By Charles Prokop
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF
Copyright © Charles Prokop. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
JIMMY BUFFET LEADS OFF the B side of his 1974 album A1A with A Pirate Looks At 40. The song is the musings of a lover of the sea, looking back on the years so far. I’ve been doing something similar, but much less poetic and smaller scale. I’ve been looking back on my last five years or so of golf, the years that bridge my 60th birthday.
My golf scores have followed a regular pattern. My handicap goes up in the winter, creeping into the double digits by February or so. It then begins a slide down through the warmer weather, reaching a minimum around October. It then holds for a while, waiting to begin its upward creep as the weather cools.
I stayed in single digits all winter this year, and my handicap is sliding down a little faster than usual this summer. So what’s different?
I’m not playing more this year. In fact, I’m playing a little less. That may actually be a good thing, because when I play I’m more eager for the game. I’m not practicing more, either. I haven’t been to the range except to hit a few warm-up balls, and with the exception of a little putting on the carpet, I haven’t worked on my short game.
I’m playing with irons that fit me better. I got my new set last year, and I know I’m hitting them more solidly more often, so that may be some of it.
I’ve lost a few pounds, but not many. I’ve always been in decent shape, and I haven’t done anything serious to get into better shape, so I doubt that’s a significant factor. I have found that oatmeal makes a good breakfast, and it holds me longer into the round than most other meals. (Try it with brown sugar, cinnamon, dried cherries and strawberries. And use the stuff you really cook—not instant. It’s good.)
But there has been one change that makes the most sense to me. I’m paying attention. As I mentioned in Report to the Sand Crab, I’ve recently been tracking my greens in regulation and number of putts. There’s substantial psychological data that shows that just measuring a behavior is likely to lead to a change. Keep records of your calories, and you’re likely to consume fewer just because you’re paying attention. It’s kind of like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle—measuring something changes it.
More than that, I’ve been trying to keep my head in the game and not get distracted by stray thoughts or other people’s games. I’m trying to enjoy Stooge Ball at the same time I keep my head in my own game. I’m trying to stay in the moment, whether the moment is ridiculing the Chipping Lizard for his last shot or it’s going into the cone of silence so I can focus on my own shot.
So we’ll see how it goes, and if it holds up. I’m betting it’s the oatmeal.
Charles Prokop is a clinical psychologist who writes about golf at fairwaywords.
(Photo credit: smiteme, Flickr, Creative Commons license)