of meditation is to calm the brain and stop the thinking on the outside world. Now that we have , let’s say a working definition of meditation, how do we get started.

Although fear is the biggest reason people do not meditate, the other big excuses are time and I just can’t sit still for 20 minutes and think of nothing. Most likely these people are right. But I bet they can not run a marathon, do 100 push ups, or play golf in the 70’s if they have never golfed. Meditation is like any endeavor, you must start small and work your way up to big. When I started to meditate, I began meditating for one minute. That was it. I could do that, and I could do it every day. You can start even shorter than that if you want. Thirty seconds, 5 seconds even, it does not matter. What matters is you do it, and then slowly but surely increase the time every 4 to 7 days. How fast you go, is up to you. When I started, I increased my time by one minute every 5 days, and then when I got out to 8 minutes, I increase by increments to 2 minutes, until I reached 20 minutes. This took about 10 weeks to do. Even though there are many how to books and apps on meditation, I am going to give a few basics to get started. First, getting into that comfortable position. Your meditation position can be anything you want. You do not have to get into to that semi-lotus cross legged position to meditate. You can sit in a chair, or couch, and even lying down is a perfectly good position to meditate. The only danger in lying down to meditate is falling asleep. If you are starting from scratch, and follow the above advice of only meditating for one minute, that is highly unlikely. The best way to start is to count your breaths and I believe in always counting the full cycle breath. One count for every inhale and exhale. Next up we will discuss breathing in a relaxed way, and getting to know your inner self, get started please.

Meditation

Meditation, a subject that is near and dear to my heart.  I have been meditating for 26 years.  I can say that it changed my life.  I believe that it is something that every one should do, and is essential to living the best life that you can.  I did not say that it would solve all your problems, and let you live a perfect life. I think that most of the benefits you read about are overly optimistic.  Meditation, according to many sources is booming right now, with almost double the amount of people meditating, compared to 2012. There are meditation apps and thousands of books on the subject.   The estimate is about 14% of the people in the U. S. meditate.   What if I told you that 14% of the population drinks enough water to survive.  That 86% of the population dies of thirst.  Water is essential to life.  Your first thought would be what is wrong with those people.  Everyone knows that you have to take fluid in to survive.   In my view meditation is the same.  Obviously if you don’t meditate, you are not going to physically die, but your life will not be as full, and your soul will whither away.  I know that may sound strong but it is what I believe. So, why don’t more people meditate? The most common reasons you read about are not enough time, I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work, it’s an eastern thing, and I just can’t do it.   I believe that there are only two real benefits to meditating and one of those is the reason that people do not meditate.

The first benefit of meditating is, it allows your body to totally relax for the 20 minutes that you are doing it.  I feel 20 minutes is the minimal time that you should meditate.  There are a lot of apps and articles now about how 10 minutes a day may benefit or have the same benefits, but I am not in agreement.  It is just an excuse to try to get people to meditate who say they don’t have the time.  What is amazing, is that just allowing the muscles of the body to relax for 20 minutes is all the time the body needs. It will help you have more energy and you will feel more refreshed if you meditate daily for 20 minutes.  People seem to confuse relaxation with sleeping.  They think that when I sleep my body is completely relaxed.  When you sleep you toss and turn and dream.  Your mind is still active and this can keep the muscles stiff and tense.  Dreaming can cause more issues than real life. Besides relaxing the physical body, meditating can relax the mind.  The mind can relax doing meditation, but it also can serve another purpose during meditation, which becomes the second benefit of meditating.

The second benefit, is that it makes you look at your inner self.   It makes you look inward to what makes you tic, and why you are where you are, in whatever stage of life you are in. The vast majority look at the outer world to evaluate their lives.  We have bad relationships, our job is no good,  the economy is bad,  our luck is bad, and just about anything else that someone is doing or not doing that we perceive is keeping us from reaching are goals and having a full life. This give us comfort, and blocks us from taking responsibility for where we are at the present moment.  Meditating can make you look at your inner self and it can be very scary.  It takes real guts to take a good look at how you function and why you are in the circumstances that you are in.  That is the number one reason why people do not meditate.  When you look inside and see the person you are, it can be quite disconcerting.   All those perceived benefits from meditating,  relieving stress, helping manage anxiety, helping with depression, increasing your immunity, better sleep, relieving IBS symptoms ( I had to throw that one in there), and improving your over well being, is still not enough to over come the fear of finding out your true self.  There is one site that lists 76 benefits of meditation.  Wow!   It’s always tough finding out things that you may not like about yourself, although that is the only way you are going to improve your life.

Even though I have been meditating for 26 years, I have had my ups and downs with meditating. I started in 1993 and was consistent for about 18 years. Then around 2011 I began to feel that I did not need meditation as much anymore, and began to skip days. I felt this way because so much good was going on in my life, that meditation was not as important. I was wrong. Over any life you make a lot of mistakes and do things you wish you had not done and maybe if I would have been more diligent meditating I would have made some better decisions over the last 6 years. Over the last 6 months I have gotten back on track and do feel much better. Meditation is something that is essential to living and every person that is breathing should do. On the next meditation blog, I will give some tips on how to get started. This is not really a how to blog. There is tons of apps and books on the subject, but I will go through what I think is good and what is just salesmanship on the creator . In future blogs I will discuss situations not really related directly to meditating but come about because we live in a non meditating world.