Seeing is Relieving
Such a confession might not seem so disconcerting but for one who has a penchant for numbers; it can be frustrating. On a par four, I like the number three. On a par five, I like the number four. And to be allowed, by virtue of my own actions, the pleasure of scratching these numbers on my scorecard, I need to see the line of the putt to start the ball on a journey that ends with a hollow but deeply satisfying clunk.
The locus classicus of seeing the line of the putt is Earl Woods’ suggestion to his son, Tiger: ‘putt to the picture’. See what the picture is telling you and putt. And for someone proclaiming precepts for action in extremes (a major event in golf) what can I do. It’s not just ‘reading the putt’ as it is colloquially known; it is making a decision and doing as you have decided. When I putt well, I decide quickly and easily and do exactly that. But a wrinkle in my personality allures my constant introspection and evaluation brings me to stand still and such inertia is diametrically opposed by others who shout ‘don’t just stand there, do something’. In moments of crisis, my mind scours the vaults of my memory for advice from those who meant well like parents and teachers ‘don’t just do something, stand there (and think)’.
Paralyzed by a life overgrown with contrasts – if you do something wrong, you should try to right the wrong. Or if you do something wrong, stop and let someone else right the wrong for you. Incapacitated by the power of others and the assumption that others ‘probably know best’, we lead ourselves into the temptation to stop or at least slow down. Slowing down to decide the next course of action has a grain of truth in it but how big is the grain? Are we mistaking the chaff for wheat?
In golf at least, with generous time-free independent decisions, taking time to decide the next step seems sensible but obfuscates the detail. Popular advice in putting suggests we should go with our instinct – be free, let the ball go to the hole. A perusal of the research says it isn’t so, especially for the less skilled golfer. And even for the professional, the decisions about which club, which shot to play, calculating the wind are legitimate steps towards a successful outcome. But once the motor action begins, we transfer all matters of action to the automaticity of execution.
We’re confused because it is confusing. We are indecisive because we can’t decide. Time is not the problem here. Deciding is the problem.