Golf is a simple game, yet tough to play! And sensing a oneness experience with the environment, the club, the ball, and the target; and visualizing the ball at the target are difficult assignments. W. Timothy Gallwey’s concept of “relaxed concentration” captures the essence of a necessary “simple, happy golf” skill,
There is one master skill underlying the myriad of specialized skills required to excel at anything. I call it ‘relaxed concentration,’ and I call it the master skill because with it one can learn to improve any skill, and without it, it is difficult to learn anything. It is not easily defined or taught, but it can be learned and even successfully coached. Everyone has experienced the state of relaxed concentration at one time or another during moments of peak performance or experience. In those spontaneous but all too elusive moments of heightened alertness and perception, actions seem artlessly excellent, and life seems simple and whole. Even in complicated, demanding situations, the effort needed is clear and actions flow out of us that are uncannily appropriate. Golf shots are made as if they were the easiest ones imaginable, and we wonder what we ever thought was difficult about the game. (Gallwey, The Inner Game of Golf, 19-20)
In 1929 legendary Bobby Jones offered,
The golf swing is a most complicated combination of muscular actions, too complex to be controlled by objective conscious mental effort. Consequently, we must rely a good deal upon the instinctive reactions acquired by long practice. It has been my experience that the more completely we can depend upon this instinct-the more thoroughly we can divest the subjective mind of conscious control-the more perfectly we can execute our shots…That intense concentration upon results, to the absolute exclusion of all thoughts as to method, is the secret of a good shot…After taking the stance, it is too late to worry. The only thing to do is to hit the ball. (Gallwey, The Inner Game of Golf, 171-172)
Dr. Michael Lardon comments,
…the Zone in its simplest form is a paradoxical state in which great physical feats are accomplished while the mind is empty and still, analogous to sitting in the cinema just waiting and watching for the movie to begin. It is a place where you can almost access an unlimited source of power and often realize your potential. (Lardon & Leadbetter, Finding Your Zone: Ten Lessons for Achieving Zone Performance in Life and Sport, 39)
Barry Green suggests,
Inner Game techniques can reduce the efforts of self-interference and guide us toward an ideal state of being. This state makes it easier to perform at our potential by rousing an interest, increasing our awareness, and teaching us to discover and trust our built-in resources and abilities. It is a state in which we are alert, relaxed, responsive, and focused. (Green, The Inner Game of Music, 23)
Lao-tzu’s wisdom is clear, concise, and complete:
We join spokes together in a wheel, but it is the center hole that makes the wagon move.
We shape clay but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.
We hammer wood for a house but it is the inner space that makes it livable.
We work with being, but non-being is what we use. (Mitchel, Tao Te Ching, 11)
Let’s take a look. After typical shot preliminaries—relaxation techniques, target selection, checking the lie of the ball, planning strategies for wind direction and strength, estimating distance, and making the club selection—a sample pre-shot routine and ritual might look as follows:
Celebrate and have fun!!