Down Shift: Singing the praises of a slower pace, both on and off the golf course

It’s 8 a.m. on a Saturday and this timeworn cottage is blissfully quiet, the calm after the storm. The night before, my wife and I hosted our first dinner party since relocating to Scotland—indulging in a Japanese feast with a couple we met here four years ago when the wheels of this big adventure first began to creak and turn. As such, it feels as if we’ve reached a major threshold.

Unlike in 2011 and again last fall when we came over for a nine-week trial run, we are no longer tourists. The belongings we boxed up in California finally arrived on Tuesday after more than three months in limbo. A week before that, we returned to Kelso with our freshly minted visas in hand and our eight-year-old German shepherd in tow. We are all in—physically, emotionally, legally and on some deeper level spiritually.

Or, to put it more simply, we are settled.

So as my wife has a wee bit of a lay in (Scottish for “sleeping in”), I am choosing to sit a spell and breathe deeply—giving thanks for this feeling. Because it is good. Very good.

But…as I reflect and meditate…my mind wanders…and I wonder: What will this mean for my golf game? Invariably, it always comes back to that, doesn’t it? Well it does for me.

Time will tell. But I have a strong feeling all will be well with my game, too. Very well.

Reasons for hope have already begun to emerge. My new magic word is “TEMPO.” The more time I spend here, the more settled I become, the slower the tempo of my swing. The result? The calmer the motion, the better the shot. And the better the shot, the more relaxed the golfer—which leads me to slow it down further or at least shake the compulsion to speed it back up. It’s your basic positive feedback loop that, I hope, never stops recycling.

This place, this way of life, has changed the dynamic. Case in point: In LA, you get on a freeway and the collective vibe compels you to get to where you’re going as quickly as possible. Here, most of the time, you make your way along two-lane country roads. Sharp twists and turns force you to pull back on the throttle. Run up behind a slower moving vehicle, quite common in these farming communities, and you have no choice but to mimic its pace. Insist on being in a hurry and you will be frustrated. Guaranteed. In which case, you will have missed the point of living in the Shire-like Scottish Borders rather than the sprawling Southern California.

So, gratefully and quite consciously, I am choosing to downshift to my adopted home’s tempo. And when I apply that mindset—or more accurately feel-set—to my time on the links, wonderful things happen. The club falls into place, as if in a predetermined slot. The ball aligns with the club face’s sweet spot. The hands, if not every cell in my body, rejoice and sing. And, as if I am the ball, my soul takes flight. With each swing, I am rediscovering my game, stripping away the layers of stress and anxiety lathered on, unwittingly, over the past 32 years living in a megalopolis.

More than that, I am rediscovering myself—the person who was born and raised in semi-rural Ohio, on a terrain and at a tempo that bears more than a passing resemblance to this idyllic place.

I am settled. My game is settling. And it feels good. Very good.

The DIYer’s Bible: This might be all you’ll need to book a golf trip to Scotland

The DIYer’s Bible: This might be all you’ll need to book a golf trip to Scotland

Legal Immigrant: Visa in hand, my exploration of the linksland begins in earnest