A significant number of books have been written about the mental or spiritual side of golf (are they two completely different things?), and I have read a high percentage of them — like “Golf is not a Game of Perfect” by Dr. Bob Rotella, “Golf in the Kingdom” by Michael Murphy, “Bagger Vance” by Steven Pressfield, “The Cosmic Laws of Golf” by Printer Bowler, “Straight Down the Middle” by Josh Karp, to name a few of my favorites. There are many, many more.
All of these books have something wonderfully good and positive to offer you, the golfer, if you take their lessons to heart. My favorite of all of them is “Zen Golf, Mastering the Mental Game”, by Dr. Joseph Parent. Having read this book three times now, just reading through some of the chapter titles produces word pictures of different facets of the ideal state of mind for hitting a golf shot:
- you produce what you fear
- give up control to get control
- don’t hit it in the lake
- avoid the anyways
- dive under the waves
- how to make a flower blossom
- untie the sand bags
- fire your evil caddie
Dr. Parent’s description of zen is “action through awareness …being completely in the present moment“. Or in other words, “expansive vision, effortless focus, a feeling of equanimity and timelessness, abundant confidence, and complete freedom from anxiety or doubt“. Harvey Penick, in “The Little Red Book”, describes it thusly: “when you are playing your best, you are in much the same as in a state of meditation … free of tension and chatter … concentrating on one thing”.
And to me the one thing you concentrate on is … the target. In the ideal state of mind you merge with the target, become one with the target. After your pre-shot routine, which of course is designed to simply clear your mind of thoughts and get closer to that meditative state, you take a last look at the target, whether it is the flagstick or a particular part of the fairway or the bottom of the cup, you become one with it, and you let it fly.
And don’t you find it interesting that the pre-shot routine is such an integral part of preparation for shooting a free throw, pitching or hitting a baseball, serving in tennis, starting the lead-up to a high jump or pole vault or downhill ski race? There are probably numerous other examples as well.
It probably goes without saying that I believe this state of mind is an advisable way to live your life. Dr. Parent describes the four principles of shambala golf as:
1. virtue (basic goodness in action)
2. discipline (proper conduct)
3. humor (absence of self importance)
4. friendship (having an open heart)