Once again I am inspired by my little steps with golf. I have to thank my golf pro, Russ, for encouraging me to write this particular entry.
What I realized on the range yesterday was that I had heard the same few pearls from him over and over again, worked on them one by one, struggled to keep going because as I would correct one element, another would go out of whack, causing my entire swing to be off. It seemed like I could so rarely get everything to work together in the way I wanted it to. Yet every time I went to a lesson, it was one more element isolated to work on. No “magic bullet” to get my swing to “happen”.
But then yesterday, I returned to something Russ had said to me during my very first lesson. It was about my grip. I had to stop squeezing the club so hard with my right hand. Simple, right? Why hadn’t I mastered that on the first day? Well, yesterday I tried to apply it again, during all parts of the swing that I had been working on all this time. Beginning at address, then again at the top of the backswing, then again as I began the downswing, and all the way through the finish.
It took a lot of mental energy to let go of my right hand and trust the left side of my body!
But once I did, it completely transformed my swing and suddenly I was hitting shots I had never hit before. It wasn’t just my grip, of course. But the correction of my grip had an impact on almost every other element of my swing. It was the integration of that early simple concept with everything else I had been working on for several months.
When I tried to reproduce this “letting go” of my right side, I found it very taxing mentally to set up for each shot. I knew that if I moved from the address position without thinking, my tendency would be to squeeze with my right hand. If I let my mental focus waver at any time during my swing, my right hand would revert back to its “natural” tendency to squeeze the club. It made practicing much more tiring (both physically and mentally)! But I learned what it takes (right now) for me to swing correctly. I have to focus my attention in order to change a habit. Until I do this enough times (thinking and talking to my right hand telling it not to squeeze), I will not be able to trust what is happening with my right hand. I have to “check in” every single time. And it’s a little scary, because I’m not sure I’m going to be able to do it each time, even though I want to. But I face the fear and keep practicing, so that my trust can grow.
The larger lesson in this little experience is that we may need to hear things many times, in many different ways, and experience a complex action broken down into its individual elements, and put it back together again before we can understand the whole. While we are busy working on those individual elements, we simply have to trust the process. And sometimes a return to “first principles” teaches a lot when it is layered on top of new experiences.
Maybe this is why I never tire of hearing “See Saw” or “Twinkle” every day and observing all the principles that must come together to play those songs correctly and beautifully.