A meditation on golf
(this meditation was done on 17/8/2005 after i played a 18 holes game in spring city golf club, kunming)
Although has been hijacked and mistaken as a rich MAN's game, to me, learning golf has a very dear personal reason, and it is a sport, not a class. More important, playing golf is a form of dharma practice to me.
Firstly, golf teaches you to be humble and to understand the impermanence of life. Although pros will play more stable than us ams, the ups and downs are dramatic, thus, we are made to get used to the come and go of good fortune and bad luck.
Just take these two days of game as an example: ok, wonderful tee off, then shitty second shot; then ball is hit to the rough, dropped into the pond; and suddenly a very nice chip and nice putt, or other combainations of course. Then here comes the rain, or even thunder, when you have to rush back to the clubhouse for protection, then storm is gone after a while, you go back, lose your rhythm, and the green becomes very slow after the rain, and you putt like shit. It had become quite cold when it rained, and suddenly, the sun comes out and you start to feel hot even in that thousand dollar hi-tech raincoat, and it is so lucky u have put on sun-block just BEFORE it rains!!
Oh but the sequence has not stopped yet. Not many sports will make you so frantic yet frustrated: maybe you play quite well today, but you may lose all your feelings and rhythm tomorrow and you feel like you have never learnt how to play golf!
So, as a golfer, the first thing you need to learn and accept is the impermance of life, and to understand nothing should be taken for granted: thus not to get over excited or over frustrated by no matter shot you made, cos it comes and will be gone after one moment. That's why advanced golfers know how important it is to control one's emotions and stays calm all the way. There is no rival in golf, your sole enemy is yourself.
And yes, the rumour is right. It demands tremendous concentration and awareness in the golf game. When there are so many conditions where you cannot control, concentration is or is not one of them. This is paradoxical: try hard to relax. While you cannot do that in meditation, you cannot do that in golf either. It is about the middle way. But what is THE middle way? It takes us lives to get hold of this, and this takes golfers years of personal maturity to get hold of it too.
Just take the simplist example: holding the grip, this is most basic. Teachers say: imagine you are holding a bird in your hands......gosh! Just try to do that while you are using your whole body to do a powerful high speed shot!
And regarding body and wholeness. I realised this long ago. While people say golf is a mind game, it is very obvious, as simple as a swing, is a dialogue and negotiation between body and mind, and among your head, shoulders, arms, hands, fingers, back, hip, butts, thighs, knees, ankles and feet. Just to make them all co-ordinate and move as a whole - in sequence of course, and in good rhythm within one second.....then feelings follow.
Not even to mention the game is so delicate that sometimes you can't play well because some very tiny deep muscle has not been tuned up!
Fatigue and forcing yourself to continue (the wrong way) is one of the biggest mistakes in golf, so you need to learn to let go, be patient and forgiving to yourself, be compassionate and respectful, even to the patch of grass that has been dug out by you.
Never refuse help. Refusing to learn from a qualified teacher is another biggest mistake. Just like on the road of dharma practising, the way of a golfer got lost all the time too, and that is the reason why we need teachers to take us back to the right path. When one day you feel like you don't know how to swing at all, just like when I get fucked up at work matters I get furious and out of control, I repent immediately and turn to my teacher. It doesn't matter, just remember we are all here to learn, about life, and life is but a golf game.