What’s This Golf Workshop About?

A friend talked me into offering it, not to teach new swing thoughts or achieve lower scores, but to discuss what few golfers do–why they obsess over the sport. Our discussion book would be M.Scott Peck’s Golf and the Spirit. The idea sounded good to me, so I added it to the website listings and scheduled workshops for March and May.

No problem back then, but when March loomed, finding me not one bit closer to knowing why I obsess, I started to worry. Fortunately something happened in early February.

The lady I’d met in tango class told me she loved golf, and we agreed to an exploratory nine holes. They went fine–she has a natural swing, and I did ok–so we moved to eighteen… securing a 2:30 tee time that would probably pull us up short before dark. Oh well.

Before continuing, a word about my game. I’ve been playing for twenty years, ten seriously, but still feared the risky proposition of getting clobbered by a woman I still barely knew who’s been playing only five or six years, not ten or twenty. That could easily happen; such things do in golf. But hopefully not to someone who’s already scratched out on the tango thing.

Fortunately, something good happened. Despite the extremely slow foursome in front of us, people who should be confined to putt-putt golf, not real golf, we started relaxing and just having fun. No wicked swing thoughts or troublesome fears of pulls and shanks. After a while we just walked up and slammed the ball where it was supposed to go. Fairway woods, so-so; irons, pure magic. (She even hit her five iron 20 yards farther than usual, over a pond to the far side of the green.) Greens, unbelievable. Once, having gained confidence from somewhere, I showed off before my new partner by putting from fifteen feet off the fringe, not with a putter, but with a #5 rescue hybrid, a shot my son had taught me and I’d practiced the week before at the range. Things like this can also occasionally happen on the golf course.

On the front nine she got one of her best scores ever, and I couldn’t believe my 39. It got even better on the back nine. Not the scores, but the game. Our adversaries in front disappeared and the afternoon stayed warm and beautiful. Didn’t that magical Arizona sunset turn skies red, and didn’t it stay light enough to finish? We launched our drives on 17 and 18 right into the dark, but they magically showed up on the fairway when we drove up, and the light held out to the last putt. It was all too much.

About this time I discovered what had happened that later allowed me to answer why I loved golf so much. We’d been playing intimate golf.

Who’s ever heard of intimate golf? It’s not that we’d been thinking about our bodies, except to make reminders about staying square to the target or keeping head up, but just that we’d left behind all small talk, guarded talk, or worst of all, political talk, and were just in the now. Mainly we laughed and joked. Somehow managed to get free of the thousand mental, physical, emotional, and–according to Scott Peck–spiritual traps that golf springs on unsuspecting souls. We were playing intimate golf, that was the difference. Scott Peck calls it playing in the zone, playing intentionally yet relaxed, playing humbly. I guess I’d just say playing in joy. We smiled and laughed all afternoon and all the way home.

At first I’d decided to confine the workshop to men, but now realize that was silly. Everyone can profit by occasionally playing and discussing intentional golf…particularly when it’s intimate intentional golf.