I’ll never forget a wonderful round of golf with 2 scratch players. One was a ‘young-gun’ mini- tour player of medium-build, the other a 60-something gentleman the height of an NBA forward and strength of an NFL lineman. Both men reached or overshot every par 5 in two, hitting 300+yard drives and a mid-iron. Both had a gentle, deft short-game touch. The little guy hit big drives, the big guy had an enviable ‘little game,’ and they came in under par, tied.
Two things impressed me most that day: 1) the big man’s remarkable ease and grace 2) seeing such impeccable rhythm, in two very different body types and golf swings.
From the 1st tee to the 18th green, the truth that Easy Does It was abundantly clear!
This truth is evident every day watching professional golfers. PGA and LPGA Tour players epitomize smooth flowing power. You just don’t see them whaling at the ball or killing-it. What you do see is beautiful balance, sequential lower-to-upper body swings, and sweet smooth putting strokes. Think back to the silkiness of Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Ernie Els. Feel the relaxed release of Annika Sorenstam. The graceful fury of Arnie, Jack, Tiger, Rory, ‘The Babe.’ The powerful steady mechanics of LPGA greats. Not coincidentally, these swings all match beauty with power and power with grace.
Studying legends of the game, you don’t need to be a yogi to realize that brute force has nothing to do with genuine power or true mastery. It isn’t very pretty, in golf or anywhere, and is only rarely effective. The vast majority of amateurs provide stark contrast to the pros. They generally labor under notions that swinging harder and faster, with bigger clubheads, stiffer shafts and nastier self-talk, will somehow produce longer shots and lower scores.
Instinct, appearances and conditioning fool people into believing that big means powerful and might makes right. It is the brute-force mentality we’ve all grown up with and are surrounded by, constantly rearing its unattractive head. Good people try so hard to improve at golf – while that hardness itself obstructs all their good efforts.
Since smooth and sequenced is professional and so obviously good, it bears examining why it works. Why does easy really do it?
The bottom line is that everything is energy, and energy moves through natural flow.
Ordinarily we focus on strengthening muscles to build power. But human bodies are comprised of electromagnetic liquid energy. We are 50-75% water, our brain and heart 73%. Water is a
main component of muscle, fat, blood and bone. We are more liquid than solid, so let’s think instead about properties of water.
If you try to squeeze or hold water, it eludes you. Likewise, good golf shots and ‘feel’ elude players who squeeze or hold the club too tightly. Regularly check your grip pressure, at address and throughout your swing. This helps avoid tension that blocks flowing swing motion and energy-release into the ball. Distance, precision, consistency and confidence are the happy consequences of holding not tightly but lightly.
Water can become stagnant and muddy. It stays pure and fresh when allowed to flow. Because our muscles are mostly water, tension and over-control disrupt good swings. As you practice and play, it is essential to breathe and relax. These are not just nice ideas, but skills to calm stress and allow energy-power to move unimpeded through your body into the golf ball. Stagnant energy stagnates your swing, shots and scores. Keep your mental game pure and fresh by letting go of every shot, especially the ‘bad’ ones that can muddy-up your mind and mood.
Water seeks and settles into low places, following gravity and natural contours. As water, your body and mind feel much better when you sink into your belly-center, and settle into the base of your legs and feet. Centering, Grounding and Balance are the Fundamental Fundamentals of golf: vital yet often missing elements as players go about organizing grip, stance, posture, alignment, pre-shot routine and shot-making.
Water has been proven to have intelligence and feelings, at the molecular level. Japan’s Dr. Masari Emoto iconic high-speed photography revealed gorgeous crystalline structures in pure water / incomplete gross patterns in polluted water. The molecules of water in containers covered with positive written words – love, beauty, joy, optimism, thanks – form magnificent patterns. Negative words like kill, hate, resentment and revenge cause water molecules to become twisted, fragmented and confused. Dr. Emoto’s Hidden Messages of Water have important implications for human self-talk and performance. The words we say, both silently and aloud, on and off the golf course, are literally forming the structure of every swing and shot we make.
Water moves in waves, in sequential energy patterns. It couldn’t be tense if it tried. And it never tries! It just is, and it flows effortlessly, with inherent power and integrity. No extra force is necessary. The golf lesson here is that muscling-it interrupts and distorts swing shape and ball flight.
Water always balances itself out, automatically settling down to exactly level when not agitated. Keys here are settling, down, and when not agitated. Circumstances, events and personality create fluctuations in our emotions. We tighten up on the golf course when we get stressed and agitated, and scores deteriorate. People are amazed to see things improve, quickly, when they learn how to center and settle down. Centering leads to grounding and the ability to come into emotional equilibrium and energized-yet-calm flow states.
The force of water is felt most when it is contained and then released. This is the principle of hydroelectric dam power. It can be seen in a riverbed where water builds into waves and current flow-power. Such are the dynamics for generating powerful wave-like action throughout the back-&-forward swing and follow-through. Swinging in balance and sequence, we contain our energy and create dynamic tension that spring- loads then powerfully releases it into the ball. There is a wonderful felt sense of energy building and then delivering into each shot. It seems like magic as your golf ball goes sailing - and it is: the magical power of flow and easy really doing it.
Let’s also consider secrets of mental magic. While the brain is a water-based physical organ, the mind is a non-physical air-like entity. It moves more like the wind, wafting in gentle breezes or blowing in powerful gusts here, there and everywhere. The mind can be pleasantly still and calm, or kick up thoughts in hurricane force. We cannot hold the energy of the wind or the mind in our hands – yet are constantly affected by its airy invisible action.
Learning to harness the incredible power of the mind is a lifelong skill, and a sports necessity.
While nobody can stop or control the mind, everyone must learn to take charge of how their thoughts blow and flow. Golf, and life, improves as we practice quieting the mind; choosing the direction and contents of our thoughts; and stilling the storminess that sucks us into the rough, trouble, woods, water hazards, and out of bounds. Continually smoothing-out our mental energy allows for better thoughts and smoother swings, that yield better shots and scores.
Water is 100% water and wind is all air. Yet we are water and air, and seemingly solid earthen masses of bone and muscle. These wise words from one of my favorite Japanese Aikido teachers never cease resonating:
“Nothing wrong with body! Nothing wrong with mind! Muscles yes, very good! Exercise, yes! Just be sure to remember Ki / Energy. Ai / Love and Unity. And Hara, your Center. Relax. Breathe. Flow. This is Do, The Way.”
I’m reminded of Lorena Ochoa, formerly the World #1 in women’s golf. She developed mental mastery as sweet as it was sharp and tough. With her willowy body, positive focus, and perhaps the most relaxed and loving disposition on Tour, she kindly crushed the competition. Lorena was a model of fluid motion producing astonishing power. She commanded the LPGA Tour until choosing to retire at the top of her game, at age 28, and swing into the next phase of her life.
The Centered Way is a joyful path of harmony and integration. It is developing and coordinating your physical, mental and energetic ‘muscles,’ so that you are in tune with natural strength and power. With infinitely powerful universal energy flowing through all your systems, you lose the need for brute force or muscling things. More and more, you find yourself in the integrated flow-zone, where the magic and results of ease abound.
Taking morals from these stories, let’s turn around and stop forcing things. Feel what we are made of, and explore the true nature power. Apply muscles and mind without violating or impeding natural flow. Seek the real sources of lasting success. Knowing it’s all free, conserves energy and effort – and that easy really does it!