- Photos from the Travelers ChampionshipPosted 9 hours ago
- Rose breaks through with a counter-balanced putterPosted 1 day ago
A golf story: The quickest swing
By Jim Schwartz
It was close to dark one balmy, late summer evening. Our timing was good as we left the 17th green. My threesome would have enough light to play the last hole without having to guess where our shots were headed. It’s one of the rituals of golf, the march from finished green to the next tee, one that we do easily, routinely, without doubt.
Moments later, we arrived and set our bags down. A figure emerged from the peaceful twilight. He was somewhere around forty years old, of average stature, fit, dressed casually, but not someone who’d stand out in any of those ways in a crowd.
“You mind if I play along this last hole?” he said. “There’s not much light left.” He was calm, purposeful, pleasant in a relaxed way that suggested he didn’t want anything from us other than what he’d said.
We all said yes, of course. That’s one of the nice things about golf. We’re supposed to accommodate each other. Most of us do and usually it ends up being a positive experience in one way or another.
There were no further introductions. We were all singles to begin with. There wasn’t going to be much more time together. And our new partner didn’t seem the type to bother with the unnecessary. Which isn’t to say he was disagreeable in any way. His demeanor was peaceful. He seemed to be enjoying the evening and it was a lovely one to enjoy. The edge was off the heat as darkness began to set in. There’s something about the calm, soothing ambience on a golf course as a hot day comes to a close that makes me feel like there’s nowhere else to be. It’s the beginning of a perfect summer night.
As we hit our drives, he watched with quiet attention, patiently awaiting his turn.
After we finished, he pulled the driver out of his golf bag. It was one of those bags like a quiver of arrows, ultra lightweight and barely big enough to hold the clubs. He walked up to the tee blocks and stuck his tee into the ground with his ball on top of it, another of those routines we do so effortlessly. Immediately, but calmly, he addressed the ball as if there were imprints in the ground for his feet. Then, without so much as a moment’s pause, he began his backswing. The swing was simple and easy, his tempo smooth. The shot was a beauty, right down the middle.
I want to be clear. He didn’t have any drawn out preshot routine. He didn’t appear to have any preshot routine at all. He didn’t rock his feet, wiggle his toes or search for the perfect grip. He didn’t take a deep breath, didn’t waggle, didn’t survey the fairway and his target. If I’d blinked while he was teeing it up, I’d still have seen his drive. But if I’d blinked twice, I might not have.
It was the quickest execution of any shot I’d ever seen. He didn’t rush, though. He was as calm as anyone could be, certainly more relaxed than any of the rest us in our group. There was no excess motion, no wasted time. This was maximum efficiency.
Everyone congratulated him on the shot and he graciously expressed his appreciation in a manner that suggested he’d done this many times before. He dropped the driver back into his quiver and began to walk down the fairway. His journey to the ball, some 265 yards or so away, was as purposeful and peaceful as everything else he’d done. It was as if he were walking down a mountain trail, headed to a nearby steam for a drink of fresh water, one that he wanted, but not so desperately that he was going to miss the splendid scenary around him. It felt good to be there. He was enjoying the experience and he’d get to the next shot when he did. We all enjoyed it, I think, the last trip of the day into a perfect dusk.
We all spread across the fairway. I wanted to say something to him about what I’d just seen. I was lucky to address the ball relaxed and confident that I was going to hit it well, even if I succeeded here and there. Anxiety didn’t seem to be part of this guy’s internal landscape.
His drive went the furthest, so he hit his approach last. Again, he grabbed his club, a mid-iron, walked up to the ball and with the same simplicity and smooth tempo, hit it. This shot played out even faster than his drive since he didn’t have to tee it up.
The ball flew high and landed gently on the middle of the green.
This was a swing with no doubt or fear in it, one probably not too invested in results, which can end up meaning that the intended results are easier to come by. Golf is full of paradoxes like that. Walking up the fairway, I realized I had to talk to him about this. Soon, we’d all be in our cars heading back to the urban day to day and there’d never be another chance. What was this all about? So I let him know how amazed I was by the conviction in his swing.
He replied politely, if somewhat distantly, “You have to trust your swing. Really, truly trust it. Then, whatever happens, happens and you live with it. If you can’t do that, this game’s too hard.”
“Lots of people say that,” I replied. “But they don’t swing as quickly and confidently as you do. Have you always played this way?”
“It’s taken me years to get to this place. But I have to do it like this. I’m not talented enough to make it work any other way.”
We’ve all heard about how we have to trust our swings. It’s one of the most common truisms of golf. You could say the same for a chef, who has to trust his ability to slice meat or vegetables so that every one is precisely the same width and do it at inhuman speeds without leaving his fingers on the cutting board. Or even something basic for all of us like opening a door or putting on our socks. This guy was doing that with his golf clubs.
He had about a 20 footer for his birdie and ended up two putting. Needless to say, he just walked up to the putts and hit them. It was a routine par. Routine on the card, at least.