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The spiritual side of golf

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Golf in its most fully realized form is a spiritual endeavor. Like the evolutionary layers of the human brain or the stages of growth in a human life, there are different levels at which golf can be experienced, from the physical to the spiritual, and many levels in between.

In this series, The Spiritual Side, golf will be discussed and analyzed from a spiritual perspective. The term “spiritual” is used here in its broadest sense, encompassing everything from meditation to the world’s major religions to simple conscious gratitude, and as distinguished from terms like mental, emotional, scientific, etc.

In “Golf My Way,” Jack Nicklaus wrote that a golf shot is based only ten percent upon the swing. The other ninety percent that determines the outcome of the shot is how you see the shot (fifty percent) and how you set up (forty percent). In today’s modern golf-scape, it is easy to feel that golf is ninety percent what clubs you have in your bag and ten percent the mechanics of your swing. While I have been known to admire certain golf clubs and fixate on my wrist angle at the top of my backswing, to experience golf only from a material or performance perspective can leave one feeling empty. What is golf really about? Why do we play? At the end of our lives, what aspects of golf will we look back upon and cherish? What aspects will we regret?

One of my favorite things about golf is that almost everything about it is a perfect metaphor for life. A popular saying goes “You’ll know everything you need to know about a person after playing eighteen holes with them.” As I look back on my golfing life, its stages almost perfectly mirror the stages of my life as a whole. As a child, I was captured by the wonder of the game, the adventure of it. I can still smell the grass and feel the excitement in my veins on the morning I first set a pure white ball on a colorful tee on an actual golf course. As a teenager, I became obsessed with my score, my very being and self-worth desperately tied to every shot. In my twenties, golf took on a less important role, as I explored the world and figured out who I was and wanted to become. In my thirties, golf has been about the journey, the joy of being outdoors, being with my playing partners, relishing in the good shots and rounds, shaking my head in confusion and laughter at the terrible shots. For each of these stages of golf, the same could be said about the corresponding stage of my life, substituting years for rounds, my perspective on successes and failures in life a mirror of my reaction to flushed drives and shanks.

As my relationship to golf changes and evolves, I can’t help but notice the progression away from the elemental, the ego, and the emotional, toward awareness, gratitude, and the spiritual. This series will be about that evolution, and how spiritual experience represents the final and highest stage of golf actualization. It will be an exploration for me, as well as hopefully the reader and the contributor. I do not claim to know everything about golf and spirituality, and I am no guru. But I do believe that a spiritual experience is the highest expression of our beloved game. And if you feel as I do that this aspect of golf (and, as always, the word “life” may be substituted for “golf”) has been under-represented in the mediasphere; hopefully you will find this series worthwhile and edifying.

I look forward to reading your comments, having a conversation, and seeing where this series may take us. This area of inquiry is rich and fertile, and while I have several ideas for future topics, I’m sure the contribution from this community will take the series in unforeseen yet fascinating directions.

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Devon Petersen learned to golf in the harsh conditions of the high plains in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He doesn’t exactly know why, but for some reason around the age of twelve, he felt an intense urge to be on a golf course. He played high school golf and lucked into an adolescent golfer’s dream job of working at a golf course in the summers until he left for college at Princeton University. There he majored in history with an emphasis on cultural and intellectual history. He traveled extensively during and after college, absorbing the varied views on life from Argentina to Thailand. Following these sojourns, he returned to Wyoming where he studied law, became a lawyer, got married, and began to think about golf on more spiritual terms.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Karen

    Oct 23, 2019 at 8:33 pm

    Sounds very interesting. I hope you reflect on : self talk that is helpful, having patience, humility….

  2. John

    May 4, 2019 at 6:18 pm

    I think you are on to something worth reflecting on. There is much to grateful for on the golf course—your playing comrades, the natural surroundings including the wildlife, the creativity of the course designer, and your own physical ability and skill. These aspects in my experience are spiritual.

  3. CB

    Apr 28, 2019 at 3:40 pm

    It’s spiritual and wonderful right up until my 3rd double bogey. I enjoy golf more when I’m able to accept that I’m terrible. However I’m too much of a competitor to just enjoy an 85 for the 257th time. No, for me any round in the 70’s brings on a fabulous spiritual connection that I treasure. Happens 4 or 5 times a year, so it ain’t all that bad.

  4. Kansas lefty

    Apr 28, 2019 at 12:51 pm

    When you make this connection golf becomes more beautiful

    • geohogan

      Apr 30, 2019 at 11:57 am

      Regretably, only a relatively small % of the population is capable of experiencing these levels of appreciation of nature of beauty.

      As we learn more about the human brain, it is becoming obvious that %^ of the population is deficient in areas of the brain responsible for specific thought processes.
      in the extreme, psychopaths have underdeveloped or are missing entirely the
      amygdala; that area of the brain responsible for empathy and compassion.

      The brains of many others simply make them incapable of appreciation of the same aesthetic.
      Gives meaning to : Forgive them for they know not…..

  5. Acemandrake

    Apr 28, 2019 at 11:02 am

    Golf provides the opportunity to be our best selves.

  6. Dennis

    Apr 28, 2019 at 1:41 am

    Golf is a fair game – Life is not.

  7. Spit

    Apr 28, 2019 at 1:39 am

    omg stfu geez leave it out you talking bs nobody cares about this sh111t you getting it confused with spit

    • Rascal

      Apr 28, 2019 at 1:54 pm

      Is this what passes hip hop nowadays? Sad.

  8. Jamie

    Apr 27, 2019 at 8:48 pm

    I’m really looking forward to reading this. So far it perfectly reflects my experience with the game of golf…and life…as well.

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On this episode of TGD, Johnny goes in hard on the HBO documentary Tiger.

 

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Ping’s new G425 line of clubs was just released this week and I have had them out on the range! Comparing the G425 LST driver to the Max and what one worked best for me. The rest of the lineup is just really easy to hit and very forgiving. Ping has crafted a great lineup of clubs that are easy to hit and will make the game more enjoyable for those who play them!

 

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Is there a single “secret” to a better short game?

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Last week, I asked for you all to send me your ideas for topics to address in my weekly blog and so many of you came through—we are off to a great start with this new “two-way” relationship I hope to have with you all. Thanks to those who wrote me. The topics presented so far covered a wide range of aspects of wedges and short-range performance, but one that was repeated in one way or another was whether or not I thought there was a single “secret” to building better wedge technique.

You know, I’ve seen so many great short games in my life, it’s often hard to single out one or two “secrets”, but I do think there are a number of core fundamentals that almost all good wedge players exhibit in their technique. Some of those are more obvious than others, but one that I find extremely enlightening for our “study” today is the way the hands and club move through the impact zone.

Take a close look at the photo I chose to illustrate this article and study it for a few minutes. You will see dozens of photos of tour players in this exact same position right after impact on a chip or pitch shot.

Now, let me tell you what I see from the perspective of an equipment (i.e. wedge) junkie who has studied the tools and the craft every which way from Sunday for over 30 years.

First, I see hands that have obviously been very quiet through impact as the angle formed by the forearms and shaft is identical to where it was at impact.


I also see that the hands are in front of the golfer’s sternum, which is likely where they were at address, into the backswing, and will continue to be for the rest of the follow-through. I am a firm believer that the less “hands-y” your wedge technique can be, the more consistent it will be. This golfer obviously is keeping his hands in front of his body through impact, so that the speed of his hands and therefore the club are controlled by the speed of his body core rotation.

I’m going to come back to that in a moment, but first…

Quiet hands also preserve the relationship of the sole of the wedge to the turf, so the impact “attitude” is a copy of the address attitude. In other words, the golfer has prevented a hinging and unhinging of the wrists that would likely cause the club to get more upright at impact, thereby compromising the turf interaction efficiency of the wedge’s sole design and bounce.

He has also preserved the loft of the club to that which he pre-set at address. For a low running pitch or chip, he might have added a little forward press and played the ball back a bit to keep it low. Or he might have played it a bit forward in his stance and set the shaft more vertical to add loft and spin to the shot.

But either way, his body core rotation totally controls the shot outcome, because he is not manipulating the clubhead through impact with his hands.

The point is, keeping the hands quiet and controlling the path, speed, and release of the club with the body core results in fewer moving parts and less room for error in contact, speed, and distance.

And back to that speed control aspect, I think the speed of the body core rotation through impact is more repeatable–for recreational players, weekend golfers, whatever you want to call us–than trying to memorize a number of backswing lengths to hit different distances.

But that is a topic for another post. For now–even if you are snowed in and can’t get to a range or course—take this picture and your wedge and go play around with it to see how close or far your own technique is to this tour professional. I think it will be fun.


And remember, as an advertiser on this page, Edison Golf is going to give away a free Edison Forged wedge every month to one of my GolfWRX readers chosen at random from all of you who send me an email with a question or topic for a future post. Just send to me at [email protected].

Thanks, and a repeated Happy New Year to you all!

 

 

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