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Breaking Windows

March 12, 2012

It’s the most feared sound in golf. The sound of glass shattering as your kamikaze golf ball turns a formally pristine window into a million tiny pieces. I remember the first (and only!) time this happened to me and it still makes me cringe. There I was, in contention for the tournament, standing on the 16th tee box. I had been struggling off the tee all day and the nerves didn’t help me at all. I had missed the last three fairways but I needed to hit the fairway on this long, dog-leg left par 5 so that I could go for the green in two and have a chance at making an eagle. Go big or go home, right?

I took my practice swings, making sure to feel the gentle release of my wrists as I turned to club over, visualizing the high, sweeping draw that would launch my golf ball 325 yards down the fairway. As I stepped up to the ball, I noticed a slight breeze blowing off the right side towards a lake running down the left side of the hole. Instead of stepping back and resetting, I just thought to myself, “Don’t worry! Just hold it off and hit a slight fade.” That was a fatal mistake.

When I started my swing, I knew something was off. It was awkward, stiff, and jerky in contrast to my fluid, glorious practice swing. As I started my downswing I felt the club drop inside and I lost all commitment to hitting a fade and tried to turn my wrists over and hit the small draw. Instead of a high draw, I hit a drop-kick, screaming low hook. right into a window of a house 125 yards off the left side of the tee box. For several seconds, I was frozen in my steps with my jaw laying on the grass. I hadn’t even seen the house there!

After apologizing profusely to the irate homeowner at least one billion times (at least that’s how I remember it), giving him my insurance information, and walking back to the tee I teed another one up and proceeded to triple-bogey the hole and lose the tournament by 2 strokes.

As I sat alone eating a Chipotle burrito after the round, I went over exactly what happened. There were two main things that stood out.

1) I was focused on the past.

3) I tried to control it.

Both of those mental mistakes, when made together, are guaranteed to send your ball on a suicide mission into the great unknown. Or in my case, the nearest window. As I thought further, I realized how much of a life lesson I had been handed. Often times, we are so focused on the past that we lose track of the present. Even though I had missed the last two fairways, I had played the holes 1-under. But instead of focusing on that, I thought about what I was doing wrong and tried to correct, and therein lies the next lesson. When you try to hard to control the outcome of something, you often torpedo the result before even attempting it. My mistake was to try to hit an unnatural shot shape without even taking the proper practice swing. Instead, I tried to guide my swing and control the way the ball flew. I should have just trusted my swing, that I had made thousands of times, and just focused on putting a good move on the ball instead of trying to guide the ball down the fairway. So keep that in mind the next time you stand on a tee box – focus on the present hole and trust your swing. Forget the past and stop trying so hard to control your life. Sometimes you just have to do your best, trust your swing, and take the result as it comes.

You know what’s awesome? I never even had to pay for the window.

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