One of my favorite topics for Pointless Speculation is to think about the similarities, or lack thereof, between golf and life. I discuss this in my book, “Why We Golf,” and I’m indulging in more of it here in my first post of the year. As you’ll see I can go either way on this question.
Evidence that golf is not like life, or at a minimum, not like this particular view of it:
Remember that bumper stick that said something to the effect of “Life is not a rehearsal”, or the more formal version, “Life is not a dress rehearsal”? It was straight out of the Carpe Diem school of thought, a grab the gusto and go get ’em view of existence. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen any of these bumper stickers in a while, which makes me wonder if all the purchasers of them died in fiery car wrecks on their way home from yet another wild-ass, go for broke party with their anarcho-hipster-fuck-the-establishment extended circle of really brilliant, creative friends. But that’s not my point. While I do think that this existence is a single pass ticket, and doesn’t offer passes or memberships that enable you to avoid the lines and keep coming back, golf, when played at its best, is a series of rehearsals. There is nothing more reassuring than telling yourself as you begin your back swing that you have hit this shot before. The pros who win major championships are the ones who are able to look at the impending six-iron over a water hazard on the 72nd hole and view it simply as something they have practiced countless times before. And if that doesn’t resonate for you, this should: the swing that you wish you could take from the range to the course is the swing that is a rehearsal. That’s why it works so well.
Evidence that golf is like life, or at least offers instruction as to how best to live:
Want to screw up a career round? Of course we all know the answer to this: you do the math in your head and figure out what you have to shoot on the next few holes in order to beat your best score ever and–presto!–you’re on your way to a couple double-bogies. (Special update: just did this today in fact. I really believe I would be a much better golfer if I had the math skills of a kindergartener. This ability to do sums in my head is really getting me nowhere.) It’s just that easy! It has occurred to me that this phenomenon in which tracking performance interferes with that very same performance clearly applies to life in general. Now that I’ve become a social media whore I’ve entered a world in which I have multiple ways of keeping my score: How many Twitter followers do I have? How many visits to my blogs today? How many copies sold?–Oh yeah, did I mention that I’ve written a book? And here’s a news flash: it doesn’t help the creative process. Not only does it take time, it distracts me from doing the work that I’m supposed to be completing.
Evidence that scientists could save a lot of time and money simply by just studying golfers:
Recent research has indicated that our bodies actively fight to regain weight after experiencing substantial weight loss. In essence the body doesn’t turn off the “Holy-shit-you’re-starving-me” switch. As a result person A who has dropped 40 lbs. to a weight of 180 lbs. and person B who has been at a stable weight of 180 lbs. will have different experiences if they both adopt the diet and lifestyle that person B has been following. Person B will stay at equilibrium, but poor old person A will start gaining weight back. In a real sense person A’s body is saying to itself, “Whoa, I have no idea what’s going on upstairs with management but now that I’m seeing some extra calories I putting some of this shit away in savings because things have been rough around here recently, let me tell you.” Well, folks, how is this any different than what happens to us when our handicaps drop?
When we try to lose strokes off our index we start practicing, which is the same thing as exercising, and we stop feeding ourselves the usual crappy interior monologue, which, in turn, is like junk food. But if, after reducing our handicap, we decide to dial it back and just return to our normal amount of practice, the strokes start coming back and pretty soon the “Man, I suck” mixtape starts running once again and –whamo!– we’re back where we started, sporting a big, blubbery number once again.