Meditation: Old vs. Young

Most of the blogs I write require some research into the subject I am writing about.  Even golf articles, I will research certain ideas, to see what other people’s opinions are.  This blog will be an exception, in that I will be writing and discussing strictly from experience. What does old vs. young mean.  It is the long standing belief, of the older generation that the youth of today, have it easy,  are lazy, and in fact are not very intelligent.  I grew up hearing this from my elders, and about 4 years ago I experienced the other end of the spectrum, when I heard some of my former classmates from high school, talk about today’s young people.  They particularly hit hard on the intelligence of the  younger generation.  One  was a former school teacher, so I guess she felt that she should know.    How did all this get started, where the older generation thinks that the younger generation, has it so much easier than they did.  Besides that, it seems that this type of thinking can pervade everyone’s thinking no matter what the age of the person. There is the old saying, the grass is always greener on the other side.  I think that should be changed to the grass is easier to take care of on the other side.  Let’s look at my experiences with this.

I grew up having the best father a child could have.  He taught me how to play baseball, golf, and bowling and he taught me well. He spent many hours with me and to this day was my main mentor in life. He taught me more about life than any person I have ever known, and I will always be grateful.  But even he fell into this analysis.  When he thought I was being a shiftless 10 year old, he told me that when he was 10, he and his brother laid a concrete sidewalk around and through his parents property.  He gave me other examples of how tough things were doing the depression, and how easy I had it. One can hear stories like this, even if the age difference between people is not that great.  When I was in the 5th grade, I would hear from my older friends how much harder the 8th grade was.  When I was in veterinary school, I heard how much harder it is out in the “real world” when I would be trying to work for a living.  But you know what I found out? It was not harder but just different.  As you grow older, and go through life, things are changing, you make adjustments and most of the time things will work out.  Life can give you some harsh blows, with the loss of love ones and health issues.  These things in life do not make you stupid or lazy or less than the older generation.   Of course, this goes in the other direction where young people think the older generation, is feeble, losing skills, out of touch, and is taking up space where younger people could do a better job.  As I moved into my 30’s and 40’s and had my own successful veterinary practice my father gave me more credit and respected my work ethic.  But he put that moniker on my daughter’s generation as the ones who were now the lazy group, and their life was now too easy.  He was saying the same thing about that generation, that he had said about my generation, but it looked like I had turned out pretty well.. I wonder if he thought he had a hand in that, because of him telling me how lazy I was as a youth.  I really don’t think he thought that way.

So why does the older generation think the younger generation is going to screw up the world with their bad attitudes, laziness, and lack of intelligence. Maybe because the older generation, has already screwed up the world, and it makes them feel better to think that the next generation, will do it worse. This  breaks the basic rule of meditation.  People do not look within, they look at outside of themselves, to make decisions, and evaluate the world.  We all have had crosses to bear.  Some have had it harder than others and some people have been able to overcome great odds to have successful careers and lives.  Some of their stories have inspired many people to create a better life.  But each of us has to look within, to see what we can do to make our life better and more enjoyable. At times, this is not an easy task, no matter who we are or where we come from.  One of the things that will not make our lives better, is to compare.  That is essentially what one is doing, when it decides a generation is lacking, or a part of society has had it easier. In some cases your feelings and thoughts  maybe close to the truth. The bottom line is, that  is still not helping you to make a better life for your self. Stop caring and evaluating what that other yard looks like.   Look within and figure out what your next move will be, no matter what your age or status.  The outside world does not need your judgement on the future.    Start meditating and young people will improve, without having to age.

Golf: The Mind

This blog is about the mind, not the brain, and there is a difference. Boy, is there a difference. If you look up information about the mind, you will get a large variety of ideas and theories.  What I found interesting is, if you start with googling the brain, you will get mostly, if not all, academic and scientific sites.  If you google the mind, you will get philosophic sites, and some of the other two sites.  The mind has much more debate, about where it is,( yes not everybody thinks it is in the brain), about what it does, and how to control it.   The mind seems to encompass all facets of life, the past, the present, and the future. Most sites seemed to be interested in what the mind can do with the future.  The mind can change the way you eat, behave, and perform various activities relating to work and recreation.  These are all related to changing thought processes and attitudes. Mind control is discussed at various sites, ranging from brainwashing, hypnosis, and marketing ploys, to affect the mind.  On the other hand, the brain sites are much more scientific and discuss the functions of the brain.  We have learned a lot about the brain, over the last 40 years because of advance neuro imaging, which shows which parts of the brains are functioning, when we are thinking, or performing simple tasks. However, all this brain imaging has at times led us down the wrong path concerning how the brain really works, and has not helped us much in answering questions about the mind.

There have been plenty of books on the “Golfing Mind,” and these books could be classified as books on the mental game of golf.  These books discuss a variety of subjects.  They range from visualization, planning of the shots, first tee preparation, positive thinking, and handling pressure, to name just a few.  But does all this have anything to do with the mind.  Before I started reading all these sites on the mind, my answer would have been a 100% positive yes.  After looking at some of these sites, I am not too sure  these golf mental processes have anything to with the mind.  The other question is, what controls the mind?  On the site wikiHow, there is a list of things you can do to control your mind.  They are various things but all of them are related to thoughts. Now where do thoughts originate from?  That can have many answers, including nowhere.  As you can see these questions can go around and around with many perspectives and answers.  But the bottom line is this, do we, as golfers, really care, or should we be concerned with this? This time the answer can be an unequivocal, no.

After pouring through numerous sites on the brain, the mind, and thoughts, here is one man’s view, on what all this means for the golfer.  I think you can forget about a lot of the so called mental preparation that would go into playing a round of golf.  If you like to do these things, plan your round, visualize shots the day before, pre game relaxation exercises, then go ahead. They are not going to hurt you game at all, but probably, they are  not going to help much, either.  Listen, it’s always good to not beat yourself up, think positively, and have an upbeat attitude on the golf course, no matter what happens. This not only can make you a better golfer, but a better person to be around. No one wants to play with a grouch, who gets upset at the first bad shot of the day.  Is there one thing that you can count on from the mind?  In my view yes.  I  believe there is one thing that you can count on from the mind.  I am 100% sure of this. I do not have proof of this, or articles I can reference, because there are just as many articles, that would refute what I am about to conclude.  I think the mind controls the body 100%.   It controls the body so well, that it can even tell us what not to do.  It’s not like our thoughts.  It’s not like the old story, about telling  a person to think about anything but a white elephant in the room.  What do they think about, the white elephant. If your mind tells your body not to do something then it will not do it.  By the same token, if the mind tells you body to do something, it will do it.  I will explore this further in future blogs, and how it applies to playing golf much better.  For now, let this sink in and believe it. The mind controls the body.  The mind controls the body. The mind controls the body. Am I trying to brainwash you? Never mind.

Golf: The Brain

This blog could be the blog about making a blog.  It started out looking at one particular area and then turned into it’s current state, a mixed bag of end of the year thoughts, and highlights. Confused, you should be on my end of this blog. Like most stories, let’s start at the beginning.  The original idea for this golf blog was to look at the right brain, and see if we use the right brain  enough, when we are playing golf. The difference, between the right brain and the left brain, is that the right brain is the more intuitive side, and the left brain is the more factual side.  The left side tells you, this is a pen, and your right side tells you how to use it.  There are lots of articles, and even books about right and left brain dominance, some of which, I have read.  It was thought, that people could be more right brain dominate, and others could be left brain dominate.   I am not going to expound any more about this subject, and  how this affects an individual, because in researching this theory, I found out this is all hogwash.  Boy, do I wish I hadn’t read those books, that proposed the left right brain theory.   More up to date data shows that there is more communication between the left and the right brain than was thought previously.  Even though the right brain may be more intuitive and creative, it is being shown that the left brain may still be driving the bus. This so called dominance of one brain over the other is simply not true. This shot a hole in the idea that maybe we are not as intuitive as we should be on the golf course, especially if we are left brain oriented . This is found in an internet course called Brain Myths Exploded, lessons from Neuroscience.  It is an 11 hour course and I am about half way through it.

Considering, that I am still thinking that this game is 100% mental, once you reach a certain level, I find all this new information on the brain very interesting. Instead of this idea, that one side of the brain is dominating the other side of the brain, maybe it is the lack of communication of the two sides, when we are playing, that causes us to play so poorly at times, or to hit a particular bad shot. This could be saying the say thing as the domination factor,  just in a different way, but I doubt it. Lack of communication is not the same thing as dominance. Meanwhile, unless we get some unusual weather here in the Burg it may be awhile before I get to test out any of these theories. The brain probably is the most important club in the bag when it comes to playing golf. We just don’t know how far we can hit it, yet.

On a more personal note I am headed to San Diego for Christmas with the grandkids and family.  Looking forward to that trip, and seeing everybody.  I was able to play a few more rounds of golf, since the end of the season golf blog.  I wound up playing 135 rounds of golf this year, which is more than last year but just a little shy of my record of 150 rounds.  It will be tough to break that record, because  a lot of 36 hole days were played that year, and I think those days are behind me.  I think I can still play 36 holes in one day but not on a regular basis like I did 3 or 4 years ago.  The weather was better this year, which helped in getting more rounds in, than last  year. My most recent round was highlighted my a near hole in one.  On the 17th hole at Ponderosa I hit a cutting 7 iron about 140 yards into a cold wind that stopped about 3 inches behind and right of the hole.  It was a close call for hole in one number 6.   It has been a good year over all and I hope that I continue to have good health and be able to play this goofy game as much as I want. There may be one more blog before the end of the year but if there is not, Happy New Year, and see you in 2020.

 

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.

Sports: Pittsburgh Pirates

Yesterday, the season mercifully ended for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  It ended with Steve Blass being honored for 60 years of service, and Clint Hurdle being fired. Leave it to Pirate ownership to even screw that up.   It was two seasons, one before the all star break, and one after the all star break.  Before the All Star break, this seemed to be a gritty team, that seemed to be overcoming devastating injuries and was only 2.5 games out of first place, and only 1 game below .500 at 44-45.  Even though the all star game is considered the half way point, it is slightly beyond the half way point. There were only 73 games left in the season.  It was like a switch was flipped after the break.  The Pirates went on a total collapse and lost 24 of the next 28 games and the season was quickly over shortly after August first.  They went from this gritty battling team to a team that fought among themselves, got arrested, and simply could not play the game anymore. I feel that it was this stretch of games and the depth of the collapse that led to Clint Hurdle being fired.  What the hell the happened?

First the cold hard facts.   They were one of the worst pitching and fielding teams, in the National League.   One of the  three most important pitching stats are ERA+, FIP, and Whip.  The Pirate staff ranked Last in ERA+, 11th in FIP, and next to last in Whip.  Their strike out to walk ratio was 13th.   They went from a little above average in 2018 to one of the worst staffs in the National League. Going into this year, this was supposed to be their strength.  On defense they were even worse.   Defensive Efficiency Rating, they were last. Defensive Runs Saved, they were next to last.   Total Zone Defense, they were last.  They went from a below average fielding team to one of the worst in the National League.  They had the worst fielding 3rd baseman in all of baseball this year and maybe in this century.  They had only one player who fielded his position at above average,2ond baseman Adam Frazier.  Even Starling Marte was way below league average this year.  This could not be offset by having  only an average run producing team. Runs scored the Pirates ranked 10th in the league.   Their OPS+ was 7th and OBP was 9th.   However, this team was able to stay in the race for 89 games.  Let’s move on to some subjective things and things that were not done that could have helped this team.

Injuries were a big part of this season for the Pirates, when in other years they have been very fortunate in keeping players healthy.  But not all injuries were a bad thing. If it were not for injuries, Kevin Newman and Brian Reynolds would not have had the opportunities to have the good years they had, with Reynolds being the WAR leader at 3.9. It was the pitching injuries, that were the most devastating, in more ways than one.  Jamison Talion won’t be pitching until 2021 and he was the ace of the staff.  Every member of the starting pitching rotation spent some time on the IL.  When they came off the IL they still did not seem to be back to 100%.  Trevor Williams and Chris Archer never seemed to regain their form once they returned from being injured.  Despite the bad fielding the  team collapse can be tied to the total pitching collapse. During the 28 game stretch the Pirate pitching staff gave up an average of 6.3 runs per game. The four games they won they gave up 2.5 runs per game and the 24 they lost they gave up 6.9 per game.   It was just horrible and they had worse stretches than that, later in the year.   Then, there was the clubhouse tensions. Even though most of the fighting that was reported was after the 4-24 collapse you had to know that this was not a happy clubhouse from  the start of the season.  Usually clubhouse harmony is not an essential part of winning, but I think it is more important when the teams talent level is middle of the road.  I think you have to have a bit of mutual respect and loyalty on the team to get the most out of the unit.  I have always felt in years past that this  was the case with the Pirates.  They seemed to be a close knit bunch. That was not the case this year.   Management did next to nothing to help the team combat the injuries.  They could have gotten pitching help that was desperately needed and some defensive help.  It was like they knew this was coming and that the team was going to take the plunge.  In the end it cost Clint Hurdle his job and the future is looking bleak.   The pitching staff has to be almost completely rebuilt.  This will cost money and this ownership has not done this in the past.  As the GM likes to say they will look to improve internally.  Don’t look now but your innards are pretty well diseased.   Naturally they will look for a new manager.  Who they choose under the current situation won’t make any difference.    It’s going to take some bold moves to get this organization back to contend. Don’t hold your breath.

 

Golf

Golf, the game for the masses, that everyone can play and enjoy. You can play the game of golf until the day you die. People are playing golf in their nineties, and kids can start playing when they are five years old. It is the game for everyone, but is it. For what ever reason golf has always had some kind of unwritten caste system. There is really never an exclamation on why this wonderful game became this way. Even within the game, there was this elitist attitude with the general public, when it came to golf. The golf professional was looked upon as a lower class citizen, during the first third of the 20th century. During tournaments that were held at country clubs the golf professional was not allowed access to the clubhouse facilities. Speaking of the golf professional, their organization, the Professional Golfers Association of America, had in its  by laws until 1961, that in order to be a member you had to be Caucasian. Let that sink in for awhile.

Country clubs are the last bastion of I want to play with my own kind, philosophy. The unwritten rule that many clubs would not allow minorities and people of the Jewish religion is still going on, but there has been some change recently. In the last 10 years there are more  country clubs allowing in their first African American members. There are still many all male golf clubs. There are many rules at most country clubs. Women can only tee off at certain times on the weekend, usually after 11am. The clubs try to make up for this my giving women a day like on Tuesday from 8 to 11 when they have the priority. WOW. There’s the men’s grill, and other rules and regulations that do not exist in what I would call the real world. The justification for these attitudes are we paid a whole lot of money to belong to this club and we will make the rules and play with who we want to play and associate with. If this has been the policy  for years to exclude minorities in country clubs and treat women as second class citizens, why has there been this gradual change to begin to open up the doors to a more diverse group of people. We all know it has nothing to do with a change in social consciousness or attitudes. It has to with $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. Yeah, no kidding. The country club world is hurting, and now needs more members to enjoy all those restricted amenities. This is all well and good. If this leads to more minorities being able to play and enjoy some of the finer golf courses that this country has to offer, great. If this leads  to better treatment of the female golfer, wonderful.   I am sure we may see more  of these positive changes as the golf economic crunch continues.  

This has been going on in golf for years and years, and I am not going to make judgements, or go on about golf’s apparent lack of social conscience.  My question here is, how did this simple game of knocking a little ball around to put it into a hole, develop  this elitist attitude. I am not sure, but here is what I think.  As golf became more popular over the years there was one thing discovered about golf when compared with other sporting endeavors.  Golf could humiliate you like no other sport could.   It’s so simple and looks so easy.   But when you miss that first 15 inch putt, make your first whiff, or take 10 shots to try and get out of a sand trap, before just picking up your ball and walking sheepishly to the next tee, you know that there is something wrong with this game or maybe it’s you. Now it’s bad enough to do this in front of your friends, but to do this in front of strangers, or in front of people that you perceive is  below your so called social standing, is even worse, and adds to the humiliation.  The solution is to simple keep them away, and play with your own kind, to suffer the shame with your dear friends, who know what you are going through. Let’s face it, humility is not one of the traits of captains of business. Golf is simply that game that brings out the worst and the best, out of everyone.  It is too mystifying to be believed, and impossible to explain to someone who has not been through it.  It is this lack of understanding of golf, that has led this great game to develop this caste system. See you on links.  I will be the one walking with my head down while shaking it from side to side.    

100% Mental Golf: Rounds 81 to 85

Back from vacation and back to the golf grind.   Five rounds of golf played with one of those a scramble,  and little progress to report.   The four individual rounds ranged from a low of 75 to a high of 82.  Again trying to make this game 100 % Mental is turning out to be way harder than expected.  When you are trying to improve, which we are all trying to do,  it is just about impossible to not try and tinker with some part of the swing.  I even brought back the old shoulder control swing for about  33 holes but abandoned that again.  The address position thing I was doing is gone.   Despite by being unhappy at times with my ball striking, my lack of scoring comes down to one big work this year.

PUTTING.   Despite my problems on the greens, which there are many, I am still able to keep my index in the low 4’s, with the latest on the 15th 4.2.  I am just not getting the ball into the hole.   The first thing I am going to change is what I do with the flagstick.  I have left it in for all putts this year.  Overall I think it helps you more than hurts but after doing it all year, I think there are two points that all the flagstick testers are missing.  All flagsticks are not created equal.  I play a variety of courses and I feel there is a difference on how some flagsticks receive a ball.  I do not think there is a standard diameter for flagsticks, but even if I am wrong,  I am not sure golf courses follow it totally anyway.  There is no question the hole looks bigger with the flagstick out.  100% Mental just kicked in.   It goes back to that old Ken Venturi saying that I have quoted before.  If the flagstick is out he trying to make the chip, and if he leaves the flagstick in the hole, then he is just trying to get it close.  So, on any putt under 30 feet, I am taking the flag out the rest of the season.   Longer putts I will decide on a case by case basis.   Sounds pretty serious doesn’t it.  The second thing I am going to do is try to make the most natural stroke for me that I can, and  not use any particular method.  The thing that got me out of my slump in 2017, and improved my putting immensely, was when I started to let my body move on putts. Since then, I have gone back and forth on this method over this 2 year period.  The problem is trying to make your body move on putts, is as bad as trying to keep it still on putts.  It distracts you from keeping your focus on making the putt.  We will see how this all goes in the coming weeks.

By now you see that the blog has a little different look and a slight change in the title of the site.   Since I am beginning to see that I am not going to find the answer after 9 years, I have decided to write about other subjects, that are near and dear to my heart.  They are Meditation, Food, Sports, and I will continue to write about Golf and the quest to find the answer.  Even though I feel I won’t find the answer I am not giving up either.   I will be playing about 4 times this week and we will see how it goes.