“Competitive golf is played mainly on a five and a half inch course…the space between your ears.” Bobby Jones
I wanted to start with that quote because, who knows, maybe you’ve gone two or three hours without having heard it or read it. As far as I’m concerned it’s the golf quote equivalent of “The Hotel California”: honestly I don’t need to hear it again. Ever. Thanks and all, but I get it.
But Mr. Jones does have a point, doesn’t he? Our minds are interesting places. I don’t know what the inside of your head is like but mine feels as densely packed and diverse as a neighborhood in Manhattan or Mumbai. There are the joke shops which my family members would recognize as the source of the tried and true (cue the air quotes) humorous responses to certain situations. There are boutiques where I can find interesting little analogies and metaphors, and an old barber shop where my old chestnuts of paternal advice are playing on an eternal, never-ending loop. If I poke around a little bit I know that I can tune into my favorite obsessions; they’re like “Law and Order” repeats in a hotel room: I know they’re on somewhere. There are stacks of memories but over time they’ve taken on the character of old National Geographic magazines, full of images of places and people that have changed quite a bit since the photo was taken.
Now some of you may have read the preceding paragraph and thought to yourselves, “Wow get that man on something stronger than what’s available over the counter!” Maybe the inside of your head looks like a Swiss pharmaceutical lab: clean, precise and well lit, a place where everything is titrated and calibrated. But here’s the question: what the fuck are you doing reading this? Shouldn’t you be curing cancer or something? Come on, humanity’s waiting. Get back to work.
Alright, that leaves the rest of us doesn’t it? So, to get back to Mr. Jones, the peculiar, and simultaneously infuriating and intriguing aspect of golf, is this encounter with the multiplex theater inside our heads. And here’s the kicker, and what makes the sport so special and difficult: those seconds before we hit a golf ball are one of the few times in our day to day lives that we are actually alone with our minds. Think about it. How often do you leave yourself alone with your head? Obviously you carry it around with you wherever you go (it’s that melon shaped thing on top of your neck). But you treat it like a bad neighborhood: a place where you don’t want to be alone. Based on what I observe there are precious few of us who venture forth to get from point A to point B without having an iPod or smartphone to keep themselves company. And if we aren’t going high tech then our car radios and stereos are always on. The plugged in world of work and domestic life means that there’s always an infinite smorgasbord of distraction and entertainment instantly at our disposal. And we haven’t even mentioned all that old-fashioned stuff like, I don’t know, talking to people who are actually sitting across a table from you.
So, having treated our minds like somebody we wouldn’t want to sit next to on a bus, is it any wonder that we can’t harness all that energy and focus appropriately while the little white ball sits at our feet waiting to be dispatched to its next destination? No, of course not. And that’s the fun of it right?