Only seven minutes could be separating you from “Scratch Golf”…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: The Mental Golf Game

 The other day a long time friend of mine asked me, “Sherpa, how long does it normally take you to play 18 holes of golf”?  Instead of blurting out “4 to 4/12 hours” I stopped short and replied, “I will have to think about that”. 

I can hear you thinking, “Sherpa, its a no brainer.  You were asked for the time, but are building a watch instead”. 

Indulge me dear reader….you see, simple queries like this used to invoke similar mindless responses, but since humbly taking on the role of Sherpa, they now send me on journeys of the mind which never cease to challenge and amaze me.

The real answer, as you would expect from the Sherpa’s predictable “MO”, was much more complex and interesting.

How would I frame the context for my reasoning?  Let’s think  ( you and I)  about how we will define ”playing golf”.

I have already defined ‘playing golf’ in several of my previous posts so I will not wax philosophic and waste your limited time.  I merely posit that playing golf is when you are planning shots, aiming at targets and focusing on getting the ball in the hole (to the exclusion of any other motivation or distraction).

Now let’s look at what happens in your normal round (not counting warm up)….

As your group  approaches the first tee, you figure out who will tee off first, you talk about sports…economics…the latest movie…whatever floats your boat…

Then finally someone hits a tee shot and the round begins.

Next, everyone loads into their respective carts and continues discussing the newest car…micro-brew or argues the virtues of Ales vs Lagers.

Then you reach your ball, decide on a target, line up your shot and send the ball to the target.

This delightful cycle continues until you reach the 18th green, the pill goes in the hole…and its back to the real world.

Here is the essential question…How much golf did you really play?

Was it when you were discussing your sinking 401k or when you were contemplating the ultimate Scottish golf trip?

Both are fascinating topics but neither activity would be considered “playing golf”… even by the loosest standard.

You  are now no doubt asking, “Sherpa, could we get to a point…sometime today”?

Fear not dear reader…we are now at my surmise. 

I would argue that if you take 20 seconds to line up a target, commit and and make a swing, then golf  takes about 20 to 30 minutes per round (depending on your handicap).

Below is the Sherpa’s handy dandy illustration of the central point. 

——————————————————————————

92 Shots x 20 seconds of focus per shot = 31 minutes of golf time

72 Shots x 20 seconds of focus per shot = 24 minutes of golf time

Difference in golf time (92 strokes vs 72 strokes) = 7 minutes

——————————————————————————

What you will note immediately is that if you take 20 seconds to hit a golf shot and shoot 92, only seven minutes separates you from a scratch golfer. 

Why then is this valuable information?  The pro’s know why…

Think about what happens in the 20 to 30 minutes of “real golf”.   To execute at peak capability in those key moments over the ball, you have to stay razor focused on the target…to the exclusion of all other thoughts or distractions.  A difficult task to day the least…

So that you don’t think that the Sherpa has somehow morphed into “Captain Obvious”, see for yourself how tough this really is.

To illustrate, take a moment and see how long you can close your eyes and think about the word “golf” without having any other thoughts….

If you are anything like the Sherpa (when he first tried this test years ago) your brain went…”golf, golf, golf, golf, hmmmm, golf is great, my knee itches, golf, am I late for something?, golf, I’m hungry, I hope Mrs. Sherpa is cooking dinner, Oh Crap!…I am supposed to be thinking about golf, I love jelly donuts”.

The mental energy it takes to stay focused (even for a few seconds) is taxing and to make things more unfair, “scratch” players (people who shoot par) have 7 less minutes of this focus requirement per round.

The Sherpa, believes that knowledge is power…so how are we going to give you more power?

Let’s seek to optimize what happens during those 30 minutes each round, so that fewer of these 20 second moments (ie strokes) are required per round.

The template is already out there, and you can see it when you watch pros play.

With the exception of Tiger, most golfers are just like us, they focus and hit shots, then they tend to try to relax and stay loose….just like a 20 handicapper.

So how do we differ? 

The magic is in those 20 seconds over the shot.  During these moments pros and “scratch” golfers are not doing the shopping list or worried about score…they are sincerely target focused, committed and just reacting.  They may look on the outside like they are concenrating hard, but on the inside…all you would hear is crickets.

How can you train your brain to enter a focus state like this?

Brain exercises?   The Sherpa believes so..These guys do it all day every day as a natural part of playing and practicing.  If you are like the Sherpa, time is limited and the only way to “train the brain” (without hitting a bazillion shots a week) is to do focused mental exercise.

The Sherpa does this ”old school” with daily 10 minute sessions of meditation.

For hundreds of years, meditation has given everyday people improved mental focus by gradually training the mind to focus on single distinct thoughts.

What you are trying to achieve is a mental state capable of concerning itself with sending the ball at the target…no muss…no fuss.   The cool thing is that the brain, much like  a muscle, won’t care if it is hitting a golf shot or trying to focus on a single thought (as part of a meditation exercise).

The Sherpa swears by the little exercise I do each day to keep myself mentally sharp. 

Details:  Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight.  It helps if you are in a quiet, dark place.  Next set a silent timer for ten minutes.  Now concentrate only on the sound and feeling of your breath.  Feel how it moves in and out of your lungs.  Feel how is moves through your nose and down your windpipe.  Listen to how it sounds.  If it helps, think “breath, breath, breath” with each inhale and exhale.

Almost immediately your mind will wander.  Your brain is just being…well…”brainy”.  Just gently bring your thoughts back to your breath (from cheeseburgers, Cuban cigars or whatever your mind was distracted by).

This cycle will continue to recur but you will notice over time that you begin to witness these thoughts, almost as a bystander, instead of living them.

When you can separate yourself from your thoughts and witness them separately from your mind, then you achieve what Meditation gurus call “awareness”. 

Awareness is the closest we get to mind control.  In other words, you cannot totally control your mind, but once you understand how yours works, you can keep it much more quiet and focused. 

Bottom line: You will probably not become a world renowned golfer..or meditation Yogi, but if you commit to even 10 minutes a day, you can improve your mental focus and the benefits will reach well beyond your game and those cool 30 minutes of golf you play each round.

Play on…

The Sherpa

What is aggression’s proper role in Golf…?

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: The Mental Golf Game

The other day as the Sherpa was walking 9 and (as usual) waxing philosophic with my dream foursome, the article I wrote 4/12 about who won the Green Jacket became the topic of conversation.  During our banter, the ideas of aggression and ego came up as a natural offshoot.  True to form I was curious so I asked as simple yet (as it turned out) provocative question…

What is aggression’s proper role in Golf?

Allow me to contextualize my foursome (albeit briefly, because my next article will be on them specifically).

They are a multidisciplinary bunch of guys from all walks of life, who have one thing in common.  They are all whip smart.

Knowing that each would have an opinion, the Sherpa remained quiet and curious.

The first notion was the most obvious.  Namely that aggression is the mind killer and while it can make you a terrific pass rusher in football, it can kill your touch and feel if allowed to rush the swing.  Quite “Sherpalike” was my initial read and I almost stopped listening until another idea began to gain momentum.

This second notion was that you can lose focus in golf if you are so aggressive that you stop playing golf and sub-optimize your thinking.  For example, you may think “I am going to kill this ball a mile”  as opposed to “I am going to send this ball to that spot, so that I have the approach shot I need”.  This time the Sherpa really thought we were done and again my mind almost wandered..

Then G-Money (not his real name) blew my mind..

“Sherpa”, he said, “I read your site every morning with my cup of coffee, and if you will indulge me, I think I have your next article”. 

You could have heard a pin drop.  Everyone in our foursome was captivated by the sincere pronouncement of an otherwise reserved and unassuming buddy.  The Sherpa could no longer stand the suspense.

“G-Money”, I said, “what prey tell is your insight into this most vexing question”.

Without skipping a beat, he said the magic words..

“Sherpa”, he calmly replied “aggression is not the enemy, it is about how you channel your aggression that counts”.

“Tell me more”, I asked as his unfettered clarity of thought kept me hanging on his words.

“You see dear Sherpa, aggression is part of the human condition that cannot be denied.  You don’t stop it… you control it.  If a hammer hits you on the thumb while driving a nail, is that powerful force considered bad? No, it was just misused”.

By this time, I am so floored with his metaphor that I wonder if he has been brewing this for awhile just to get published.

“How then is aggression properly channeled then G-Money?”, I ask impatiently wanting the punch line.

“The answer is in the lessons you already teach Sherpa”.  The Sherpa is not used to getting “Sherpa’d” himself and I was having a ball.  Wanting to learn every day about myself and the game I love, I asked “be specific”.

He said, “I will illustrate by using one of your own articles back on April 5th about the ‘most dreaded shot in golf’.  In that article you talk about every shot counting”. 

Then came the punch line…like a ton of mental game bricks.

“I would say that on every shot you have to ‘aggressively commit’ “, he said with a look of self aware cleverness that belied his normally sincere and thoughtful demeanor.  He was all Cheshire Cat.

“Bravo”, I exclaimed, “more maestro, more”.

“The idea has such power”, he went on. ”If you are over a layup shot and need to get out of the junk, you must not think ‘tentatively’.  No indeed,  you must AGGRESSIVELY COMMIT TO A CONSERVATIVE SHOT”.

Somewhere in his speech I think I actually heard a marching band and cymbals as he dramatically closed his argument.

He was absolutely right.  If you do not aggressively commit, you will undoubtedly smash your thumb at the most inopportune time.

Bottom line:  G-Money has his moments, and I would definitely listen to his guidance.  He was the man that day…Thanks ”G”. 

 

Play on…

The Sherpa

My favorite round of Golf…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: The Mental Golf Game

The other day a dear friend (who reads my guidance religiously) asked me a simple question that sent me on a journey of the mind that I did not expect, yet filled me with joy and awareness.

“Sherpa”, he asked  as we walked off the 3rd tee box, “what was your favorite round of golf ever”?

My mind raced back to several rounds of golf that filled me with crystal clarity of memory and sincere peace.

First was the memory of when I broke 80 for the first time with my best friend Steve.  It was a great day.  The wind was up a little and I hit everything I looked at.  I recall finally learning how to hit my short irons well that day.

Next there was the memory of the first time I took my oldest daughter with me to play and ended up carrying her on my back for the final 7 holes while scoring 78.  I remember learning  how calm my mind gets when I have someone I love with me while I play.

Another time, I recalled the joy that I felt when I caddied my brother around a difficult course in Las Vegas to help him break 100 for the first time. I learned how important talking through shots was in order to totally commit on each swing.

Then there was the time that I scored my first eagle.  Again, my best buddy Steve was with me as I rolled in a 10 footer for 3 on a long par 5.  I then promptly shot an 8 on the subsequent par 3.  I learned how excessive celebration can pump you too full of adrenaline and kill your golf swing.

As the memories like this began to rapid fire at a rate that I could no longer process quickly enough, my mind finally began to sort just the themes as they raced by and POW…just like that, it occurred to me.

I know what my favorite round is…It’s the round I am playing right now.

“Sherpa”, I can hear you saying, “how is this profound?  You are just a golf nut…no big secret here”.

Nay dear reader, I am not taking a mental short cut. 

I humbly submit the reason that every round is my favorite is because I learn something every time I play.

If this were not true, the Sherpa would be a fraud…a faker of the highest order.  Truly, I would further argue that to fully enjoy a lifelong love affair with the sacred game you have to give yourself over to the notion that it is a lifelong journey. 

If you cannot enjoy expanding your knowledge and skill unless you score well every time you play, you are setting an expectation that will rob you of your ability to grow as a player and to fully manifest the wonderful trek that golf represents.

Bottom line:  Like a marriage, golf takes work and patience.  Investing in the notion that every round reveals knowledge is the hallmark of a player that never stops developing.  Scoring will come…just let it happen.

I love this game…warts and all.

Play on…

The Sherpa

The Indian bought a new Arrow (i.e. The Sherpa bought a new golf Club)…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: Equipment Advice

Yes dear readers..like other long range patterns..lunar eclipse..Olympic games…presidential elections…the Sherpa makes a momentous decision.

He buys a new driver.

While the Sherpa is happily married to his putter, all other clubs in the bag get much wear and tear.  My last driver, a Taylor Made R7, lasted seven years.  Point in fact, it still is functional and is on its second shaft, but the head size is like a pea compared with the “block o’ cheese” head sizes that they offer now.

Taking my own advice, I went and had myself fitted for the proper driver set up.  In my case the characteristics that optimized my ball flight were:

1: A neutral bias weighting system – meaning that the club would not intentionally try to close or leave the face open.  Nowadays, you can get drivers that are designed for either swing tendency to help straighten your ball flight out.  Pretty cool, but not what I needed.  The Sherpa wants total freedom to work the ball either way, given the situation.

2: Stiff shaft – meaning that with a swing speed of 95 to100 miles an hour, the shaft will not flex too much.  It feels kind of “boardy”, but keeps the clubhead out in front of me when I hit it.   This key variable keeps the Sherpa from having to pretzel himself to close the clubface at impact

3:Good MOI – meaning that the club will not twist too much if I don’t hit it perfectly on the sweetspot.  This forgiveness keeps distance more consistent even if you don’t catch it pure.  Sherpa…he like MOI.

4:  9 degree loft – meaning that I get optimal launch angle (13 to 15 degrees) with low loft (9 degree), enabling a lower penetrating flight that spins at the right rate and rolls out like a marble on a slab.

5: It has got to look and sound cool – meaning that I am not going to plunk down hard earned cash for something that is artless for the sake of function. I am “the Sherpa” after all.

I found it….drum roll please.

And the winner is the Callaway FT9.

I got onto Callaway after playing a used FT5 and loved how it performed, looked and sounded.

While I was getting fitted I started thinking about you guys and realized if I was thoughtful, I could ask the fitter a few key questions to see if I could harvest some new insights.

Wow did that turn out well…

I asked simply, “Mr. Fitter, since you see hundreds of pilgrims like me on our quest for a better game, and since you are not a coach, what do you have to fix most often so you can sell your wonderful products?”

Without hesitation, he said “easy, it’s usually one of three things. First I check left hand grip, 95% of the time it’s too weak (see only one knuckle or less).  Second, I check their hand position at address.  Usually folks have their hands behind the clubhead at addess (causing open shoulders and a wicked banana slice).  If they are ok with these two things, but still slicing badly, I’ll notice that their swing sequence from the top is out of whack”.  After a stunned moment of silence, I asked “what do you mean”? 

He grabbed a club and showed me that many players with slicing or duck hooking problems make a good backswing, but when they start to turn, they do so while still on their back foot instead of bumping forward then releasing their arms on the downswing.

It was like lightning.  This guy, had been forced to correct probably 100 swings this year so that he could effectively sell clubs.  In doing so, he had boiled the process down to about 250 words.  He was like some kind of Haiku golf poet.  So I put him to the test.  I got on the monitor and kept hitting fades.  He said, “I like your left hand grip…nice and strong.  Do you want to play that fade?   If you don’t then move your hands forward to keep them even with the clubface at address”. 

Wow…I hit a beautiful little draw that gave me awesome yardage and terrific roll out. 

Bottom line: Never stop learning…the game has valuable secrets that are told by all who come under its spell.  Secondly, learn how to technically use every club in your bag.  Really commit to understand how the club was engineered and you will get much better performance out of it.

In celebration of my wonderful new purchase, I looked for a terrific lesson for you on driver tips that I think is a beauty.

Enjoy..

Play on…

The Sherpa

 

Sometimes words matter in Golf…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: The Mental Golf Game

In the tradition of artists in the past who were fond of words…George Carlin…Richard Pryor and others, the Sherpa’s commentary tonight will be on how strange and yet important words are in golf.

To lighten things up a bit, let’s start with one of my favorite golf words..Birdie.  To anyone outside of golf, this sounds like a nice word, yet more apt to describe an animal than one under par.  It is even funnier that in golf, being “below” par is something one strives for with hopeless anticipation, yet would get you fired from your day job in a heartbeat.

Yes my dear readers, golf terminology, like the physical properties that define it can seem to be counter intuitive in nearly every other dimension…including it’s time honored vocabulary.

So why do words matter you ask (I promise there is a point)?

Words matter simply because in the area of strategy, they define the difference between success and failure.  More specifically, words matter because they define how your mind creates the image of what you are trying to achieve with your particular golf strategy.

A terrific example of the power of words is when you misuse them in the ‘negative sense’ as you are setting up a shot.  How many times have you stood over a ball and said to yourself , “self, don’t hit that shot into the water on the left”, then proceeded to rope a gnarly hook right into the water…as if controlled by magic. 

The problem, sports psychologists say,  is that your brain doesn’t process the “don’t” part and just swings away at the water on the left. 

You can used this to terrific advantage if you flip the script the next time you are faced with some type of trouble avoidance strategy (like the example above).  Merely use the same situation and phrase it differently.  Just say, “self, hit it to the right side of the fairway”. 

While you are behind the ball considering what you want to do with the shot, you can think about the water trouble to the left all you want.  Just don’t make it part of your self talk when you are OVER the ball trying to place it in the target area (right fairway).

Another way to think about it would be to ask yourself….is my target  “the right fairway” or  “not going left into the water”?  This contrast is more stark but serves well to reinforce the power of target orientation and ultimately positive thoughts.

Bottom line:  Plan all shots in terms of what you want to achieve, not what you want to avoid, and the magnetic force that hazards seem to have on your ball will weaken.

Good night my dear readers, I have to go help Mrs. Sherpa with the dishes, so that I “don’t” hit a hosel- rocket into the junk on the left myself.

Play on…

The Sherpa

Golf equipment has not made “GOLF” Easier…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: The Mental Golf Game

As you have no doubt figured out, the Sherpa prides himself on being positive and generally a “silver cloud” kind of guy. That is the case until I am engaged in a specific argument about the so called easing of Golf’s difficulties because of equipment innovation.

Don’t worry, dear readers the Sherpa is not making up for all his positivity with a tsunami of negative, “golf is hard” sentiment. I am merely saying that even though high MOI drivers make the middle of the fairway more familiar, golf balls go farther and a multitude of other innovations are taking place, handicaps have not appreciably changed.

Why? A key element of golf did not innovate..On Course Advice (AKA the Caddie).

It is no secret that the Sherpa’s definition of golf happens primarily between one’s ears. If it were not so, then getting advice from a “non caddie” during a round would not constitute a penalty. Even the rules of golf address the unfair advantage that on course advice provides.

Think of all of Tiger’s most famous moments. Right before he commits to superhuman execution, he talks it out with Stevie Williams (his caddie), because the more information he can gather, the better shot selection he can make.  Stevie knows all of Tiger’s yardages, all of his common misses (yes even Tiger has these) and can judge Tiger’s energy during a round to guess how it will affect certain shots.

Now superimpose this situation on the typical amatuer game. In our situation, we have no-one helping us out. We are typically unsure of our yardages (in certain cases). We have to keep our own energy up and have to rely on our own knowledge to score. Worst of all, we have a tendency to let our “internal caddie” call us all kinds of bad words when we miss a shot (I will expand on this idea in future blogs).

All of the technology in the world can’t make up for a calm soothing voice, that knows your game, telling you what you need to focus on to hit the right shot.

The dream of having a caddie is only realized for Professionals and insanely wealthy/lucky amateurs who arrange for them in certain circumstances.

Case in point:  A very dear friend in my current foursome called “G-Money” (not his real name nor his persona), who is not insanely wealthy, was given a gift of a caddie once on Bethpage Black. His experience, as you can imagine, was awesome.

G-Money recounts his experience…”I showed up an hour before my tee time and they called my name”. “George, who has caddied for 52 years, greets me and asks, ‘how many bags you want to hit’?”. Not knowing how to respond, G-Money says “do I have time”? George says, “you have time for at least one bag, cause I need to see your game, so I can properly caddie you around this track”.

All the Sherpa could hear at this point was a chorus of angels singing…for I knew that heaven did truly exist somewhere on this earth.

To make things even more idyllic, George next says, “I need to see you hit shots because you pay for a guide, not just a guy to carry your bag”.

You could have knocked the Sherpa over with a two inch putt.

G-Money went on to regale me with the calm and and joy he felt over every shot because, he had such a terrific “Caddie advantage” over his own mind and a very formidable course. In his words “George was better than any club (G-Money) had ever swung”.

Back in the real world we need to overcome this lack of innovation (live Caddying with over 50 years’ experience) with good solid on course strategy and mental game.  The challenge is to develop it in tandem with proper technique and physical conditioning.

Bottom line:  Golf is a wonderful game that you can get good at if you develop your mind as you would your golf swing.  Study it (you mind) like you would a cool new driver.  I will commit to keep writing about it if you will commit to keep reading and working on it as hard as you do your full swing.

Think on…

Your Faithful Sherpa

How to avoid the most dreaded shot in Golf…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: The Mental Golf Game

The Sherpa can hit most shots in golf, based on practice and years of study of this wonderful game.  There is one shot, however, that I learned late that ironically, required no practice and saved me strokes immediately.

To set the context before I share this golfing insight, I want to give the Sherpa a break for not realizing it (this secret) earlier on in my golf journey.  To complicate matters, several times when I faced this shot, I did not even realize I was facing it. 

Confusing? Good, now we are getting somewhere.

Think back now to the last time you played golf.  When you were over the ball and thought, “self, I wonder if I am aimed properly”, then you hit the shot “anyway” (even as you were unsure about the setup for your shot).  Hopefully you were lucky, but you probably had a terrible outcome.

My friend…you have just hit the most dreaded shot in Golf..”The Anyway Shot”.

When you get over this shot..any shot… and are not fully committed you are hitting an “anyway”.  Counting on “anyway” shots are a guarantee to kill your scoring, deteriorate your confidence, and drain the life out of a round. 

This shot is to be avoided at all costs.

Common causes:

1: Poor shot preparation: Getting to the ball and not having the right club, but hitting “anyway” because you don’t want to go back to the cart.

2: Poor focus: Standing over the ball but being distracted and hitting “anyway” because you are embarrassed to restart.

3: Poor strategy: Trying to figure out over the ball what shot you want to hit, and without a target, hitting “anyway” because you have no idea what shot to play.

The bad news:  All of these reasons for an “anyway” can severely restrict the amount of pleasure and success you will have in golf.

The good news: You can avoid this shot immediately without any practice and take strokes off your score.

How?  The next time you play:

1: Don’t take a step toward your ball without making a good estimate of the club you will need to hit your next shot.  Then take two more clubs (one longer and one shorter).  This will enable you to have the right club if you  miscalculate slightly and allow you the confidence that having the right club brings when hitting shots.

2: If you hear noise or see movement while you are standing over the ball, STOP!  Don’t hit that shot. You are not rewarded for being cool enough to hit this “anyway” shot…no one is.  Step away from the shot, politely explain to your playing partner that you need to refocus and go through your routine again.  If you do this you will save more time overall, because you won’t need the extra time to fish it out of the “junk” when you hit the ”anyway” shot.

3: If you are over the ball and you realize, you have not picked a specific shot or even a specific target…DO NOT HIT THE BALL!  WARNING YOU HAVE STOPPED PLAYING GOLF!  Step away from the ball, pick a conservative shot that you are confident you can hit.  Pick a specific target.  Restart your pre shot routine and fill your head with this new shot thought.

Bottom line: If you have the wrong club, a wandering mind and no plan, you aren’t playing golf, nor are you prepared to hit a golf shot.

The Sherpa wants you to be happy and joyous when playing golf.  To do so you have to plan each shot and commit, just as you would for any meaningful enterprise in life.

Play on…

The Sherpa

The day Dr. Jimmy scored his hole in one he gave me a Gift…

Author: The Golf Sherpa  |  Category: The Mental Golf Game, Uncategorized

The Sherpa has made many friends through the game of golf.  Some have taken more than they have given, some balance out and sometimes, even without knowing it, they give you a gift eternal.

Dr. Jimmy is one of those special people.

The story begins with Dr. Jimmy.  A patriot, who has served our country for over 20 years as a doctor, soldier and dispenser of laughter (ad nauseum).  He is a crazy cajun who will just as easily regale you with a quick joke as go into “Doctor mode” and advise you when he thinks you are being unwise about your health.  Both actions emanate from the same geniune heart and decency.

The Sherpa, as a rule, likes to surround himself with people like this because you never know…if I get hurt on the golf course, I will want to make it to the hospital with a pulse intact, but I want to hear a good joke in the ambulance.  Aside from these obvious benefits, Dr. Jimmy has learned to have fun no matter what happens on the golf course.

As reformed angry golfers, we typically theme our golf around how much fun we can possibly squeeze into 18 holes and score well if we happen to be playing well.  If he is on a roll, I will try to fuel his confidence and vice versa.

We have used this concept to win about 60% of the scrambles we enter and we don’t intend to change strategy ever. 

So what was this great gift that Dr. Jimmy gave me?  I will give you a hint…he did it while making the coolest eagle I have ever witnessed.

It was a chilly morning and we were the first group off on a very long and challenging course.  Known for its formidable difficulty, the day’s test would also include very undulating and speedy greens.

We both started off well enough, but Dr. Jimmy started to struggle a bit.  He is too tough to admit it, but his back was giving him trouble.  It was affecting his swing and so we talked about everything but his swing (as good golf buddies do).

Soldiering on, Dr. Jimmy announced he was going to have a great day anyway to which I replied, “if it’s not fun, it’s work that just cost us 60 bucks a piece”.  We both laughed, and he told me a funny joke about getting old that went something like..”you know you are getting old when you get a compliment on your alligator shoes…and you are barefoot at the time”.

When the laughter died down, Dr. Jimmy said. “You know, this is a great morning, we are playing golf, nothing else to do except hit shots”.  To which I replied, “you couldn’t be more right”.  As we neared the next hole (a long and difficult Par 3) I said, “get up there and hit a good one Jimmy”.

In typical fashion, Dr. Jimmy, with a sore back and ailing scorecard, bounds out of the cart, and with a fresh perspective, trots right up to the tee box.  Now I’m thinking, “how cool is that?  He is hurting, his score sucks and he is like a 2 year old at Christmas”.  “Go man!  This is why I want to play golf with you!”, I yell inside my head.

Little did I know what was going to happen next…except that my buddy was going to give it his level best.

As I got out of the cart, I could no longer see Jimmy because he was on an elevated tee box above my eyeline.  The Sherpa knows his swing and the sound his swing makes when he hits it flush.  The sound I heard next was like a rocket followed by the familiar sweet song of a ball making a turbulent whoosh as it breaks though uniform air on its way to the flag.

“Sounded really solid Jimmy”, I said as I looked up to track the ball in flight.  As it gently moved toward the flag I remember saying “man that is a good shot”.  Then, “man Jimmy, that is really good”. Finally yelling, “GET IN THERE” a millisecond before it disappeard from site into the holiest of golf grails.  “HOLE IN ONE”, I yelled and nearly fainted from joy and surprise.

Even now, in the telling of this story, I can relive the goosebumps and joy I felt for my dear friend on such a momentus achievement.

Later as I reflected on the day (literally hundreds of times) I began to realize that the event turned out to signify more than just a cool shot that my buddy made that morning.

Dr. Jimmy had indeed given the Sherpa a gift…..

He reminded me that no matter what has happened in the past, no matter your current condition, you always have another swing.  If you approach each shot with energy, curiosity and a belief that anything is possible…you MAKE anything possible.

Thanks Jimmy…

Play on…

The Sherpa