Crash and Burn: Or how my return to the links didn’t go exactly as hoped

Well, that was fun!

My interview with Fred Shoemaker, posted last week, generated a tenfold increase in audience. To quote Keith Jackson, “Whoa Nellie!”

Unfortunately, my triumphant return to Goswick Golf Club yesterday—after two weeks in the states propping up the day job—wasn’t nearly as enjoyable. But hopefully, in retrospect, it will be instructive and move me a bit further along this path that I’ve chosen. As Fred so eloquently stated, if you can learn “to be a better person for having played it,” then golf would more than justify the time and energy you devote to it.

First, though, a few lowlights from the round.

It started with an opening drive that nearly went out of bounds, followed by a second shot that did. Nowhere to go but up from there, right? True. But like a private plane with a faulty engine, after barely managing to get airborne, my game repeatedly slammed back down into the turf. One big difference vs. an airplane: No one, other than my ego, was injured along the way.

It turns out that playing out of the silence is much easier when things are going well. When they’re not, the internal noise can be deafening.

That includes repeating this convenient excuse, “Blame George!” You see, the last time he played, George got his first hole-in-one. And he bought a bottle of single malt to share with all of his golf buddies in celebration of his accomplishment. Though I never consume alcohol before playing golf, how could I say no!? So maybe, just maybe, that wee dram short-circuited my body’s awareness mechanism. I was doomed before I set foot on the first tee. Right?

OK, maybe not. I can’t, in good conscience, pin this on George.

No, this one’s on me. I need to develop some techniques for shifting the focus from within and placing it on the reality around me. And yet, it would seem, I need to do that without consciously telling myself to do it. Because that would be thinking about not thinking. Which is still thinking.

Instead, I hope to play golf in the same state of being that I walk down a flight of stairs or run on a treadmill. Both are surprisingly complex motions, perhaps not all that less tricky than swinging a golf club. Yet neither of those activities requires conscious mental control. Instead, from birth, we’ve learned to rely on our body’s natural awareness to carry us along. I mean, no one watches video of themselves while they're walking to figure out how to walk more efficiently. Is it possible to learn how to play golf in this more natural way? That is my quest.

And I have the perfect laboratory at my disposal in which to carry out my experiments. A natural links course like Goswick, not to mention the seemingly endless supply of similar tracks along the Scottish coastline, inspires intuitive play. Unlike the conventional parkland courses in the states, where you can usually just check your preferred yardage measurement device and nonchalantly pull a club, links golf forces you to adjust for a myriad of other variables—such as wind, topography, bounces and the firmness of the turf. It’s more a matter of feeling your way around than relying on carefully calculated tactical maneuvers. As such, links golf ought to help draw me out of my head and into my body, if I have the courage to make that leap.

We shall see. Together. Because I’m committed to not only staying this course but writing about it in this space. So please stay tuned, including all of you newcomers who found your way here thanks to Fred. And I invite you to share your thoughts and experiences, either via the comments section below or by firing me an email at

I need all the help I can get.

Spring Has Sprung: But if you still can’t play golf, you can read about it

Spring Has Sprung: But if you still can’t play golf, you can read about it

 Fred Shoemaker: A prophet amid the vast golf instruction wilderness

Fred Shoemaker: A prophet amid the vast golf instruction wilderness